It seems any “new” Beatles material is going to be greeted with the same reaction from die-hard fans: mostly derision, because whatever it is will surely be either leftover material parading as new or rehashes in the form of best-ofs.
And then there was Love, the odd concoction that straddled the middle ground between the two, both a best-of and something a bit new, if only because it never existed in this particular form before. And this is where the casual fans make out best: They could pick up something like Love and just enjoy it for what it was, rather than picking it apart before it even reached store shelves, or just plain filing it away in the “failure” folder without even hearing it. That’s what many dedicated Beatles fans tend to do because, as it is widely known, this music is holy and must not be touched! Do not touch! But touch it Sir George Martin and son Giles did, picking through the master tapes and finding the fortuitous moments of the Fab Four’s better known songs that achieved that beautiful kind of alchemy where two or more songs can morph into one.
Some may have looked at Love as a failure because it lacks radical, modern touches that made Danger Mouse’s Grey Album (which mashed up Jay-Z’s a capella Black Album with instrumental material composed from unauthorized Beatles samples) so controversial, but they missed the point: It doesn’t need to be. That’s not the purpose it served. Love was, essentially, a greatest-hits album with the spin of being a soundtrack of sorts to the Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas. Rather than do something that would appeal only to the 18-34 set as, say, something along the lines of Danger Mouse’s creation generally would, Sir George Martin and son instead allowed the music to breathe a bit of a new life without simply being a rehashed version of One — all the while appealing to the widest possible audience. It was not entirely new music, but it also wasn’t entirely old, either.
What it was, at least, was a bit fresh and a different perspective from which to view the music of the Beatles. After hearing the Beatles at some point, day-in and day-out, for the past 40 years for most people in the Western world, why weren’t we all welcoming any change up to the sounds? Great as they are, it’s nice to hear something a little different once in a while. At the same time, for the most part, the songs we all know and love were there in a fairly recognizable form, save for maybe “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which, for some reason, sadly loses most of its beautiful guitar for strings. But then there are really intriguing moments where things really gel just right, like when “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite” suddenly morphs into “She’s So Heavy,” or the a capella album opener “Because,” that are particularly goosebump-worthy. There are more of those than “Guitar,” thankfully.
In the end, Love is simply fun to hear. Let go all the preconceived notions, drop all the pretense associated with the Beatles after four decades of deification, forget their status, and Love flows like a bunch of great music, nearly non-stop from beginning to end. It’s hard to imagine any 80-minute stream of music having no stumbles, but Love manages to work: That’s the magic of the Beatles at their best, I suppose, but there’s more at play here than simply the magic of those great tunes they wrote so long ago.
What really sells this set is what some have had such a hard time with: The constant segues between songs, as if the whole album were nearly one long song. But buried in that mix are neat little nuggets for the Beatles die-hards — parts of songs that had been previously buried or parts that had never seen the light of day before, brought out by the Martins especially for this set. Love remains a treasure trove for the fans looking for new details to dig into.