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The Beatles – The Black Album (Extract Factory EXT 005)

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The Black Album (Extract Factory EXT 005)

Disk 1 : Tennesee / The House Of The Rising Sun / Back To Commonwealth / Get Off – White Power / Promenade / Yakkety Yak – Hi Ho Silver / For You Blue / Let It Be / Get Back / Don’t Let Me Down / Two Of Us / Baa Baa Black Sheep / Don’t Let Me Down / Suzy Parker / I’ve Got A Feeling / No Pakistanis / Let It Be / Be Bop A Lula / She Came in Through the Bathroom Window / High-heel Sneakers / Domino / I Me Mine / I’ve got a Feeling / One After 909 [ 73 : 29 ]

Disk 2 :  She Came In Through the Bathroom Window / Penina / Shakin’ In The Sixties / Move It – Good Rocking Tonight / Across The Universe / Two Of Us / Ramblin’ Woman – I Threw It All Away – Mama You’ve Been On My Mind / Early In The Morning – Hi Ho Silver / Stand By Me / Hare Krishna Mantra / Two Of Us / Don’t Let Me Down / I’ve Got A Feeling / One After 909 / Too Bad About Sorrows – Just Fun / She Said, She Said / Mean Mr. Mustard / All Things Must Pass / A Fool like Me / You Win Again – Inprovisation / She Came In Through the Bathroom Window / Mean Mr. Mustard / Watching Rainbows / Instrumental [ 69 : 20 ]

Originally released on a 3LP set in 1981 ‘The Black Album’ ( As it would become commonly known ) is the baby brother or little cousin to the behemoth of Yellow Dogs “Day By Day Series” & is, to some, even more palatable than Vigotone’s “Thirty Days” – a digestible couple of hours in the company of the Beatle’s “shittiest load of badly-recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever” – according to John Lennon – That, due to fact that we now have multiple hours of recordings available, is a little more attuned to the i-Pod generation. 

The internet’s Remasters Workshop have recently taken on the task of taking this album & correcting the pitch, level & phase anomalies that existed on the original vinyl LP ( Before lengthier & more complete dubs of the Nagra reels appeared all we had were snippets that leaked out either through cassette dubs, acetates or video outtakes – The main of these featuring monotonous Yoko Ono jams & only piecemeal dribs & drabs of anything that had been rumored to be captured such as late Beatles versions of their back catalogue. This was the case with such dreaded bootlegs at “Happiness” which took high quality video dubs of low quality musicianship from the Twickenham sessions. ) 

This release is, as a whole, a “best of” or at least a best of what the bootleggers had in the early 1980′s & holds it’s own certainly against the horrible & far too short “Fly On The Wall” disk from Apple’s “Let It Be .. Naked” release.

Distilled from a 3 LP set ( that originally came with an alternate mock up of ‘the White Album’s’ poster as a bonus ) it’s prominence against other releases of it’s ilk is small at best – but this is essentially set against various rehashes of the material from elsewhere otherwise this is nostalgia based bootlegging from those that recall visiting headshops, record collecting fairs or adverts in the music press. 

The music, for those that remember it, is just the same beginning with covers of “Tennessee” & “The House Of The Rising Sun” either tracks recorded by the Beatles heroes or by their contemporaries – “House Of The Rising Sun” comes off worst as both John & Paul howl a wild, horribly out of tune rendition that does neither the original version of the band much favours.

“Back To Commonwealth” & “Get Off / White Power” are hastily cobbled together improvisations of a satirical bent referencing M.P. Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers Of Blood’ speech made in April 1968 & who’s reverberations could still be felt nearly a year later. Since their initial release these tracks have seen the Beatles pilloried as being slightly off message but it has also been noted that the Fabs were always quietly political & their wicked, ‘Private Eye’ humour could have been seeping out while they messed around trying to make these sessions a little more palatable for them to play at.

At this stage then none of the Beatles considered these sessions anything more than free studio time with no intentions of really having any of these throwaway versions used for any project & with these it shows. “Get Off / White Power” is a forerunner of the jam “Dig It” of which a partial version was used on the sound track album. Beginning the call & response action of calling out the random name of a celebrity or someone from the Beatles past & calling back with ‘Get Off’ or ‘Can you dig it?’ 

