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The Beatles – Let It Be … Naked

Let It Be … Naked is not necessarily the reworked edition of what is effectively, their swift farewell. It is rather the re-polishing of the album’s most essential quality: The Beatles live.

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Originally released back in 1970 (the official release), Let It Be was widely panned as being less than stellar work by a stellar group of musicians; the album conceived long after the actual pieces had broken. Between George Harrison growing increasingly unhappy at select members of the group and John and Yoko shooting smack, Twickenham Studios was a less than amicable place to record. Add to that the lavish plans to film the band recording (creating the accompaniment to that very film), tensions were unbearably high. And as the instances caught on camera would often show, the memory of that session was mostly a sour one. Amidst their break-up fiasco the record was left in the hands of producer Phil Spector (after original arranger George Martin had, according to Spector, “left Let It Be in a deplorable condition”) and off he went into the production twilight zone. Adding choral overdubs and orchestral layering, Spector’s supplementary sounds resulted in a distinctly puffed-up, overdressed version of the album; his production frosting best exampled by his version of “The Long and Winding Road”. It left the apparent pained session sonically hidden amongst the post-production haste. While he had very little time to finish the work, the results were so porous McCartney held the record as one of the reasons for the band’s dissolution.

Thirty some odd years on, the album finally gets the treatment the Beatles wanted it to get; or at least, the true capturing of that period. Stripped of all its Spector nuances, Let It Be … Naked is not necessarily the reworked edition of what is effectively, their swift farewell. It is rather the re-polishing of the album’s most essential quality: The Beatles live. Given the wash down at Abbey Road studios by the trio of Allan Rouse, Paul Hicks and Guy Massey; the selected tracks were given their Pro-Tools (where would the producers of today be without this little box of magic?) cleaning after they had been selected from the recording’s original tracks. Chosen to exhibit the sort of bare resonance McCartney wanted to capture from the original recording sessions, this new collection boasts that live personality while being current to today’s quality of sound.

Removing everything that had to do with Spector and Martin (the added extras plus the tracks “Maggie Mae” and “Dig It” and all that in-studio banter and dialogue), they kept almost everything that was the Beatles; all while giving the songs the technologically advanced update of a crisper, cleaner sound. So while it is a de-clothed version of the Let It Be soundtrack, it isn’t exactly ‘raw.’ There is also one notable addition – the swabbing groove of “Don’t Let Me Down”, which was recorded on label Apple’s roof and was the B-side to the single “Get Back.” Interestingly enough this cleaned-up third go-around works considerably well. Without the sponge that robbed the first two releases of its essence, tracks like “Long and Winding Road” escape from the shackles that seemed to bind its grace. The naked rendering, however still weepy in its unending sentimentality, does escape from being overly schlocky without the original’s bloated mush (as one adept journalist coined it, “Spector’s wall of schmaltz” – oh yes).

The Beatles, as they are, will never fade from public mention and will remain a defining entity in music’s history. The record labels (not to mention the members who remain breathing) will constantly remind us so. With Beatles anthologies aplenty and their albums of timeless compositions still readily available, reworked editions such as Let It Be … Naked, while certainly classy, will be hard pressed to satiate those fab four perfectionists. But really, they’re just asking for too much. So where does that leave the Beatles fan (or the general public)? Well, along with the aforementioned “Don’t Let Me Down” and the quality update the sound has received, this thrice released group of songs finally gets the polish they deserve. And it sounds glorious – without the torrential pour of the unnecessary, this is the most accurate documentation of the music from that session; the one joyous thing they actually got on tape.

(Apple Records)

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Alice Cooper – Breadcrumbs EP

Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper

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Alice Cooper Breadcrumbs

For a large number of Alice Cooper fans who didn’t experience everyone’s favorite snake-adorned shock rocker at the height of his powers through the ’70s, most probably were introduced to Cooper through 1989’s hair-metal infused generational breakout album Trash. That was at least, my introduction to Vincent Furnier, at the age of 9 years old, seeking for something to satiate my love of hair metal and shock rock. Trash was everything Bon Jovi’s New Jersey was- big, radio-friendly- but had that added sense of danger and darkness that didn’t come with the pretty side of hair metal. However, as sure as songs like “House of Fire“, “Bed of Nails“, and the ubiquitous hit “Poison”, are still great today, long-time Alice Cooper fans know that Cooper is at his most enthralling is when he taps into his garage rock lineage, cut from the same mold that was paved by bands like the MC5.

