THE WHITE STUFF

The deluxe reis­sue of The Bea­tles' mas­ter­piece, The White Al­bum, of­fers a price­less in­sight into the Fab Four's creative process.

Hot Press - - ALBUMS OF THE YEAR - PAT CARTY

The Bea­tles was my first Fabs al­bum proper: the white cover that would sup­ply its eter­nal nick­name, the cool poster and the four dour look­ing head­shots – an omen of the splin­tered con­tents within. My ini­tial re­ac­tion was prob­a­bly “what is this shit?” Joe Strum­mer de­scribed the triple al­bum bloat of The Clash’s San­din­ista! as mu­sic for oil rig work­ers in all its glo­ri­ous sprawl, and The White Al­bum, as it will al­ways be known, is very much like that.

If it was ex­ten­sive be­fore, this new six-disc ver­sion is the very def­i­ni­tion of ex­haus­tive. The remix from Giles “son of Ge­orge” Martin has plenty of welly: some ex­tra bass here, some ex­tra gui­tar there, more prom­i­nent drums, but I’d still plump, slightly, for the mono ver­sion, prob­a­bly be­cause I spent so much money on The Bea­tles In Mono box.

Ig­nore the ar­gu­ment stretch­ing back to Novem­ber 22, 1968; it would not be bet­ter as a sin­gle record. There’s some clangers here cer­tainly – ‘Pig­gies’, ‘Wild Honey Pie’, the ir­re­deemable ‘Rev­o­lu­tion 9’ prov­ing yet again that avant-garde is in­deed French for bull­shit – but taken at a sin­gle run, it amazes, still.

‘Dear Pru­dence’, ‘Martha My Dear’, ‘Hap­pi­ness Is A Warm

Gun’, and ‘Black­bird’, for ex­am­ple, are all amongst the very best Len­non/McCart­ney com­po­si­tions. Many claim it as the band’s greatest tri­umph. Lis­ten­ing again, you can hear what they’re on about.

The fa­mous Esher demos – The Bea­tles re­turn from In­dia with a ‘thaila’ load of songs, and do some rudi­men­tary record­ings at Ge­orge’s house to show each other what they’ve got – are ba­si­cally The Bea­tles un­plugged. We’re al­lowed to sit in a room with ge­nius, hear­ing works in progress like ‘Child Of Na­ture’ (‘Jeal­ous Guy’), ‘Junk’ and ‘Not Guilty’, which wouldn’t see re­lease un­til The Bea­tles were no more.

Spring for the big box and lis­ten on in won­der­ment. A 13-minute bluesy ‘Hel­ter Skel­ter’; 10 min­utes of ‘Rev­o­lu­tion 1’; a beau­ti­ful pi­ano & Ringo-only ‘Goodnight’; Paul and his acous­tic un­adorned on ‘Mother Na­ture’s Son’; run-throughs of ‘I’m So Tired’, ‘Ju­lia’ and ‘I Will’; and early ver­sions of ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Let It Be’. I could go on, but like the Dy­lan More Blood, More Tracks set – the only se­ri­ous ri­val for reis­sue of the year – ev­ery­thing here is gold, the rough sketches of the ab­so­lute masters of the form.

It’s a beau­ti­ful pack­age too, com­plete with a com­pre­hen­sive book, a work of art in and of it­self, but it’s the mu­sic that counts – and this is fash­ioned by Gods.

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