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Rock - Released January 1, 2014 | EMI Catalogue

In its original form, Let It Be signaled the end of an era, closing the book on the Beatles, as well as literally and figuratively marking the end of the '60s. The 1970 release evolved from friction-filled sessions the band intended to be an organic, bare-bones return to their roots. Instead, the endless hours of tapes were eventually handed over to Phil Spector, since neither the quickly splintering Beatles nor their longtime producer George Martin wanted to sift through the voluminous results. Let It Be... Naked sets the record straight, revisiting the contentious sessions, stripping away the Spectorian orchestrations, reworking the running order, and losing all extemporaneous in-studio banter. On this version of the album, filler tracks ("Dig It," "Maggie Mae") are dropped, while the juicy B-side "Don't Let Me Down" is added. The most obvious revamping is on the songs handled heavily by Spector. Removing the orchestrations from "The Long and Winding Road" and "Across the Universe" gives Paul McCartney's vocals considerably more resonance on the former, doing the same for John Lennon's voice and guitar on the latter. This alternate take on Let It Be enhances the album's power, reclaiming the raw, unadorned quality that was meant to be its calling card from the beginning. © TiVo
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Film Soundtracks - Released January 1, 2014 | EMI Catalogue

Admittedly, the soundtrack to Yellow Submarine wasn't one of the highlights in the Beatles' catalog, so providing an official alternate version of it is no big deal. The soundtrack always felt cobbled together, because it was. It only contained four new songs -- two of which were written by Harrison, which indicates how seriously Lennon and McCartney took the project, if their enjoyable throwaways ("Hey Bulldog" and "All Together Now," respectively) didn't provide enough of a clue -- plus two previously released songs ("All You Need Is Love," "Yellow Submarine") and a side of George Martin instrumentals from the film's score. The Beatles never assembled a slighter album while they were active, so it wasn't a sacrilege when their organization decided to assemble a "songtrack" -- a soundtrack that featured only the songs in the film, not any of the instrumentals -- to coincide with the re-release of the film in 1999. In a way, the "songtrack" (which is what the Beatles' associates insisted on calling the new effort) is an improvement on the soundtrack since it eliminates dead weight and strengthens the original six songs with nine songs featured in the movie ("Eleanor Rigby," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," etc.). It's a little jarring not to hear the songs from the soundtrack in a different order on the songtrack, but ultimately the record is entertaining, if a bit familiar. That's not the case with the sound, though. The Beatles have decided to make this the first remixed CD in their catalog. The differences are slight but often notable and never really an improvement; as a matter of fact, it could likely be enough to irk, possibly anger, longtime Beatlemaniacs. It helps distinguish the Yellow Submarine "songtrack" as much as the new sequencing. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2012 | EMI Catalogue

Sinead O'Connor allegedly sang briefly for the Irish septet In Tua Nua. She doesn't appear on The Long Acre, the band's second release, although lead singer Leslie Dowdall is a fairly passionate vocalist in her own right. Produced by the noted Don Dixon, In Tua Nua blended alternative rock with more traditional instrumentation including Lovely Previn, who plays violin, and Brian O'Braian, who adds pipes, whistles, and saxophone. The album's eleven tracks mainly have a bead on radio and, basically, the band fell somewhere between other Irish acts Hothouse Flowers and The Corrs, musically. "Woman On Fire" opens things with a violin-driven, quick-paced tale of destructive devotion delivered fiercely by Dowdall. "The Innocent And The Honest Ones" is anchored by an insistent drumbeat and punctuated by violin and fluid guitar work from Martin Clancy and Jack Dublin. Other notable cuts include "All I Wanted," "Some Things Never Change," and the catchy "Don't Fear Me Now." The Long Acre has plenty of hooks and, although they don't sink too deep, it's still worth a listen. © Tom Demalon /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 14, 2011 | EMI Catalogue

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Rock - Released January 1, 2011 | EMI Catalogue

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Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | EMI Catalogue