“For You Blue” is the first track that would have a hope of inclusion in the film – Harrison never as prolific as his band mates & so never at a wont for improvising lyrics offered only a couple of his compositions for these sessions – possibly wondering if a sea change was underfoot or from having his choices rebuffed by the Lennon / McCartney songwriting team – His contribution is rendered in a ragged jam style following the style of the “Get Off” Jam.

It’s clear to hear this is far for being the finished version & George is far from confident of the lyrics only half throwing them out in to the fore. This version lasts less than two minutes before trailing off half heartedly. 

“Let It Be” features more of the same – Half remembered lyrics ( Morphing in to “Read the Record Mirror, Let It Be .. “, John essentially taking the piss with his faux baritone harmonies while his plodding bass lines fall more towards “Octopuses’ Garden” than majestic & musical. 

“Get Back” is a rampant rocker, less polished than the finished article but strong enough to stand up to a brutal & raw solo thrown in by George. The lyrics hint at the racial disharmony track that McCartney’s desperately trying to throw out there ( Competing with John & Yoko’s ‘Revolution 9′ from the ‘White Album’ perhaps? ) but evidently wiser heads took hold & he wised up enough just to have a barbed point at on of Linda’s old boyfriends instead. )

The two versions of “Don’t Let Me Down” are, essentially, warm ups & try outs. A linguine organ part pins the whole track together with Ringo’s rock steady beat. Despite It being John’s song then Paul is taking up much of the reins pointing John in the direction of the way of the track & feeding him lyrics & movement’s when appropriate.

Come the second version John has stated to put a little more backbone in & his voice & really tears into the chorus imploring Yoko to still need him & feed him now that he’s taken the decision to move on from his first wife. This statement of intent doesn’t last long though, John’s fleeting imagination takes flight & he leads the band straight in to a R’n’R pastiche by the name of “Suzy Parker” – another composition that had an airing in the “Let It Be” film but never quite came to fruition. 

The first pass at “I’ve Got A Feeling” is a really tough version. A collision of two dog-ends by the Lennon & McCartney songwriting team which provided dividends when spliced together. McCartney has his best yelp on board that really impresses John towards the end who tried to dig out a bit more of the Little Richard magic of Paul’s screams.

The second begins with a few stray bass notes & a little studio chatter. It’s no less sloppy ( In fact it’s very similar to the version where they chart the climactic coda in the film ) but does drag itself together very well to present a little more meat on it’s bones. 

“No Pakistanis” is another attempt at ‘Get Back’ but under a different name. It’s cleared of any real story ( It’s lyrics are half remembered mumbles ) & only retains it’s chorus which is obviously it’s main point. It falls in to a messy jam at the end although this is none the less exciting to hear due to Macca’s drive to force his voice to reach the requisite strength.  

“She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” is from a different source – closer to an off video tape dub that one of the nagra sources – but is very funny to listen to – Essentially 6 minutes of rehearsals, Paul counts-in in German then John immediately begins to bawl the lyrics in his best cockney impression while Paul does the same.

This changes by the change of the reel to Paul putting on a suave singing style & John continuing the comedy firstly by squeaking a Mickey Mouse tone & then back to bellowing again before the madness calms down & they continue with the track properly but this orderly style can’t last long so the track quickly ends to give way to a barrage of nonsense & chatter before starting up again but no more serious than before before the source ends. 

“High Heel Sneakers” is from the same source but lasts just over a minute. It’s a vibrant romp but means nothing in particular it’s just another break between doing any real work. 

“I Me Mine” is a spanish flavoured version without lyrics. A run through at most with Paul taking the lead of ‘he who could care less’ this time while George tries to drill though the innards & nuances. Although it’s not one for the scrap book it’s one of the few times that the track would be offered around during these rehearsals. 

Disk two begins with an brief run through of the riff of the ‘Rubber Soul’ track “Norwegian Wood” by the band this quickly flows into another rehearsal of “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” although one thats a little more together than the previous airing. The squeaky – keen guitar line & various ( only just audible ) piano improvs highlight the true differences from the ‘Abbey Rd.’ version although, again, it doesn’t really take off. 

