5. George McCrae – Rock Your Baby (Song): Likely heard one night while listening to the Top of the Pops podcast on the BBC, somehow I had never heard this track before even though it is one of the biggest selling singles of all time at 11 million units. A staggering achievement for this understated slice of R&B disco that slinks along in it’s rhythmic funk. One that works as well on the dancefloor or while holding your baby on the couch.
4. Courtney Barnett – Before You Gotta Go (Song): I missed listening Barnett’s Things Take Time, Take Time album upon release in late 2021 and instead listened in early 2022. A grower of an album with several highlights. One of them being this track of breaking up but wanting to remain friends or at least go out with good memories. The video is equally as great.
3. Siouxsie and the Banshees – Icon (Song): Working through the Banshees catalogue, Join Hands was reviewed back in August. The album proved to be a grim listen at times, lacking some of the pop smarts of the band’s other work. Still, the track “Icon” was a standout. The slow building song changes midway to thundering drums before exploding into life.
2. Radiohead – Kid A (Album):Kid A is an album I’ve listened to off and on for 20 years but never for more than a few tracks at a time and had never really done a deep dive into the tracks. Released after the mega selling OK Computer, Kid A split opinion in the rock community, perhaps doing exactly what Thom Yorke was hoping. Listening to the album and reading Steven Hyden’s excellent book, This Isn’t Happening, was a personal highlight of enjoying art in multiple mediums in 2022.
1. The Beatles – Revolver (2CD Deluxe Edition) (Album): Rating another Giles Martin remix of an album by The Beatles is hardly the stuff of surprise at this point. Still, it’s hard to ignore when the attention gets turned to one of the greatest albums of all time in Revolver. The highlight of these packages, regardless of which edition you choose, is the bonus material. Hearing the all too familiar songs in different takes is thrilling. From instrumentals (“Eleanor Rigby”), stripped down versions (“Tomorrow Never Knows”) or raw takes (“Here, There and Everywhere”), the bonus album was a delight.
Following up on Rubber Soul, The Beatles made another leap forward in 1966 with their seventh album, Revolver. This has now received the remixed treatment courtesy of Giles Martin. Revolver contains many of the elements that would later show up on Sgt Pepper – a signature Ringo Starr track (“Yellow Submarine”), George Harrison Eastern influences (“Love You To”), and a genre bending closing track (“Tomorrow Never Knows”). Only one single appears on the album, Paul McCartney’s haunting ballad “Eleanor Rigby”.
Harrison gets the premier slot with his bass driven “Taxman” who’s sound would later be appropriated by The Jam. John Lennon shines on the heavy eyelid pop of “I’m Only Sleeping” and the Peter Fonda quoting “She Said She Said”. McCartney turns in the lovely ballad “Here There and Everywhere” as well as the Motown horns of “Got to Get You Into My Life”. While Sgt Pepper’s remains more popular in the mainstream, in the last several years, Revolver has grown in stature over the years to become an aficionado favourite.
Fans of The Beatles will already own Revolver in many forms over the years, so it is the disc of outtakes that will drive the interest in this release. The second disc starts with the revved up single “Paperback Writer” and it’s classic B-side “Rain”, both in 2022 stereo mixes. Highlights of disc two include Take 1 of “Tomorrow Never Knows” that dials down the psychedelia for a more straightforward track with Lennon’s voice sounding like it is coming through a radio. “Doctor Robert” has a drier sound that pushes Lennon’s vocals to the forefront.
McCartney’s “For No One” appears as an instrumental backing track and later, “Here, There and Everywhere (Take 6)” has a much rawer vocal than the released version. The cartoonish effects of “Yellow Submarine” do not appear on Take 4 which makes it sound like a more mature folk sea shanty. Overall, the outtakes disc does a winning job of turning songs heard hundreds of time before into a must listen that brings out different shades and sounds to well worn tracks.
5. Ela Minus – they told us it was hard, but they were wrong (Song): Originally I had this all teed up to be in my top 10 songs of the year then discovered it came out in 2020. This has all the good things we appreciate in a dance track – dark, moody, mysterious, atmospheric, incessant beat, buried vocals, etc. The Brooklyn based Colombian, knocked us out with one of our favourite tracks that we heard in 2021.
4. The Tragically Hip – Saskadelphia (EP): Growing up as a teenager in Canada in the early 90s it was practically a prerequisite to like The Tragically Hip. They are not a band I normally put on the stereo as their music is ubiquitous around these parts but when they released this EP of music recorded around the time of the Road Apples album, I was all in. I didn’t realize how much I wanted to hear them until I did. Another great entry into their legacy and hopefully not the last.
3. Limp Bizkit – Break Stuff (Live at Lollapalooza 2021) (Song) : I was never a Limp Bizkit fan, not even as a guilty pleasure. This video appeared soon after the heavy handed Woodstock 99 documentary that cast the band as having ruined the hippie esthetic. Looking like your dad (if he was one of the Beastie Boys), singer Fred Durst was in fine form by making fun of the documentary before tearing up the crowd. The music seems better with humour and nostalgia than it did in the late 90s as a lifestyle.
