cream of the crate cd review #16 – howling wolf –  the london sessions
cream of the crate cd review #11: the beatles – on air: live at the bbc vol.2
CD Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

 

  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

"is an exceedingly satisfying release, yet another example of how talented, charming and generally "different" the Beatles were." - [Guitar World] _ "The quality of most of these recordings captures the band's vibrancy" - [Ultimate Classic Rock]

Cream Of The Crate Reviews 1 to 50 were vinyl album reviews.  
The following fifty reviews (51 - 100) were originally marked as CD Reviews 1 - 50
and this numbering has been kept to keep consistency with the published CD reviews.

 

This is number eleven in the series of albums I’m featuring however, all previous CD and vinyl releases, from my personal collection, attracted a retrospective review as they represented releases from as long ago as 60 years, until generally the late 1980’s.

The series is called, “Cream of The Crate (CD’s)”, and they represent CD albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because their is something unique about the group or the music.

The CD is titled The Beatles: On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2.

It was released on November 11th 2013 and is quite naturally, on the Apple label – SET:3749169//3749175.

cream of the crate cd review #11: the beatles – on air: live at the bbc vol.2
CDLabel – [CLICK to enlarge]
It consists of a very good booklet and two CD’s as recorded in the original MONO and that’s how we hear the music. 

 

However, if we start to think about the Beatles and their longevity it raises the issue of, with this release, how many albums does this make? A simple enough question that elicits a variety of responses. It depends upon whether we are talking studio albums, or all albums including compilations.

I always thought the Beatles released 12 studio albums in the UK and 19 in the USA, but I discover that Wikipedia lists 23 studio albums. I think I’d go with the 12 core studio albums recorded and released in the UK as all the others are variations there of. Mind you, there seems to be some sixty five compilation albums.

Even more recently we have had the release of:

  • The Anniversary Edition (50th) of Sgt peppers Lonely hearts Club Band [2017]
  • The Beatles and ESCHER Tapes [2018]
  • The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl – complimenting the release of the Ron Howard Movie “Eight Days A Week” [2018]

Yes, I’m a tragic and have them all!

So now to add to the debate on what is best or better when it comes to the Beatles, we have Volume 2 of the Live at the BBC Tapes. I actually have two copies of Volume 1, original released as a double CD set in 1994 and the now the other  – the re-release of 2013.

There is an interesting discussion on which is the better out of these two versions of Volume 1, which I shall just touch upon.

Now I have played both CD’s sets on my system and I really can’t hear much of a difference.

I am using a Sony Multi-channel amplifier, which I admit is over 10 years old but, is still a quality machine. The CD player is a multi-disc Pioneer DVC-503 player, and I have a twin set of Warfedale Speakers and a Jensen Sub Woofer Box.

None of the components are absolute top of the line, but all are quality components, and I could hear little difference despite what some other reviewers had claimed – that being that the re-release is sonically better.

However there are two differences. The first is the original set came with a beautiful sepia booklet which is far superior to the black & white booklet that comes with this new set.

The second? Well, I’ll discuss that shortly.

What is indisputable is the fact that 56 years ago this year, they released their first album, Please Please Me.

It was released in March of 1963.

Let’s look at the BBC collection! The Beatles first collection of BBC recordings was released in 1994, hitting #1 in the U.K. charts and selling more than five million copies worldwide within six weeks.

cream of the crate cd review #11: the beatles – on air: live at the bbc vol.2
The original 1994 release and the 2013 re-release

The Beatles latest release [Volume 2] is more significant than Volume 1.

The double album contains 63 tracks in total – none of which appear on the original collection. Some 37 previously unreleased performances feature, as well as 23 previously unreleased recordings of in-studio chat between the band and BBC radio hosts.

cream of the crate cd review #11: the beatles – on air: live at the bbc vol.2
Rear of the booklet – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Commenting on the release, Paul McCartney said in a statement:There’s a lot of energy and spirit. We are going for it, not holding back at all, trying to put in the best performance of our lifetimes.”

Between March 1962 and June 1965, 275 Beatles performances were broadcast by the BBC in the UK. The group played live on 39 radio shows in 1963 alone. One day in 1963, the band recorded 18 tracks for three editions of their Pop Go The Beatles show.

