Editor’s Note: Hard Rock Cafe’s ongoing “Classic Albums Live” series will perform The Beatles’ 1968 double LP known as the “White Album” on Friday, Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. Freeline Media’s music critic, Heidi Bolduc, is too young to have been around when the LP was first released, so our 20-something reviewer offers a look at how this album holds up today. A classic …. or something that just hasn’t aged well? Read on.
Being the type of person who consistently stays up-to-date with trends in the modern music industry, it will never cease to amaze me that, statistically, a band’s best-selling album seems to never match up with the album that the vast majority of the general population associates with them.
The same can be said about The Beatles’ The White Album (or as it was originally dubbed, The Beatles). Although making it to 19-times platinum status and containing a wide assortment of Beatles classics, the revered band’s ninth studio album in truth exhibits an eclectic assortment of tracks, straying the way the individual members of the band were from each other at that time. Released as a double LP, The White Album contains nearly 30 songs, a move that, in my opinion, is something that can be seen as controversial.
It begs the question: Is a 90-minute, 30 track album release simply too much to digest all at once?
And then of course, the second question is: Is it possible to create an album with that many strong songs, leaving out any of the “fluff?”
While in some respects I do feel that The White Album could have easily been consolidated and the order of a few of the tracks rearranged to make the album more cohesive, the more I listen to it, the more I can start to see the direction the band was heading with it.
Because I’m of course listening to the album on CD and not on its original LP album format, the first disc contains 17 songs, with the second disc featuring the remaining 12. Of the first set, the singles that are most recognizable are probably “Dear Prudence,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and “Blackbird.” However, these iconic songs are embedded within a host of others, with no guarantee that the general atmosphere or even the genre of the song before it will be similar.
For instance, the album opens with the plane engine roar (only one of the many diverse sound effects heard on the album, a technique that was certainly innovative for its time) and upbeat piano riff of “Back in the USSR,” followed by the light ballad “Dear Prudence.” And yet, as a whole, the integrity of The Beatles is preserved; songs like “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” showcase the signature carefree pop that the band is still revered for today.
Moving on to the next batch of songs, my eye only catches perhaps one classic, “Helter Skelter.” The raw energy of this song, and a tune like “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” seem to be something that’s unique to this album overall. These types of songs certainly stick out amongst the more relaxed, at times folk-reminiscent ones like “Cry Baby Cry.” The anthemic sounding lullaby “Good Night” closes out The White Album quite fittingly … in a way taking all of the melting pot of sounds and filtering them down into a single closer.
All in all, I would encourage anyone — whether you grew up listening to the entire Beatles discography or are only familiar with their hits — to sit down and examine The White Album. Despite its wide range of songs, the album as a whole is the perfect snapshot of the evolution of a band who literally shaped the landscape of pop music as we know it.
Classic Albums Live is performing “White Album” on Friday, Nov. 11. Tickets cost $25 for advance reserved seating and $30 on the day of the show.
Doors open at 7 p.m.
Classic Albums Live is a group of studio musicians and vocalists who perform historic rock albums live employing the instrumentation used on the original recording, “… cut for cut … note for note,” as the Hard Rock Cafe web site notes. Hard Rock Cafe is at 6050 Universal Boulevard in Orlando. To learn more, call 407-351-LIVE (5483).
Contact Heidi at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.