Booklet
Much grander than the single-disc Power to the People but not nearly as lavish as the 11-disc Signature Box, the four-disc Gimme Some Truth is the middle ground of Apple/EMI’s 2010 John Lennon reissue series: a collection of four thematic collections offered at a reasonable price. Breaking any artist’s work into themes is tricky, but the topics here are broad enough to give the compilers some wiggle room: Working Class Hero contains Lennon’s protest songs, Woman his songs of love and women (“Mother” and “My Mummy’s Dead” don’t quite qualify as romantic tunes, after all), Borrowed Time features songs about “life,” and his rock & roll numbers are presented on a disc called Roots, oddly sharing its title with the controversial original unofficial release of Rock 'n' Roll (indeed, this Roots disc winds up containing the entirety of Rock 'n' Roll). Some of the selected songs may not quite fit the themes but the 72 cuts here contain much of Lennon’s solo best, making this a good thorough overview for those who need more than the hits but don’t want to invest in full albums. It’s at a very nice price point, too. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | EMI Catalogue

James Taylor was the first artist to be signed to record on the Beatles' short-lived vanity Apple label. In late 1968, Taylor's sophisticated self-titled disc foreshadowed the introspective singer/songwriter genre that dominated pop music in the early and mid-'70s. Although often touted as his debut, this release is chronologically Taylor's second studio outing. James Taylor and the Original Flying Machine -- an EP recorded a year earlier -- contains rudimentary versions of much of the same original material found here. The album is presented with two distinct sides. The first, in essence, presents a unified multi-song suite incorporating several distinctly Baroque-flavored links connecting the larger compositions. The second is a more traditional collection of individual tunes. This unique juxtaposition highlights Taylor's highly personal and worldly lyrics within a multidimensional layer of surreal and otherwise ethereal instrumentation. According to Taylor, much of the album's subject matter draws upon personal experience. This is a doubled-edged blessing because the emphasis placed on the pseudo-blues "Knocking 'Round the Zoo" and the numerous other references made to Taylor's brief sojourn in a mental institution actually do a disservice to the absolutely breathtaking beauty inherent in every composition. Several pieces debuted on this release would eventually be reworked by Taylor several years later. Among the notable inclusions are "Rainy Day Man," "Night Owl," "Something in the Way She Moves," and "Carolina in My Mind." Musically, Taylor's decidedly acoustic-based tunes are augmented by several familiar names. Among them are former King Bees member Joel "Bishop" O'Brien (drums) -- who had joined Taylor and Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar in the Original Flying Machine -- as well as Paul McCartney (bass), who lends support to the seminal version of "Carolina in My Mind." The album's complex production efforts fell to Peter Asher -- formerly of Peter and Gordon and concurrent head of Apple Records A&R department. The absolute conviction that runs throughout this music takes the listener into its confidence and with equal measures of wit, candor, and sophistication, James Taylor created a minor masterpiece that is sadly eclipsed by his later more popular works. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | EMI Catalogue

Encouraging Words was about as fine an album as Apple Records ever issued by anyone who wasn't a member of the Beatles, and it's also better than many of the Apple albums issued by the ex-bandmembers; but it's also among the most obscure of any album that the label ever issued by a major artist -- without a hit single to drive its sales, the LP never did more than brush the very bottom of the charts, and it was quickly lost amid the financial collapse of the label and the implosion of the Beatles' business ventures; even many Billy Preston fans never had a chance to find out it was there, obscured as it was by his subsequent chart success with "Outta Space" on the A&M label. A bold and searing effort mixing gospel, soul, and rock sounds about as well as any record cut that year, Encouraging Words lived up its killer musical pedigree, partly an offshoot of the evolution of the Let It Be and All Things Must Pass albums, and of sessions that Preston and George Harrison had produced for Doris Troy; but it also picked up where Preston's playing for Ray Charles had left off in 1968. The surging, soaring blues "The Same Thing Again," and the driving rocker "You've Been Acting Strange," both Preston originals, were worth the price of the album, but for those requiring familiar fare, Preston's renditions of "My Sweet Lord," "All Things (Must) Pass," and "I've Got a Feeling" are here too, the first two as stunning gospel numbers (the second with some gorgeous jazz and classical embellishments) that make the Harrison versions seem pallid; and the latter a delightfully funky rendition that makes the Beatles' recording sound like a classy demo; and for truly, delightfully strange sound amalgams, "Sing One for the Lord" manages to couple soaring gospel with some loud lead guitar and a piano part derived from Tchaikovsky (at least according to the annotator -- this reviewer would have said Grieg). [The 2010 reissue of Encouraging Words was remastered by the same Abbey Road team who remastered the acclaimed 2009 Beatles reissues and was expanded by three bonus tracks: the previously uneleased “How Long Has the Train Been Gone,” the scrapped B-side “As Long As I’ve Got My Baby” and “All That I’ve Got (I’m Gonna Give To You),” cowritten by Doris Troy.] © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | EMI Catalogue

