Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Cirque du Soleil recently opened a new show to good reviews in Las Vegas that features the music of the Beatles. However, rather than simply license the Fab Four's existing catalog, the Beatles gave permission for their long-time producer, Sir George Martin (working in collaboration with his son, Giles) to "re-imagine" and remix the songs to create a special soundtrack for the production.
According to a recent story in the Los Angeles Times, the Beatles agreed to this since the project grew out of the late George Harrison's friendship with one of Cirque du Soleil's artistic directors; Harrison apparently wanted to see it happen as a last collaboration of the group, and the other members and their families wanted to honor Harrison's memory and dying wish. Though some purists were apprehensive about the Beatles' songs being adapted for a Vegas show, according to the Times, even many early critics have been pleasantly surprised and won over.
My brother recently purchased the re-mix and kindly agreed to share this review of the resulting product, the Beatles Love CD:
There are some interesting mixes here as producer (and son) Sir George Martin and Giles sample bits and pieces from the Beatles catalogue (like rap artists) and remix and amalgamate the songs with the chosen tracks for the Cirque du Soleil show.
Some of it is jarring and unexpected but one has to remember that this was background music for a visual show and just listening to it cold seems a little weird. The jarring part is the choice of songs which is interesting in itself because they don't follow the Beatles time-line or album release date periods like their other retrospect albums.
A couple of songs are left intact, some are shortened, and there are some added sound effects. However, it is real subtle to preserve the integrity of the songs. They even sample some of Beatles' conversations from the recording studio. One song is just run backwards: "Sun King" from Abbey Road's Sun King Medley (it's even listed backwards on the track listings as "Gnik Nus." On Hey Jude, during the "na na na na na na" fade-out of the song, the orchestral background part is turned off, and you just hear the naked voices of the Beatles chanting the words.
I thought the best song is the demo, acoustic version of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" that was on the Beatles Anthology 3 CD. However, Martin has added and composed a string quartet score (as he did on "Yesterday" and "Eleanor Rigby") to "Weeps," making it sound like a whole new Beatles' song.