“Move It / Good Rockin’ Tonight” are great, pulsating, bass heavy versions for these two oldies. The Beatles are having a lot of fun rendering these into the ground. 

Another version of “Two Of Us” has the band picking up the pace to galloping. It’s a rendition used in the film once again so will be familiar to everyone. Rather than the slow buddying version used on the LP it would have been nice to hear some more of this version. 

George Harrison contributes a few Dylan compositions & an unreleased one of his own in the form of “Ramblin’ Woman, I Threw It All Away & Mama, You Been On My Mind.” The latter two had possibly been picked up in Woodstock when George took a vacation to visit his buddy ( “Mama .. ” obviously gracing Dylan’s catalogue for quite a few years too ) but rendered in George’s own, imitable & intimate style they show his versatile picking style to it’s best intentions. 

“Hare Krishna Mantra” is a VERY loose version of the religious single that was released on the Apple label. It barely merits a mention as it’s a throw away doodle by McCartney but still, it has it’s place on the album. 

The next version of “I’ve Got A Feeling” is every bit as brusque as the previous airings but has now started to come together a lot. This also appears in the film – It’s the version where Paul shouts a very loud ‘Good Morning’ after the first chorus. George’s contribution would be quietened down after further work went in to the track but it now appears that they’re coming to the end of rehearsals for this particular track. The anomaly with the track is that due to the tape ending as the take does then it slumps to a halt – This is obviously another reason why the tape wasn’t used any more but is interesting to hear in context. 

“One After 909″ is another rehearsal in progress but he attention bestowed on it obviously meant that the Fabs were betting on it’s inclusion in to the set list from the start obviously keen to air it after all these years. 

“She Said, She Said” lasts all of 30 seconds so again it’s inclusion is prevalent to the original LP but of no real excitement. “Mean Mr. Mustard” on the other hand stretches itself out for nearly 4 mins – uch longer than it’s brief inclusion on ‘Abbey Rd.” but it is, again, just another song that was written on the back of matchbox so could only be included as part of a medley unless John could get it together to write more. 

George’s best loved song “All Things Must Pass” makes a quiet appearance but once again his best plans are thwarted by extraneous noises above his musicianship – It’s only Ringo otherwise that’s keeping behind the lines with a steady & reserved beat. Paul’s extra piano cascades are annoying & while it’s understood that this is a rehearsal someone should have taken the time to tell him to cut it out. Obviously the band’s hearts aren’t in it either so they quickly turn to a John crooned cover of “A Fool Like Me” thats actually pretty appealing if brief. 

“Mean Mr. Mustard” makes another appearance on keyboard although it’s no more of a workout than the inaugural version while the Fab’s work out some riffs to stick to it but once John runs out of lyrics the rest peals out to aimless jamming until John throws out another cartoonish skit “Madman” that folds itself into “Watching Rainbows” – the little brother of “I’ve Got A Feeling & “I Am The Walrus”.

It would seem that John favours writing indeterminable bits & pieces of lyrics nowadays & “Madman’s” lyrics are just that – silly doggerel while “Watching Rainbows” fairs a little better & has a bit more structure around it then neither idea would go anywhere but both would drop in to aimless jams much like “Instrumental” which rounds off the CD – an amalgamation between a recording from French radio & another source.  

The Remasters Workshop certainly have the right idea but baring the snippets that aren’t readily available on Yellow Dog’s ‘Day By Day’ or Vigotones set or even Batz’s CD of the “Lost Get Back Reels” then this CD could have been compiled from better sources ( and a lot of home bootleggers have taken on the task ) to have formed a rather more reasonable listening experience than a lot of us heard the first time around either on the original vinyl or when tapes were traded.

That Extraction Factory chose to release it is just as baffling as the market for nostalgia in bootlegs really only generally exists if collecting the original vinyl or a high quality bootleg that had evaded your clutches before though that’s not to say that there won’t be certain collectors who have to have everything & for them this CD will be perfect.  

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The Beatles - The Black Album (Extract Factory EXT 005), 2.5 out of 5 based on 5 ratings

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