Booklet
The crown jewel in Apple/EMI’s extensive 2010 John Lennon remasters series, Signature Box contains all of the solo studio albums Lennon released during his lifetime (minus the trio of experimental duet LPs with Yoko Ono released on Apple and Zapple), his first posthumous album Milk and Honey, a disc of non-LP singles, a disc of home demos, but not the 2010 showcase item Double Fantasy Stripped Down, which is available only as a bonus on the indvidual reissue of Double Fantasy. It is, in other words, close enough to complete to perhaps invite a little bit of quibbling about what is absent -- Live Peace in Toronto could fit in nicely with this batch and there are outtakes from Menlove Ave missing but the real niggling comes with the home demo disc, which emphasizes demos and alternate takes of songs from Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, leaving behind demos of songs Lennon gave away, including “I’m the Greatest” and “Goodnight Vienna,” which he handed over to Ringo, and songs that never made it to one of his records. Ultimately, this is nitpicking because Signature Box is handsomely produced and contains the best-sounding Lennon remasters -- remastered by the team that did the acclaimed 2009 Beatles remasters, using the original mixes, not the recent remixes -- which is enough to make this more than worthwhile for the serious Lennon fan. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | EMI Catalogue

Booklet
Released as part of Apple/EMI’s extensive 2010 John Lennon remasters series, the single-disc Power to the People: The Hits covers familiar territory, but then again, that’s the point of this collection. It’s not designed to dig deep into John's catalog, it’s designed as the latest iteration of the canon, replacing 1997’s Lennon Legend, the last big-budget single-disc compilation. Power to the People is five cuts shorter than Lennon Legend, ditching album cuts “Love” and “Borrowed Time,” swapping the charting singles, “Mother” and “Nobody Told Me,” for the non-charting “Gimme Some Truth” and the actual number 18 hit “Mind Games,” but the end result is the same: Power to the People feels interchangeable with its predecessors because it is another collection with “Imagine,” “Instant Karma,” “Whatever Gets You Through the Night,” “Jealous Guy,” “(Just Like) Starting Over,” “Watching the Wheels,” “Stand by Me,” “#9 Dream,” “Give Peace a Chance,” “Power to the People,” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” The remasters are excellent so if you are in need of a tight Lennon comp this is a good choice but if you already have a hits collection, there’s no reason to replace it. [There is also a Deluxe Edition of Power to the People which contains videos for all 15 songs, some of them original clips and some of them edits of footage assembled after the single’s initial release.] © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | EMI Catalogue

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Straight Up winds up somewhat less dynamic than No Dice, largely because that record alternated its rockers, pop tunes, and ballads. Here, everything is at a similar level, as the ballads are made grander and the rockers have their melodic side emphasized. Consequently, the record sounds more unified than No Dice, which had a bit of a split personality. Todd Rundgren's warm, detailed production makes each songwriter sound as if he was on the same page, although the bonus tracks -- revealing the abandoned original Geoff Emerick productions -- prove that the distinctive voices on No Dice were still present. Frankly, the increased production is for the best, since Badfinger sounds best when there's as much craft in the production as there is in the writing. Here, there's absolutely no filler and everybody is in top form. Pete Ham's "Baby Blue" is textbook power-pop -- irresistibly catchy fuzz riffs and sighing melodies -- and with its Harrison-esque slide guitars, "Day After Day" is so gorgeous it practically aches. "Perfection" is an unheralded gem, while "Name of the Game" and "Take It All" are note-perfect pop ballads. Tom Evans isn't as prolific here, but the one-two punch of "Money" and "Flying" is the closest Straight Up gets to Abbey Road, and "It's Over" is a fine closer. Still, what holds the record together is Joey Molland's emergence as a songwriter. His work on No Dice is enjoyable, but here, he comes into his own with a set of well-constructed songs. This fine songwriting, combined with sharp performances and exquisite studio craft, make Straight Up one of the cornerstones of power-pop, a record that proved that it was possible to make classic guitar-pop after its golden era had passed. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

