If you’re a longtime PopCult reader, you had to know this was coming. Today in The 2023 PopCult Gift Guide we are recommending the music of The Beatles. In fact, over on The AIR all day today, I’m running a marathon of my show, Beatles Blast, just to celebrate the release of the Red and Blue albums. Your PopCulteer is a huge Beatles fan.
Unless you’ve been buried under a rock in the last few weeks, you know that “the last Beatles Record” has been released.
It’s part of a long-awaited and expanded reissue of two classic compilation albums.
We also have new music from Ringo, who was just here in Charleston in October with his All-Starr Band.
I’m not including links for the general release items, because these are available whereever records are sold in a variety of formats. If I mention an exclusive, I’ll point you to it.
The Beatles “Now and Then”
Available on 7″, 12″ CD and cassette, with multiple colors of vinyl.
This is “The Last Beatles Record.” I featured the music video and making of video here in PopCult last Sunday. “Now and Then” is the missing “third song” from the 1995 Beatles Anthology sessions, when Paul, Ringo and George went into the studio together to flesh out some unfinished songs that had been left behind by John Lennon prior to his assassination in 1980.
Fans awaited the results with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. “Free As A Bird” came off quite nicely. “Real Love,” was good, but not great, and the song had been heard before when John’s demo had been featured on a movie soundtrack and played on “The Lost Lennon Tapes” radio program back in 1988. The third song never materialized.
That was “Now and Then,” and it was left unfinished, largely because George was extremely unhappy with the sound quality of the demo, and some say the song itself, so it sat uncompleted for 27 years. In the ensuing period, George passed away, but the surviving Beatles along with John and George’s widows hired famed director Peter Jackson to create something worthwhile out of hundreds of hours of unused film and audio recordings from the “Let It Be” sessions.
The Beatles Get Back was a major hit, and Jackson had developed AI-assisted “de-mixing” technology that allowed him to clean up the audio and even separate mono recordings into individual tracks of each voice and instrument. The Bealtes used that technology on last year’s Revolver Super Deluxe Box Set, and it was used to clean up the demo of “Now and Then.” Paul and Ringo added new parts. George’s guitar tracks were used. New string arrangements were created by Giles Martin.
The end result is a bittersweet, wistful, nostalgic tune that is quite lovely and touching. It’s not a rocker, by any means, but it is quintesstially Beatles.
Red Album (1962-1965)
Blue Album (1966-1970)
Available from most music retailers on vinyl and CD
These were the two 2-LP compilation albums that were released in 1973, when The Beatles’ contract with Capitol/EMI was renegotiated to allow the label to repackage their music. They sold in record numbers and for many fans who weren’t around in the 1960s, these were their introduction to the music of the band.
When they were released, they were simply seen as “Greatest Hits” albums, and that they are, but they have taken on a greater meaning to millions of fans.
There are also some valid criticisms of the albums. Quite a few terrific songs were omitted, and the running time for each LP was almost hilariously short.
Now they have been given the deluxe reissue treatment. Each track has been remixed by Giles Martin. Many were demixed by Peter Jackson first, and are being heard in stereo for the first time ever. And they are officially on sale November 10.
And each album has been expanded, to the tune of 21 additional songs between them, including the new song, “Now and Then.”
On vinyl, the additonal tracks are on a third LP, as the first two retain their original running order. On CD, all of the tracks are presented in chronological order, as they were on the original release.
Personally, this scratches a 45-year itch for me. When I first became an obsessive Beatles fan after seeing The Rutles’ All You Need Is Cash, the first thing I did was borrow my older sister’s copy of The Blue Album and wear it out over the course of the summer. That Christmas, I got The White Album on white vinyl, and The Red Album on red vinyl, but I never managed to get my hands on the blue vinyl version of The Blue Album.
Face it, you can’t go wrong with The Beatles’ greatest hits. Colored vinyl versions of the Red and Blue albums are limited and exclusive to The Beatles Store.
Available on 10″ Vinyl, CD and Cassette from most music retailers and The Ringo Store
This EP was officially released last month, just four days after I got to see Ringo perform in my hometown, so if I seem inclined to rave about it, deal with it.
Perfect for anybody who loves Ringo’s music, Rewind Forward is a gem, and a great gift idea.
The EP features 4 new songs:
1. Shadows On The Wall
2. Feeling The Sunlight
3. Rewind Forward
4. Miss Jean
Let’s look at the PR:
The title track was written by Ringo with his engineer, and oft co-writer, Bruce Sugar. “We’ve been writing a song now for every EP,” said Ringo. “Rewind Forward was just one of those things I say and it made sense in the moment. Like “A Hard Days Night” – I thought, why don’t we just “Rewind Forward?” To make sense of it, sometimes it is good to go back and move forward from a place you left off, you don’t ever have to live in the past but it is good to check it occasionally.”
The other tracks find Starr collaborating with old and new friends – including longtime All Starr Steve Lukather and his Toto bandmate Joe Williams who wrote the opening track “Shadows on the Wall;” “I asked Luke for a song – him and Joe Williams – and they put meat on it – so I wasn’t just getting a basic track I have to add everything to – it has guitar and bass and all I have to do is add my vocals and drums. Of course I always do the drums and sing – it is my EP!”
Paul McCartney wrote “Feeling the Sunlight” “We were Facetiming as we sometimes do and I asked him if he had a song or would write one for this EP I am making. A week later he sent the track over and he’s all over it – which is great – playing EVERYthing, “ Ringo continues with a laugh, “including the drums!!!!! So we had to take them off – I did the drums and the vocals.”
For the fourth and final track, “Miss Jean,” Ringo collaborated with Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers. “We had played together on an Ian Hunter track (which was number 1 on the Heritage chart – whatever that chart is!) and I’d played on a Tom Petty track. But this was the first song Mike has ever written for me, which I loved. I put drums on it and sang it and he put everything else on it – that’s how it works.” That “everything else” also included the work of fellow Heartbreaker and one of Ringo’s dear friends Benmont Tench.
In addition, the EP features contributions from Joe Walsh, Steve Dudas, Lance Morrison, as well as Matt Bissonnette, Torrance Klein, Weston Wilson, Kip Lennon and Marky Lennon.
All songs were recorded at Ringo’s home studio in Los Angeles (except for “Feeling the Sunlight” where Paul recorded all his parts in the UK).
Like I said, you can never go wrong giving the gift of music, and any Beatles fan is going to want a record that has Ringo and Paul on it.