So for those born in the early 80s like myself, the initial foray into the world of Alice Cooper meant that you had to work your way back into this long-running discography to find the rich, often timeless work Cooper is best known for. In 2019 Alice Cooper himself is working his way back on his latest EP, the aptly titled Breadcrumbs. The 6-song EP finds Cooper revisiting music and artists connected thematically by what ties them all together- the Motor City. This Detroit-centric EP features Alice Cooper’s take on songs by Suzi Quatro, The Dirtbombs, Motown soul singer Shorty Long, and of course, The MC5 (the EP also features guest guitar and vocal work from Wayne Kramer). Included in the mix are a reworked version of the 2003 Alice Cooper song “Detroit City” and one new cut, “Go Man Go”.

On his reworked “Detroit City”, the song is given a rawer makeover, sounding far less produced than the original. Gone are the orchestral overdubs with the song relying more on the loud bluesy guitars- perhaps the way it was meant to sound. Suzi Q’s “Your Mama Won’t Like Me” stays fairly faithful to the original, but Quatro’s vocal sneer is replaced with.. well, Alice Cooper’s vocal sneer. MC5’s “Sister Anne” is almost as great as the original 1971version, with the added benefit of today’s production qualities.

The EP’s one new track, “Go Man Go”, is very much Detroit, and very much Alice Cooper. It’s rock n’ roll roots are coated with a little bit of rockabilly, a little bit of garage, a lot of attitude. Like this EP, the track should be a precursor of Alice Cooper’s anticipated next album. The hope is that he continues this work of keeping things dirty rock n’ roll as the results are more often than not, pretty great.

Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper. Breadcrumbs is a noble effort meant to tease and build anticipation than satisfy your craving for all new Alice Cooper material. It’s done just that, hinting at what could be around the corner. On top of which it shows that there are few rock stars who will ever reach the status and longevity of everyone’s favorite rock n’ roll snake charmer.

(earMUSIC)

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Goo Goo Dolls – Miracle Pill

The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good

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Goo Goo Dolls Miracle Pill

One of the most remarkable things about the Goo Goo Dolls is their steadfast consistency amongst the ever-changing backdrop of popular music. Six years ago when they released Magnetic, I wrote that the band remained unchanged in the face of their supposed “waning popularity” in the eyes of pop culture and radio charts. It’s true that many of their contemporaries that made it big alongside them in the late 1990s are long gone, but for the Goos, they’ve quietly continued to be above everything else, themselves, just older, wiser, and continuingly more refined. Miracle Pill is their 12th studio album and is the natural progression from 2016’s Boxes. Like their previous release, Miracle Pill continues their musical evolution away from alternative rock to the more serene territory of adult contemporary. Sure, it may sound like a bad thing, but like everything the Goos have done over the past 25 years, it’s supremely confident and composed.

They may not write songs with the caustic bite like “Here Is Gone” anymore, but they have been finding comfort in the more introspective pop-strewn melodies found in songs like “Lights”. Similarly, in the new album’s lead single and title track, the Goos tap into bouncy, easy-to-digest pop empowerment. Songs like “Indestructible” show that the band haven’t put down their guitars just yet, constructing songs that are still fond of their alternative rock roots but have found comfort in grander, more expansive sounds.

The album’s best moments are when the Goo Goo Dolls unashamedly tug on the heartstrings like they’ve done so many times before. The quiet jangly nature of “Over You” does this particularly well, while the bigger, electronic-infused arena rock of “Lost” shows that this type of music is just done extremely poorly by bands like Imagine Dragons. “Autumn Leaves” is a throwback to the kind of songs found on Let Love In and Dizzy Up The Girl, sounding organic and wistful, while the closing of “Think It Over” is the kind of song they’ve been hinting at since Something For The Rest Of Us. It’s part quintessential Goos, but contemporary and timeless at the same time.

Credit to the Robby Takac songs of the album too- “Step In Line”, “Life’s a Message”- both some of the finest songs Takac has written. He is often cast in the shadow of John Rzeznik’s more recognizable sound, but on Miracle Pill, his work is the best its sounded since Dizzy.

The Ringer recently wrote a piece titled ‘The Goo Goo Dolls Were Never the Cool Kids, but They’re Still Standing’. I echoed these sentiments in that Magnetic review years ago, but if there was anything long time Goo Goo Dolls fans know is that the band were never concerned about popularity or being “cool”. The problem with being cool in music is that it fades. The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good. Not much has changed in that sense, and really, that’s much better than being cool.

(Warner Bros.)

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