World - Released January 1, 2010 | EMI Catalogue

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Paul McCartney produced this debut album of twee but pretty, romantic pop-folk. Besides "Those Were the Days" (which actually originally appeared only on the US version, though it's on the CD reissue now available throughout the world), the highlights are Donovan's "Lord of the Reedy River" and "The Honeymoon Song," which McCartney himself had sung with the Beatles way back in 1963 on the BBC. If there's a fault to be found, it's that there's too high a percentage of pre-rock/pop standards à la "There's No Business Like Show Business." As it turns out this was more due to the leanings of McCartney than Hopkin, who preferred the more simply arranged folk numbers such as the Donovan covers and the Welsh "Y Blodyn Gwyn." Also on board is a rather nice composition, "The Game," by Beatles producer George Martin, who contributed some piano and orchestra conducting to the album. The CD reissue includes George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me" (which was on the original U.K. version of the LP, but was taken off the American counterpart), as well as the "Those Were the Days" B-side "Turn! Turn! Turn!" and versions of "Those Were the Days" that Hopkin sang in Italian and Spanish. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | EMI Catalogue

Billy Preston spent most of the 1960s as a working musician, playing important roles in the bands of Little Richard and, later, Ray Charles, and getting some exposure on television shows like Shindig, but he was hardly a household name. Then he crossed paths with the Beatles, whom he'd known from their early days, and one rooftop concert and the "Get Back" single later, he was among the most famous musicians ever to work with them on a recording. Preston was also the first artist that Apple Records pulled away from another label to sign, buying out his existing contract and four finished songs for an upcoming LP from Capitol Records. Preston finished what became That's the Way God Planned It, named for the U.K. hit single issued ahead of it, with George Harrison producing and, among others, Eric Clapton playing guitar, Keith Richards on bass, and Ginger Baker on drums. Apple ended up getting a surging, powerful soul record by a young music veteran who they caught just as he was ready ascend to the top of his game. The record reached into a lot of different directions, encompassing songs by Bob Dylan ("She Belongs to Me") and W.C. Handy ("Morning Star") amid its brace of Preston-authored originals, and delving into gospel ("Let Us All Get Together," co-authored with Doris Troy) as well as some funky soul sounds ("What About You?"), much of it soaring passionately ("This Is It") and all of it pretty striking, coming out of the orbit of the Beatles. Some of it was a little derivative, much of "Hey Brother" (one of the existing Capitol tracks) being a topical rewrite of "Hey Joe," but that was balanced out by the album's title track, one of the best production jobs that Harrison ever delivered; aglow in a swelling gospel-style organ and rippling with bluesy electric guitar, a chorus soaring high over all of that, and Preston's career-defining vocal performance at its center, the song was irresistible. The 1991 CD reissue is augmented by "Through All Times," a very quiet, bluesy leftover from the Capitol sessions, the pounding Ray Charles-produced instrumental B-side "As I Get Older" (co-authored by Preston and Sylvester Stewart), and an earlier, shorter, more traditionally devotional rendition of "That's the Way God Planned It" (which this reviewer prefers) -- they're worth the equivalent of a half-step higher rating. Sadly, the LP never sold the way Apple's management had hoped, although Preston's subsequent appearance at the Concert for Bangladesh and on the resulting album and movie doing "That's the Way God Planned It" reintroduced the song and should have led to resumed promotion and marketing of the original LP; chances are, with any other label, it would have, but by 1971 Apple was turning into a shambles, and so not nearly as many people got to hear this album as might well have cared to. [The 2010 reissue of That’s The Way God Planned It was remastered by the same Abbey Road team who remastered the acclaimed 2009 Beatles reissues and retains the three bonus tracks from the 91 CD and adds the previously unreleased “Something’s Got to Change.”] © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | EMI Catalogue

Booklet
Walls and Bridges was recorded during John Lennon's infamous "lost weekend," as he exiled himself in California during a separation from Yoko Ono. Lennon's personal life was scattered, so it isn't surprising that Walls and Bridges is a mess itself, containing equal amounts of brilliance and nonsense. Falling between the two extremes was the bouncy Elton John duet "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night," which was Lennon's first solo number one hit. Its bright, sunny surface was replicated throughout the record, particularly on middling rockers like "What You Got" but also on enjoyable pop songs like "Old Dirt Road." However, the best moments on Walls and Bridges come when Lennon is more open with his emotions, like on "Going Down on Love," "Steel and Glass," and the beautiful, soaring "No. 9 Dream." Even with such fine moments, the album is decidedly uneven, containing too much mediocre material like "Beef Jerky" and "Ya Ya," which are weighed down by weak melodies and heavy over-production. It wasn't a particularly graceful way to enter retirement. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | EMI Catalogue

