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Beatles Love album cover art
A Formula One Racing circuit was as good a place as any for a new Beatles project to be launched, I guess.

LOVE was first conceived at a chance meeting between George Harrison and Guy Lalibert√© of the Cirque Du Soleil, both of 'em having a bit of a weakness for fast cars. Guy expressed his interest in mounting a show-spectacle based on The Beatles, George dug it, and so began some three years of negotiation (during which George passed, as all things sadly must). This was followed by two years of studio work, which resulted first in the launch of the show at the specially constructed Mirage Theater, Las Vegas, in June 2006; then the album, released in November on CD, surroundsound DVD — and good old-fashioned vinyl!

But let's get back to the beginning...

As Paul and Ringo, Yoko and Olivia pondered permission and clarified conditions, it became clear that a simple stringing-together of a selection of tracks was not what anyone was looking for. When the remix collage concept began to emerge, it became equally evident that Beatle Number Five was the only man capable of — or worthy of — realizing it, and that Abbey Road was the only place to do it. The Venerable Sir George, partly due to his hearing loss, enlisted the assistance of his son, Giles: who also had a lot more experience with what now counts as studio equipment.

It was Giles who was responsible for the groundwork, enabling them to take 'the original four tracks, eight tracks and two tracks and use this palette of sounds and music to create a soundbed,' digitally separating the individual elements from the original mixes while they were sitting round waiting for The Word from above.

I make no claim to understanding the technicalities of this process, but the same new-tech approach also paved the way for the 2009 Remasters project and the Beatles Rock Band computer game. A hundred and thirty selected bits (bytes?) were reputedly woven into Love, to create twenty-six 'new' tracks. No definitive official list of inclusions has ever been issued, although their confection was made public via a series of 'podcasts', later included with sequences from the show on the All Together Now 'making of' DVD.

The technique's colloquially known as a mash-up: which I don't particularly like, as it seems to imply some kind of a sloppy mess. Given the time, care and attention that went into the project, the cover blurb more respectfully described the songs as 're-worked'. The only new recording to be used was George Martin's orchestraion for the Anthology demo of "Guitar Gently Weeps".

I have no wish to become embroiled in the analogue vs. digital sound dispute: but the fact remains, LOVE does sound 'different'. As the sleeve sticker proclaimed, it's The Beatles as you've never heard them before...

GM Senior put it this way: 'What people will be hearing on the album is a new experience, a way of re-living the whole Beatles musical lifespan in a very condensed period'. He also promised a prize to anyone who could decipher an encrypted message. So far as I know, this remains unclaimed.

There were those, of course, who regarded any kind of tampering with the authorized version(s) of the Holy Scriptures as nothing short of heresy. The Elementary Penguins were few, however, it would seem — if Platinum sales are anything to go by, at least. And rightly so, say I! The whole history of Mr Martin and the Liverpool lads was one of sonic experimentation, audio innovation and musical manipulation. It's interesting to note that the juxtaposing of "Within You Without You" with "Tomorrow Never Knows" — two fine examples of vintage track-tweaking — was the first thing they really cracked on the project, and had them convinced that it could actually work...

In that spirit, LOVE does serve as a kind of apocrypha to the original canonical works, with its thirty-odd years on format also helping to make it an authoritative retrospective overview. It also got a whole generation of hip-hop and house kids reassessing their old-folks' record collections, which can be no bad thing, either!

The nouveau psychedelic cover art similarly has The Beatles bang up-to-date — if, that is, they were ever out — their silhouettes springing Hard Day's Night movie-style from the CG LOVE logo into the glare of a twenty-first century light show. Shadowgrams of the Four formed part of the Cirque's performance, using dialogue to link the songs. Nice little booklet, too, computer collaging images from the show with an assortment of Fabs photos, along with an intro by the Martins.

As I said, it's an authoritative overview: not a definitive one. There are, naturally, a thousand different things that every different fan would have loved to have heard sneaked in there. Or maybe they are in there somewhere, only you haven't quite heard them yet... That's the real fun of LOVE: you've got so many demos and outtakes, live cuts and off-mike mutterings, background vibes and fan club messages all blended in with more familiar-sounding features that you're never gonna track down absolutely everything. The odd backwards maraca break, let's say, is always gonna pass you by.

In the same way, there're always gonna be bits you like better than other bits, and bits you could maybe have done without, but it's a potent little cocktail they put together, all in all. Merging Mania highs with bent-back psychedelic flashbacks, taking acoustic intimacies to orchestral orgasms, LOVE — as well as stunning as a circus spectacle — serves as a very sound soundtrack for the Hard Day's Life that was The Beatles.

Hello, hello — nothing is real!
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