Okay, for the next six days we’ll be focusing on one artist–the Beatles. They’re so well known I’m not even going to bother giving you the Wikipedia link. Before we move on to consider how their music has been adopted and messed with by other people, let’s keep it in the family and look at a song that’s written, performed, and produced by the Beatles. Well, kinda. In 2006 the surviving members of the Beatles released Love, an album of Beatles songs remastered and remixed for Cirque du Soleil‘s Las Vegas show of the same name. It was approved by the living Beatles and the dead ones’ heirs, put together using nothing but Beatles recordings, and was produced by George Martin (their original producer) and his son, so it’s as close to an authentic Beatles production as time and human frailty allowed. And, at least as importantly, it’s really good!
The remastering is excellent, so the sound quality is great, and the production choices the Martins made were actually quite adventurous. You might not blame them for being conservative, considering the fact that the Beatles’ discography has been treated with kid gloves for decades*. But instead, Love is a very interesting composition–an unbroken album-length medley of great songs, put together to sound like something new, not just another “best of” album.
Yesterday we had an all-Beatles mashup. Today, we have… an all-Beatles mashup! But it’s different because this one is completely unsanctioned, and not as good. I first heard about it on Boing Boing in 2004, when they actually posted about stuff before everyone on the internet had already seen it four times. Anyway, we’re not here to bash Boing Boing, we’re here to praise the Beatles Mash-Up Medley, by Hank Handy.
Whatever it lacks in polish it makes up in complexity and enthusiasm. It moves from one hook to another, combining them long enough to sink in but quickly skipping on to the next memorable sample. At times the combinations are really quite nice, and it’s a fun voyage through their catalog. And even if you hate it, it’s only three and a half minutes long.
As part of Beatles Week I’m giving you one of the few songs off of Danger Mouse‘s 2004 concept album, The Grey Album, that actually sounds good (although I love the conceit of the album–combining Jay-Z’s Black Album with The White Album–most of it sounds kind of crappy). Here’s what someone smarter than me said about The Grey Album (from Pitchfork’s 7.7/10 review):
Remix albums rarely have purely noble intentions. From underground promotional vehicles to hobbyist experiments for props at local watering holes, the concept of backing familiar voices with unexpected surroundings had been all but lost to simpler production clinics with high profile guests. That is, until Danger Mouse (best known for his work with Jemini and Sage Francis) turned a color inference into an underground phenomenon with his bootleg conceptual assault, The Grey Album, a remix album that pairs the vocals of Jay-Z’s Black Album with The Beatles’ legendary White Album.
Today we have yet another mashup, one of those simple compositions that takes two complementary songs (or portions thereof), puts them together, and steps away without too much trickery. The song combines Portishead‘s best known song, “Glory Box“, with the Beatles’ “I’m Only Sleeping“, a song so obscure that I hadn’t heard until 20 seconds ago, when I searched for it online so I could hear what it sounded like. Turns out it’s pretty good, but the mashup clearly samples the highlight moment (the first 10 seconds or so of the first verse). The mashup is cleverly called “Sleeping”, and from what I can tell it comes from a 2006 mashup album by CCC dedicated entirely to Revolver–the mashup album is called Revolved (that links to a surprisingly not-defunct website with unsurprisingly dead download links).
We have one more Beatles mashup, by dj BC, who made a couple of albums blending the Beatles with the Beastie Boys (the albums are purportedly the work of The Beastles). Today’s selection, “Tripper Trouble”, is a really solid production mixing the Beatles’ iconic “Day Tripper” hook with the Beastie Boys’ born-to-be-remixed “Ch-Check It Out” . The result is pleasing, if uncomplicated: Tripper Trouble – dj BC
Today’s song is so epic that I had to take a day off of blogging to prepare for it. That’s my official explanation for missing yesterday’s scheduled post. Okay, let’s get to it.
Girl Talk. How somebody can go from this complete pile of crap to the best album of 2008 in just two years is utterly beyond me, but Gregg Gillis (aka Girl Talk) managed it with the life-affirming Feed the Animals. Girl Talk takes the mashup mentality to one of its logical conclusions: why just put two or three songs together when you can put the best eight-to-fifteen seconds of a few dozen songs together instead? This strategy is risky, to say the least — if the samples aren’t awesome, if they don’t mesh well, if the listener is sensitive to the rampant obscenity Girl Talk favors, it just comes off as a horrible mess (see Girl Talk’s aforelinked 2006 album Night Ripper for just how bad this can get). But with Feed the Animals, which incidentally has a fascinating commercial history (it was originally sold In Rainbows-style but now can (and should) be purchased at Amazon’s MP3 Store), Girl Talk managed to make an album I’d put up there among the very best of the last five years. It’s lively, funny, artful, and assertive, and incredibly compelling. And, for what it’s worth, it’s the best music to run to (up-tempo and continuously changing).