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The Beatles - Live at the Hollywood Bowl on CD at Last!

2016 will be a great year for Beatles fans all around the globe with the arrival of Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years, a new documentary on the band from legendary actor/director Ron Howard. In anticipation of the movie, fans have gotten another surprise with the release of Live at the Hollywood Bowl, the first ever official CD release of the classic The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl concert that was released on vinyl posthumously in the latter half of the 1970s.

For years it is likely Beatles fans wondered if this release was ever going to see the light of day on a modern format. A wide source of speculation as to the lack of a CD issue of the album was the poor sound quality; there were limited recording techniques available back in 1964 and 1965, when these concerts were originally performed. In fact, anyone who has heard an older release knows that said recordings are heavily dominated by the screams of the young fans, who largely drown out the band!

 

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Giles Martin (son of original Beatles producer George Martin) and Sam Okell have done a painstaking remastering and remixing job, completely reconstructing the original recordings from the ground up with the best in modern technology at Abbey Road Studios. The booklet included with the CD includes an essay from David Fricke, as well as a reprint of the original essay from the vinyl release, written by George Martin (RIP).

The original album was recorded across several dates at the Hollywood Bowl in 1964 and 1965. As an added bonus, this new version of the album includes four other songs that were recorded at the concerts, but not included on the original vinyl release. This is the tracklist for the remastered album:

Tracks 1-13 constitute the original album. Tracks 14-17 are previously unreleased and did not appear on the original LP.

1. Twist and Shout [30 August, 1965]
2. She’s A Woman [30 August, 1965]
3. Dizzy Miss Lizzy[29 and 30 August, 1965]
4. Ticket To Ride [29 August, 1965]
5. Can’t Buy Me Love [30 August, 1965]
6. Things We Said Today [23 August, 1964]
7. Roll Over Beethoven [23 August, 1964]
8. Boys [23 August, 1964]
9. A Hard Day’s Night [30 August, 1965]
10. Help! [29 August, 1965]
11. All My Loving [23 August, 1964]
12. She Loves You [23 August, 1964]
13. Long Tall Sally [23 August, 1964]

14. You Can’t Do That [23 August, 1964]
15. I Want To Hold Your Hand [23 August, 1964]
16. Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby [30 August, 1965]
17. Baby’s In Black [30 August, 1965]

One thing that is highly unusual about The Beatles is that, despite their massive worldwide popularity, they do not have many official live releases. Outside of the Live at the BBC CD sets, some material appearing in The Beatles Anthology, and DVD releases of their appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, such releases are a rarity from The Fab Four. At long last, we have a proper CD release of a legitimate, “on stage” Beatles concert. That is reason alone to purchase this release.

One major surprise of this release is the tracklist, and how it is not simply a “hit singles” affair. Sure, we get plenty of popular songs, including “Help!,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and “She Loves You.” A few obscurities definitely boost the appeal, including Ringo Starr doing lead vocals on The Shirelles’ “Boys.” Other underrated gems like “She’s a Woman” and the group’s cover of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” are highlights as well. The “between song” banter from the band members is quite entertaining as well; these young men were at the height of the “touring” point of their career, and it shows here, both in the performance and in the audience’s (very loud!) reactions.

The performance itself is as entertaining as you would expect; the band members are, not surprisingly, talented musicians on a live stage. In interviews in The Beatles Anthology, the band claimed that they were unable to hear themselves over the loud crowds, and so they just played the best they could; Ringo even claims the band was playing “shit” in many cases! (Of course if that is true the attendees certainly did not care.) One of my favorite things about this release is that it is a “warts and all” live album, without heavy overdubbing or studio tricks. There are minor flubs from the band throughout, but these are left in, and it makes the experience seem all the more authentic. If you are looking for a live album that actually sounds like a live album, this one certainly succeeds in that regard.

 

Cover art of the original vinyl release from the 70s.

Cover art of the original vinyl release from the 70s.

 

But how does it SOUND? Of course, the old release is regularly looked down upon for the band being drowned out by the fans, and sounding weak on account of the limitations of the band’s recording equipment, which were typical of the era. Giles Martin and company have done a solid job cleaning things up here; the crowd is still loud but the band is more pronounced and clear. Yet they have not made the release feel overly polished or tuned up. Hats off to the remastering crew for taking something that was practically unlistenable by modern audio standards and giving it a whole new lease on life. This is a revelation in more ways than one, though fans should keep their expectations in check and not expect something that sounds like it was recorded yesterday, or in a studio.

Live at the Hollywood Bowl gives this oft-forgotten Beatles release a long overdue official CD release, and perhaps more importantly, better sound quality. Are you at all a fan of The Beatles? This is a must-own release that belongs in your collection!

 

 

2 comments

  1. maccafan 11 September, 2016 at 16:40 Reply

    Got my copy today!

    I put it on and cranked my Bose system, right out the gate I noticed the Boom of McCartney’s bass!

    I have so many thoughts about what I’m hearing that I almost don’t know where to start!

    First off, Giles Martin deserves high fives from everyone! The sound improvement cannot be denied, the vocals on this album come thru loud and clear! In fact the entire band comes thru!

    This album absolutely ROCKS!

    She’s A Woman is absolutely bad to the bone! The Beatles are tight, hot and laying it down! It is absolutely amazing that they were this tight and played this good under the conditions they were in. Anyone who says the Beatles weren’t a good live band is just wrong!

    Dizzy Miss Lizzy is Heavy Metal in 1964! When Lennon screams the Beatles are taking no prisoners, this is absolute hard rock, in fact this is one of the hardest rocking performances I’ve ever heard of the Beatles! What Giles Martin has done allows you to really hear the band, and man what a hard rocking band the Beatles really were!

    One of the things I always hold against all of the Beatle tribute bands is they don’t really rock as hard as the real Beatles.

    The sound is just so much improved, listen to Harrison’s guitar solo in Roll Over Beethoven, now you can hear it so clear!

    Ringo’s drumming can be heard much better.

    McCartney’s vocals shine in Can’t Buy Me Love !

    As I said, I love the boom of McCartney’s bass behind it all! I’ve always thought that you should be able to hear McCartney’s bass, Giles Martin deserves credit.

    I could go on and on about the songs, but I’ll just say they were right, this does bring the thrill of a Beatles concert! The improved sound let’s you really hear how powerful and absolutely hard rocking the Beatles really were live!

    To me, this is a must have album, what they’ve done should change how anyone looks at this album now! This album isn’t the stepchild anymore, these are absolutely hot hard rocking performances that sound better than they ever have!

    I like the four additional songs as well, I really love Lennon’s vocals on You Can’t Do That!

    I am actually excited, this sounds way way better than I was expecting! I still don’t like the cover, but this has easily become one of my very fave Beatle albums!

    To my ears, this is a proper and very very good live album

    • Taylor Carlson 12 September, 2016 at 16:36 Reply

      Glad you seem to be as impressed with this one as I am! I had a bootleg copy sourced from the original vinyl for years, but always found the sound quality to be deplorable despite this being such a good concert, and a “true” live album with out heavy overdubs or studio corrections.

      We were long overdue for a real Beatles live album, and I could not agree with you more than the results here absolutely delivers. Hats off to Giles Martin and anyone that was a part of the remastering effort.

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