On Air - Live At The BBC Vol 2 Double CD
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Vinyl, Original recording remastered, Box set, 11 Nov 2013
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A new companion to The Beatles’ first BBC collection, On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2, is presented as a 2CD or 180-gram vinyl packages. On Air’s 63 tracks, none of which overlap with The Beatles’ first BBC release, includes 37 previously unreleased performances and 23 previously unreleased recordings of in-studio banter and conversation between the band’s members and their BBC radio hosts. Ten of On Air’s songs were never recorded by the group for EMI in the 1960s, including two making their debuts with the new release: The Beatles’ direct-to-air performance of Chuck Berry’s “I’m Talking About You” and a rocking cover of the standard “Beautiful Dreamer.” On Air also includes different versions of six rarities from the 1994 BBC collection: Little Richard’s “Lucille,” Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee,” Chan Romero’s “The Hippy Hippy Shake,” Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman,” and two songs they learned from records by Carl Perkins, “Glad All Over” and “Sure To Fall.” On Air also features BBC recordings of 30 well-loved songs from The Beatles’ catalogue, including five number ones and other favorites such as: “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Twist And Shout,” “Do You Want To Know A Secret,” “Boys,” “Please Mister Postman,” “Money,” “And I Love Her,” and “If I Fell.” Like its critically acclaimed predecessor, On Air - Live at the BBC Volume 2 includes audio of The Beatles talking to DJs Brian Matthew and Alan Freeman and Pop Go The Beatles hosts Lee Peters and Rodney Burke.
Top customer reviews
So, The Beatles. It's the stock answer I'll give if anybody asks me to name my favourite band of all time and, although I love a huge amount of music, I think it would be true. Other than David Bowie, The Beatles have meant more to me than any other group, right from childhood onwards. I think it's fair to say that I'm a hardcore Beatles fan and, therefore, this release is aimed quite squarely at people like me – someone who will want to own pretty much everything The Beatles have ever released. The original Live At The BBC Volume 1 album was released in 1994 and was one of the biggest selling albums of the year, being the first release of “new” Beatles material since the Live At The Hollywood Bowl album in 1976. Volume 2, coming nearly twenty years later and after the very successful Anthology project from the mid 1990s, didn't really have the same kind of excitement surrounding it and many fans, myself included, wondered what it was going to be like if Volume 1 had featured the cream of the BBC recordings. Thankfully, there were still plenty of good performances from the archives left unreleased, but I genuinely can't see there being anything left after this volume; it's not that they've scraped the bottom of the barrel, but there really can't be hardly anything else of broadcast standard left in terms of BBC archives.
As big a Beatles fan as I am, it's difficult to treat this album as any more than it is: a collection of archive live performances The Beatles made for the BBC in the early sixties, some of which aren't of the best sound quality. It is going to be enjoyable and of great interest to any hardcore fan of The Beatles, but for anyone who has owned Volume One for the past couple of decades, this album simply adds another volume of curios, asides and performances of songs we have all (mostly) heard before. There are the old rock 'n' roll classics The Beatles hammered out in Hamburg as live versions of singles and album tracks from their first few years of recorded output (1962 to 1965), plus a few profile interviews tagged onto the end, but in many cases, studio and Anthology versions are superior to some of the performances on offer here. There are a few exceptions, however, such as the gorgeous performance of Buddy Holly's Words Of Love, which pre-dates the Beatles For Sale studio recording, an excellent rendition of Chains, with the group harmonising with more warmth than their album version, and a spirited There's A Place, always one of my favourite tracks from their incredible debut. George's guitar solo on I Saw Her Standing There is surely better than the recorded version, as is a beautifully radiant I'll Follow The Sun.
There are a few places where the quality drops a little. Paul's version of Lucille fails to capture the excitement that such a energetic song should bristle with and, musically, The Beatles fail to do the song justice, with George's guitar solo sounding particularly off-kilter. Some of the tracks exclusive to this collection, namely I'm Talking About You and Beautiful Dreamer, aren't anything very special at all and the sound quality of both leave a lot to be desired. I'm not entirely convinced that the rocking treatment of Beautiful Dreamer works at all, really. Although it is an otherwise lovely performance (including a superb guitar solo from George), I do wonder what Ringo was thinking on Till There Was You with his unnecessarily busy drum beat. Occasionally, the quality of the recordings get in the way of the enjoyment of the music, but, thankfully, the vast majority of the music here is very listenable indeed.
Live At The BBC Volume 2 is a really enjoyable, quality package which features a introduction from Paul McCartney written in July 2013 in the beautifully detailed, glossy booklet, and made me grin many times whilst listening to it, thanks to the between-song chatter that highlights the unique character and wit of The Beatles, but, I have to admit, this is the first time I've re-listened to Live At The BBC Volume 2 since I bought it nearly four years ago, so it's not really the kind of album I've found myself wanting to listen to often, despite my deep love of the band. I'm not criticising any aspect of this collection, far from it, it does exactly what it says on the tin, but if I had to put my finger on why I haven't listened to this live album regularly, it is probably due to the lack of a wow factor. There was a palpable excitement listening to and watching the Anthology project and there were certain tracks on Live At The BBC Volume 1 that really got the hairs on the back of the neck tingling. Unfortunately, there aren't enough of those intense feelings generated by this double album this time round; indeed, unlike previous raids of the Beatles archives, I can't really claim that Volume 2 has increased my love for or appreciation of The Beatles, or that there is much here that got me excitedly taking to internet forums to spread the word of the brilliance of particular tracks on the album when it was first pleased.