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Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | EMI Catalogue

Released as part of Apple/EMI’s extensive 2010 John Lennon remasters series, the single-disc Power to the People: The Hits covers familiar territory, but then again, that’s the point of this collection. It’s not designed to dig deep into John's catalog, it’s designed as the latest iteration of the canon, replacing 1997’s Lennon Legend, the last big-budget single-disc compilation. Power to the People is five cuts shorter than Lennon Legend, ditching album cuts “Love” and “Borrowed Time,” swapping the charting singles, “Mother” and “Nobody Told Me,” for the non-charting “Gimme Some Truth” and the actual number 18 hit “Mind Games,” but the end result is the same: Power to the People feels interchangeable with its predecessors because it is another collection with “Imagine,” “Instant Karma,” “Whatever Gets You Through the Night,” “Jealous Guy,” “(Just Like) Starting Over,” “Watching the Wheels,” “Stand by Me,” “#9 Dream,” “Give Peace a Chance,” “Power to the People,” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” The remasters are excellent so if you are in need of a tight Lennon comp this is a good choice but if you already have a hits collection, there’s no reason to replace it. [There is also a Deluxe Edition of Power to the People which contains videos for all 15 songs, some of them original clips and some of them edits of footage assembled after the single’s initial release.] © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | EMI Catalogue

An all-star cast supported Troy on her lone Apple effort: George Harrison, Billy Preston, Peter Frampton, Stephen Stills, Klaus Voormann, Jackie Lomax, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, and Delaney & Bonnie all contributed, and Harrison, Stills, Lomax, Preston, Voormann, and Ringo Starr pitched in on the songwriting, though Troy wrote or co-wrote most of the songs. Well-received by some critics, it really doesn't add up to the sum of its parts. Troy is in great voice, but much of the material is pedestrian, and the heavy rock/soul arrangements often have an over-beefy, early-'70s super-session feel. It works best when Troy puts the brakes on the hard rock to deliver emotional, slower soul tunes. [The 2010 reissue of Doris Troy was remastered by the same Abbey Road team who remastered the acclaimed 2009 Beatles reissues and was expanded by six bonus tracks: a previously unreleased alternate version of “All That I’ve Got (I’m Gonna Give It To You)” along with the original,” a cover of “Get Back,” “Dearest Darling,” “What You Will Blues” and “Vaya Con Dios.”] © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | EMI Catalogue

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World - Released January 1, 2010 | EMI Catalogue

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Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | EMI Catalogue

Booklet
Although the chaotic sessions that spawned this album have passed into rock & roll legend and the recording's very genesis (as an out-of-court settlement between John Lennon and an aggrieved publisher) has often caused it to be slighted by many of the singer's biographers, Rock 'n' Roll, in fact, stands as a peak in his post-Imagine catalog: an album that catches him with nothing to prove and no need to try. Lennon could, after all, sing old rock & roll numbers with his mouth closed; he spent his entire career relaxing with off-the-cuff blasts through the music with which he grew up, and Rock 'n' Roll emerges the sound of him doing precisely that. Four songs survive from the fractious sessions with producer Phil Spector in late 1973 that ignited the album, and listeners to any of the posthumous compilations that also draw from those archives will know that the best tracks were left on the shelf -- "Be My Baby" and "Angel Baby" among them. But a gorgeous run through Lloyd Price's "Just Because" wraps up the album in fine style, while a trip through "You Can't Catch Me" contrarily captures a playful side that Lennon rarely revealed on vinyl. The remainder of the album was cut a year later with Lennon alone at the helm, and the mood remains buoyant. It might not, on first glance, seem essential to hear him running through nuggets like "Be Bop A Lula," "Peggy Sue," and "Bring It on Home to Me," but, again, Lennon has seldom sounded so gleeful as he does on these numbers, while the absence of the Spector trademark Wall-of-Sound production is scarcely noticeable -- as the object of one of Lennon's own productions, David Peel once pointed out, "John had the Wall of Sound down perfectly himself." Released in an age when both David Bowie and Bryan Ferry had already tracked back to musical times-gone-by (Pin-Ups and These Foolish Things, respectively), Rock 'n' Roll received short shrift from contemporary critics. As time passed, however, it has grown in stature, whereas those other albums have merely held their own. Today, Rock 'n' Roll sounds fresher than the rock & roll that inspired it in the first place. Imagine that. © Dave Thompson /TiVo