The CD also contains two debut songs, those being a performance of Chuck Berry’sI’m Talking About Youand a cover ofBeautiful Dreamer.”

cream of the crate cd review #11: the beatles – on air: live at the bbc vol.2
Rear of the CD Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

CD1
“And Here We Are Again” (Speech)
“Words Of Love”
“How About It, Gorgeous?” (Speech)
“Do You Want To Know A Secret”
“Lucille”
“Hey, Paul…” (Speech)
“Anna (Go To Him)”
“Hello!” (Speech)
“Please Please Me”
“Misery”
“I’m Talking About You”
“A Real Treat’ (Speech)”
“Boys”
“Absolutely Fab” (Speech)
“Chains”
“Ask Me Why”
“Till There Was You”
“Lend Me Your Comb”
“Lower 5E” (Speech)
“The Hippy Hippy Shake”
“Roll Over Beethoven”
“There’s A Place”
“Bumper Bundle” (Speech)
“P.S I Love You”
“Please Mister Postman”
“Beautiful Dreamer”
“Devil In Her Heart”
“The 49 Weeks” (Speech)
“Sure To Fall (In Love With You)”
“Never Mind, Eh?” (Speech)
“Twist And Shout”
“Bye, Bye” (speech)
“John – Pop Profile” (Speech)
“George – Pop Profile” (Speech)

CD2
“I Saw Her Standing There”
“Glad All Over”
“Lift Lid Again” (Speech)
“I’ll Get You”
“She Loves You”
“Memphis, Tennessee”
“Happy Birthday, Dear Saturday Club”
“Now Hush, Hush” (Speech)
“From Me To You”
“Money (That’s What I Want)”
“I Want To Hold Your Hand”
“Brian Bathtubes”
“This Boy”
“If I Wasn’t In America”
“I Got A Woman”
“Long Tall Sally”
“If I Fell”
“A Hard Job Writing Them” (Speech)
“And I Love Her”
“Oh, Can’t We? Yes We Can” (Speech)
“You Can’t Do That”
“Honey Don’t”
“I’ll Follow The Sun”
“Green With Black Shutters” (Speech)
“Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!”
“That’s What We’re Here For” (Speech)
“I Feel Fine” (Studio outtake)
“Paul – Pop Profile” (Speech)
“Ringo – Pop Profile” (Speech)

So some general observations. Firstly the producers have done an amazing job. The sound transports us back to that period when the Beatles were fresh and new, and likewise the music.

They have done a magnificent job in capturing that ‘newness’ yet, while they have remained totally faithful to the original recordings they have managed to do the mix in such a way it does tend to bring it into the “now”!

What I mean about that is that listening you are suddenly aware that the bass is just that little more dominant, more how we like to hear our music today instead of mixed down and hidden as the mix tended to be those fifty or so years ago.

Same with the drums, somehow they have lost the ‘tinny’ drum sound that sometimes affected the recordings, especially in those early years. 

I also love the sound that George gets out of his guitar at times, it’s almost as if they have given us the sound as it really was recorded, rather than how the Beatles albums ended up, with a uniformity about the sounds of the instruments.

Then, there is the booklet!

This has become a critical element in my CD reviews, especially where it is a ‘presentation’ set, and a booklet is included. I think we all would have been most disappointed, in fact probably downright outraged, had it been a second rate effort.

It isn’t!

Although in a combination of black and white and colour pictures (personally I prefer the sepia tones) it is a quality gloss production.

cream of the crate cd review #11: the beatles – on air: live at the bbc vol.2
The booklet cover – [CLICK to enlarge]
The cover has the same picture as the cover to the case, minus the little green apple and the Words “The Beatles” that appear in the top right hand side of the CD cover.

 

The booklet does have a different rear picture to the case, and in fact a very attractive picture of the four boys (as they were then) in some gardens somewhere in London.

 

 

cream of the crate cd review #11: the beatles – on air: live at the bbc vol.2
Early Beatles in the garden: From the booklet – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

It has 23 double sided pages and has an early black and white picture of John and PaulJohn is wearing very heavy glasses that he ditched quickly. It commences with three page introduction written by Paul.