To surmise, these two discs are a very pleasant, decent listen that are possibly a lot more interesting because of the in-between record dialogue, the interviews and the pleasure of hearing the four of them chat at the beginning of their careers. Maybe even more pleasurable than listening to the music itself, as good as most of it is. Apart from one or two tracks still buried in the archives, it seems like this is probably going to be the last original material that we will hear from the Fab Four, so that, in itself, makes it something to treasure, but for the songs, live performances and sound quality, I have to say, objectively, that it isn't exactly the toppermost of the poppermost. Wouldn't it have been great to have been there, eagerly listening to this emanating from the wireless at that point in time, though? Perhaps for those people who were there, this is every bit as special hearing it now as it was then, but, for me, this is amongst the lesser Beatles releases... if there is such a thing as a lesser Beatles product, that is.
Vinyl replica style cover, twin CD
Fortunately, Apple has managed to fill this double CD with 22 songs not heard on Volume 1 or anything else (23 if you count the one sung by a different Beatle), along with `Happy Birthday' in celebration of `Saturday Club's' fifth birthday. It's very brief (30 seconds) but cute all the same. Of those 22 songs, just two went unrecorded by the group. (Of the 40 musical tracks on this, two were previously released on a single and another, `Lend Me Your Comb' was somewhat lost on `Anthology 1')
With Paul's intermittent screaming and the charmingly sloppy solo and wordless backing vocals, `Beautiful Dreamer' (missing the instrumental introduction, as DJ Brian Matthews talked over it) is no longer the lullaby you might expect, whilst `I'm Talking About You', though being the worst sounding thing here in terms of quality, has an aggressive John vocal and a no-nonsense solo. As Volume 1 concentrated on those covers never committed to tape at EMI, it's not unexpected that the other songs debuted here are mostly from the Lennon/McCartney catalogue.
Surprisingly, considering its popularity, an electrified `And I Love Her' is performed for the only time anywhere outside of EMI and Ringo says it's "one of my favourites", and `Anna' has a very prominent bass and is taken at a slightly slower pace with John rushing the words. Meanwhile, they get most of the words right this time round on `Devil in Her Heart' and, minus the harmonica, both 'Chains' and `I'll Get You' have crisp sounding guitars brought to the fore. I think they sound better for that. 'Honey Don't' has Ringo on vocals and a couple of country phrases from George. On the other hand, `Words of Love' is a virtual identikit performance as the record. Others such as `She Loves You' are also too similar to their recorded counterpart, but you do get to hear those songs live with no screaming. 'Roll Over Beethoven' has a motorboating backing whilst 'From Me To You' is an exciting version in front of an audience with an "OK" shouted before the instrumental break.
The remaining dozen songs are found on that first volume but are appreciably distinct here. `Lucille' has a great tremeloed solo, `I Got a Woman' is taken at a faster, somewhat heavier pace and has a rockabilly solo from George but, sadly, `Glad All Over' has a voiceover that obscures the instrumental intro. The final song is something of a peculiarity; it`s a rehearsal of `I Feel Fine' that has never been heard and John has trouble getting the feedback intro right.
Notwithstanding the studio outtake and the three previously issued, whilst it may seem wasteful to include 12 songs already heard on `Live at the BBC' and elsewhere, die-hard fans will observe that it's George, whether deliberate or by happenstance, having fun with his solos that make them dissimilar, and some endings (of fade-out songs) follow that pattern being full closures; these things may go unnoticed by the casual listener but they are all audibly different, which is something that makes it worthwhile. The enclosed booklet (48 pages) has plenty to read to keep you interested and there are some great photos - including one of McCartney looking about 15 - and copies of official BBC documentation to peruse.
The between song dialogue is quaint and the introductions are of their time. That dialogue also shows them as being `normal' and making fun of themselves, something the listening public found rather endearing. John: "I went to college just near there you know." Ringo: "...well you're posh." The individual `Pop Profiles' are on a more thoughtful note.
Aside from those two unbroadcast songs, `Sheila' and `Three Cool Cats' (twice), seven songs, alongside five more oddities, remain unreleased. It would have been better to replace a few of the duplicated songs of which we're all familiar with those instead. It can't be because Apple think the quality is suspect, as Beatle collectors know this isn't the case on at least three of these, and does sound quality really matter on a collection such as this? (Could it really be down to two of those songs not featuring Ringo?)
Some of the tracks here are a bit below par in the sound department, but you're not buying this expecting studio quality. As with `Live at the BBC`, for some reason known only to the compilers the running order is all over the place. Apple and EMI obviously didn't learn last time around. Due to most of the unusual tracks being used on the previous volume, as welcome as this is - and better versions of the songs were broadcast, the attraction value is a notch lower.
Be that as it may, you're still going to buy this.
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