2. Oasis – Knebworth 1996 (2CD + Documentary): 25 years on from the legendary Knebworth weekend; the band released a documentary, concert films of both nights, and an album. Mainly featuring tracks from the first two albums + B-sides, the performance catches the band at their peak. The documentary starts off a bit slow but continues to build with each song with one highlight being John Squire joining the lads for a guitar solo on “Champagne Supernova”. Acting in stark contrast to the Woodstock 99 doc, this was all peace and love with plenty of cigarettes and alcohol.
1. The Beatles – Let It Be/Get Back (2CD edition + Documentary) – One of the most anticipated releases of the year was Peter Jackson’s extraordinary Get Back documentary on The Beatles making of the Let It Be album and sessions leading up to the famous rooftop concert. Remarkable to see classic songs written in just a few weeks with the highlight being Paul McCartney creating “Get Back” on the spot. While the Let It Be album is the lesser of the last few releases by the band, the second disc of alternative takes were helluva lot of fun to listen to and explore. Much more to be heard for those willing to spend the extra cash on the super deluxe edition.
Arguably, The Beatles’ Let It Be album released in 1970, is the fab four’s most controversial album. Recorded before Abbey Road but released after, it has long been associated with the documentary of the same name that filmed the fraught recording sessions that did not depict John/Paul/George/Ringo as the close knit group many assumed. Eventually, the tapes were left for Phil Spector to sort out which caused another storm in the group when orchestras and choirs were added to several backing tracks which niggled at Paul McCartney for so long that he eventually released Let It Be… Naked in 2003. Starting in 2017 with the Sgt Pepper album, Giles Martin has been reworking the last albums by The Beatles in newly mixed stereo editions tied in with unreleased alternative takes.
Musically, the songs on Let It Be are a curious bunch. The album contains three massive singles and another one of their most famous songs. The most famous single is the iconic McCartney sung title track that appeared to him in a dream about his long deceased mother. Strong in religious overtones, it is hard not to get wrapped up in the emotion of the track that seems much longer than it’s 4 minutes. Influenced by transcendental meditation, Lennon’s “Across The Universe” is reportedly one of his proudest lyrics that get amplified by the celestial strings and choirs. Starting off with “Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup”, the track adds the sung mantra “Jai Guru Deva, Om” before the famous “nothing’s gonna change my world” line that gets repeated several times.
The final track of the album is “Get Back”, a worldwide #1 single that grew out of a jam session. The song is carried by Ringo Starr’s chugging rhythm, some fine lead guitar playing from Lennon, and Billy Preston’s swinging Rhodes piano solo that is one of the most memorable moments on the album. To the hardcore fans, the single that is most remembered as one of the main arguments of latter day Beatles is McCartney’s “The Long and Winding Road”. With the tapes left behind for Spector, he adds his wall of sound to Macca’s simple tune. While it does add a whole lot of orchestral gloss to the song, it also likely made it accessible to the older generation pushing the song to #1 in North America and acts as a wistful final moment for the band that would soon break-up.
The rest of Let It Be is more of a hodgepodge of tracks including “Dig It” and the folk song “Maggie Mae” that both clock in at under a minute each. Neither of George Harrison’s tracks are his best but “I Me Mine” focuses on egos which is an interesting comment in the shadow from the songwriting team of Lennon/McCartney. “For Blue” is a fine bit of blues rock that gets lost between the orchestral flourishes of “The Long and Winding Road” and one of the band’s finest rock songs, “Get Back”.
The album tracks that do stand out include the first track, “Two of Us”. Seeing the band get back to it’s roots of Lennon/McCartney duetting into the same microphone, the track is reportedly about Macca and wife Linda but could easily be associated with his relationship with Lennon. As internal tenstions rise in the band, it’s hard not to hear their relationship laid bare in the lyrics, “you and me chasing paper, getting nowhere/on our way back home…. You and I have memories/longer than the road that stretches out ahead”. “I’ve Got a Feeling” uses tidbits of three different tracks that come together to form a belter, with Macca sounding like a preacher on the opening lyric and Lennon singing that “everybody had a good year”.
As it is, Let It Be is hodge podge of smash hit singles, a few good tunes, and several forgettable ones. It’s regrettable that this is the final statement from the greatest band of all time in that they released an album that feels mostly thrown together with a lack of flow in several spots. Still, it’s hard to dismiss an album with four of the band’s most memorable tracks. While Let It Be is a hard album to love, it’s also one that does surprise in certain spots with a few fine performances.
The two disc edition adds a second disc of alternative takes from the sessions and oddly enough, sounds like the more cohesive album. Stripped of the controversary and aura of the released album, the alternative takes sounds like a legendary band playing a few great songs together. Highlights include the chatter before Macca belts out “Let It Be” and a version of “The Long and Winding Road” that leaves off the Spector overdubs. “Across the Universe” appears in a Glyn Johns 1970 mix that also leaves out the gloss while “Don’t Let Me Down”, that was inexplicably left off the album, shows up in the version from the famous rooftop performance. The album tracks have a looser feel with “For You Blue” appearing earlier and fits in better with the tracks surrounding it. There is a joy on disc two’s performances that really carry it as a standalone product and one that is a helluva lot of fun to listen to.