He describes the importance of the BBC to them and indeed, to popular music of the day, despite what he calls “… the very plummy BBC announcer, who was not from our world at all.”

December 1963

 

It does provide yet another small insight into their world, but the world as seen through the eyes of four lads for whom the world was just opening up.

Paul finishes his introduction with, “We are going for it, not holding back at all, trying to put in the best performance of our lifetimes. By the way, of course, we were brilliant! Let’s not forget that. I always say to people, ‘Not a bad little band‘.”

There is a ten page piece of writing by Kevin Howlett (Author of, “The Beatles: The BBC Archives 1962 – 1970”).

He discusses in some detail the nature of the sessions, anecdotes, quotes from the different Beatles, the history of their music, its roots and of course the equipment they had to use.

I found this really interesting and well written.

cream of the crate cd review #11: the beatles – on air: live at the bbc vol.2
Part of the Beatles ‘Application for Audition’ at the BBC – [CLICK to enlarge]
cream of the crate cd review #11: the beatles – on air: live at the bbc vol.2
Some of the very basic recording equipment at the BBC as used to record the Beatles – [CLICK to enlarge]
 

The remainder of the booklet consists of a track by track listing with fairly detailed information, and, some seriously good photographs.

In fact despite the plethora of books I have on the Beatles most seem to be completely new photographs, which makes it another reason that the release is a MUST for serious collectors and lovers of all things Beatles.


Now to the part of the review that I was most looking forward to, and dreading – choosing tracks to play!

I am going for four tracks per CD and starting on CD #1 with track # 4Do You Want To Know A Secret, sung by George.

The track appeared on that first album, Please Please Me and so is considered as the first released track with George singing.

Do You Want To Know A Secret

I decided that I just couldn’t go past track #12, Anna, featuring John on vocals.

What I do like on this track is the variation to the released track. In this version we hear a different guitar sound and indeed, a variation in what John played on guitar in the released version.

I prefer this version.

Anna- Go To Him

Track # 13Boys represents one of the few tracks with Ringo on vocals and is considered as the first track featuring Ringo on vocals.

While George definitely had a voice but still struggled to have his voice featured on tracks, Ringo struggled – false dot!

This version of Boys is not a quite the quality in terms of Ringo’s voice as it is heard on Please Please Me, but I suggest it is probably more closely related to what he really sounded like live.

Boys

Track # 26 is one of the two tracks never previously released. Beautiful Dreamer isn’t a brilliant track by the Beatles any means. It was written by American composer Stephen Foster in the mid 19th century.

In fact it was released in an updated version by Tony Orlando in 1962 and only a few weeks later – in 1963, the Beatles recorded this cover version of Orlando’s altered version.

What we are hearing is a young group reaching out for ‘old’ standards that they could make their own with an uptempo beat, because they had no originals at this time.

It is a tad rough and ready, but what a wonder glimpse into those early music styles they were developing. It was recorded 22 January 1963 in the BBC studios.

 

Beautiful Dreamer

CD #2 is equally as strong as CD #1 in terms of the material covered, although it contains no previously unreleased material.

It does contain a few tracks that many of us failed to hear, such as Glad All Over.

The track should not be confused with the track by the same name by one of the Beatles contemporaries of the day, Dave Clark Five.

This track was originally recorded by Carl Perkins in 1957 (a favourite performer of the Beatles) and had been in their repertoire since 1960.

Glad All Over

 

Track # 13 is, This Boy.

cream of the crate cd review #11: the beatles – on air: live at the bbc vol.2
A shot of Ringo from the booklet – [CLICK to enlarge]
Written by John and Paul it has been a perennial favourite of mine. I can never hear it without thinking about the scene in A Hard days Night, where the track is played over the scene of the lonely (outcast?) Beatle, Ringo, walking along the canal bank.

The track was the B-side to the massive hit I Want To Hold Your Hand. What distinguished the track musically, in both the album version, and this BBC live version, is the 3-part harmony as supplied by John, Paul and George.

With similar vocal harmony achieved these days with the flick of the switch on a Harmonizer (yes, there is such a device), this live performance reminds us that they achieved a beautiful set of harmonies without the assistance of ‘devices’

This Boy

 

And I Love Her, is track # 19 and I chose this track above some of the less well known tracks because it is such a fantastic version.

What is really notable is that while George played an acoustic nylon string guitar on the released record (Hard Days Night).

In this version he used electric guitar which does in some ways provide a very interesting variation to a track we know so well. This results in this ballad having a more ‘exciting’ edge to it – listen and I think you will agree that it does change the track and yet, it still remains faithful to the version we grew up with.

And I Love Her

The final track to bring to your attention, among this selection of most excellent tracks, is track #27 I Feel Fine (Studio Outtake Sequence).

I had a short piece I was going to say about this track, but on re-reading the booklet notes on this track, I think I can do it far more justice by simply reproducing what is said about the track.
From late 1963, The Beatles were allowed to enhance some of their BBC recordings by overdubbing. Unlike EMI Studios, the BBC did not have multi-track machines. Instead, while a recording of a performance was copied to another tape, an extra element was added simultaneously – such as hand claps or vocals.

In 1988 an unedited tape of a ‘Top Gear’ Beatles session was uncovered. It includes this take of I Feel Fine, onto which John overdubbed a second lead vocal. 

In it we listen to Producer Bernie Andrews and studio manager Bev Phillips over the studio talkback system.

The only additional comment I’ll make is, that we might tend to think that the Beatles were so extraordinary that everything was always ‘spot-on’.

Yet this outtake reminds us that they were like any other band when it came to fleshing out tracks, and making mistakes.

Somehow, it just makes them even more amazing!

I Feel Fine (A studio outtake)

cream of the crate cd review #11: the beatles – on air: live at the bbc vol.2
The BBC studios where the tracks were recorded: centre of the CD – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

This really is an Amazing Album!

It is hard to comprehend just how fresh the music can still sound and how entertaining the music still is. In some ways it is very much a surprise especially so to the many of us who have listened to the Beatles from those early beginnings fifty years ago.

 

cream of the crate cd review #11: the beatles – on air: live at the bbc vol.2
From the Booklet – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The energy literally oozes out of the music and we are all reminded of just how fresh this sound was at that time.

It reminds us how it was exciting for the groups and both the audiences in those live performances and for those who bought the music at that time on vinyl.

We can absolutely over look the occasional dud note and any little wow and flutter would be due to the state of the original tapes.

Frankly, it’s amazing that there was still sufficient oxide coating on the tapes to even be able to get this quality – mind you, when it comes to recordings as precious as these, there is no such thing as spending too much money to preserve those original tapes.

And when I say that I just touched the edges of the fantastic music on this collection, I am not exaggerating.

Just listen to yourself to the sparkling version of Buddy Holly’s, Words of Love and their version of Hippy Hippy Shake would have been a piece lifted straight from their Cavern performances.

It is speaking the ‘bleeding obvious’ but it needs to be said.

This album is worth every dollar you will pay, and, there is still more!

No steak knives, but, there are four ‘pop profiles’ on the C’s – two on each.

On CD#1 we have John and George. Both were recorded on the 30th November 1965. This was only three days prior to the release of the brilliant “Rubber Soul” album. The interviews were originally pressed on 7″ disks running at 33 1/3 (LP speed) and were distributed to radio stations around the world.

Paul and Ringo appear on CD #2 and they were recorded on 2 May 1966. The interviews were actually conducted during free time while the group was recording the follow up album to “Rubber Soul“, that being “Revolver“.

They contain a great mixture of “Beatle silliness” as well as insightful, if not fascinating, snapshots of four amazing young men on the journey of a lifetime.

The album is readily available and the cost vacillates between $28.00 and $32.00.

Oh, how could I forget? It is also released on vinyl – Yes Virginia the Beatles are still released on vinyl – and it will set you back around $62.00. Possibly the best deal of all is from Bookworld, who are offering both Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the BBC sessions for Au$54.00

 


VIDEOS:

There do not appear to be any videos of these actual recording sessions, but I have searched Youtube and pulled up some BBC programs that most closely represent live performances by the Beatles during this period, so we get a feeling of the excitement.

Words of Love

 

I Want To Hold Your Hand

 

I’m A Loser

 

All My Loving