Where The Ashes Been (Unicorn UC-174)
Revolution ( Take 20, RM1 ) / Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da ( Intro ) / Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da ( Take 5 ) / Revolution ( Take 10 ) / Helter Skelter ( Take 1 ) / Helter Skelter ( Take 2 ) / Helter Skelter ( Take 3 ) / Helter Skelter ( Take 18 ) / Helter Skelter ( Take 19 ) / Helter Skelter ( Take 21 ) / While My Guitar Gently Weeps ( Demo Take 1 ) While my Guitar Gently Weeps ( Take 1 – Organ ) / While My Guitar Gently Weeps ( Take 1 & 2 – Partial ) / While My Guitar Gently Weeps ( Take 25 ) / While My Guitar Gently Weeps ( Take 26 – Partial ) / Dear Prudence ( SI on to Take 1 ) / Dear Prudence ( Unknown Take – Partial ) / Dear Prudence ( Take 1 – RM1 ) / Down In Havana ( Take 30 ) / Step Inside Love ( Take 34 ) / Los Pananoias ( Take 35 ) / The Way You Look Tonight ( Take 36 ) / “Jamming” ( Aug 13, 1968 ) / Can You Take Me Back ( Take 19 ) / I Will ( Take 1 ) / I Will ( Take Unknown – Partial ) / I Will ( Take 65 ) / Birthday ( Take 21 ) (64:40)
The CD “Where The Ashes Been” was released to little fanfare by Unicorn records while the track listing suggested that this disk, was the track listing true, would blow our tiny minds right out. Brand new takes of the much lusted after “Helter Skelter” session including the unheard 27 minute version of the extended jam? Well, this wasn’t something we were expecting – unlike the 10 minute “Revolution” that had hung around in high end collectors circles for a good few years – then this was something specifically new but hang on, the three long takes of “Helter Skelter” would take up the best part of the single CD along never mind adding in another 25 tracks. What gives?
Now Unicorn records were partly to blame for this hubris. From the liner notes “The ‘Helter Skelter’ studio sessions began from July 18 through to Sept 9, presented here is the first incarnation of the track from takes 1 – 3 in the initial sessions, proceeding to the final evolved master capturing takes 18, 19 & 21.” All cleverly worded but somewhat of a gloss over of the full truth.
So, firstly, if you’re reading this review for that reason, there’s no long take of “Helter Skelter” here. Unicorn have cleverly mixed John Barrett’s reference tapes with Anthology video excerpts and Rock Band chatter take give the appearance of something new. By default, it’s a great concept. A one stop CD that runs thematically through the ‘White Album’ sessions but adds liberal dashes of extras to supplement the mixture.
Secondly, if you’re reading this far, we’ll run through the rest of the amalgamation and see what is actually featured.
Revolution 1 ; The infamous “Take Your Knickers Off ” version that originally made it’s escape in to commercial collecting circles around 3 years ago on the hardbacked HMC release of that name. Unicorn do nothing to the tape thankfully as the recording was just perfect as it was.
Ob-La-Di, Ob-Li-Da ; The two versions here are both Anthology versions. The first part from the outtakes medley on the Anthology home video. The second take ( Take 5 ) apparently sourced from one of John Barrett’s cassettes along with George Martin’s “Yes, You’ve Done it” cry from the control room.
Revolution ; prefaced by a bit of Rock Band chatter – John warming up the guitar, Ringo plays a truncated beat, John asks how Paul is to which he replies “Feeling as good as the one before it” before counts in to the CV.
Helter Skelter ; The main reason we might be buying in to this CD when in fact take one is a minute of chatter and suggestions from Paul as he breathlessly explains what he’s looking for as the band run through the song.
Take two is the more familiar, slower rendition from the Anthology CD without treatment. Everybody, that’s EVERYBODY, will be familiar with this. Even more disconcerting is take 3 – which is 5 seconds of Paul McCartney jokingly asking if they can / should run through the song again.
Take 18 is studio chatter from John asking if Paul would like him to play this version “With the chords on”, George replies that he didn’t realise that they’d started playing the last time and Paul mucks around in the background, playing on the organ and singing half remembered lyrics ( not the Beatles. )
Take 19 has Macca singing / asking if the take they’d just recorded was better than the previous to which Ringo admits to a small mistake in his playing. No musical content.
Take 21 features a punk count in from Ringo. Otherwise it’s the same version as the CV.
While My Guitar Gently Weeps ; George’s first and bared boned demo for “While my Guitar .. ” appears here from what sounds like a muffled acetate. Quite why this take was used as the version on the Anthology CD was from tape then isn’t made clear. It ends with George excitedly saying “Let’s hear that back!” The next version is a truncated version of the first take, taken from the home video, but with added organ.
Takes 1 and 2 are Rock Band extractions of the chatter that precedes the song. A little piano warm up, George puts in his dinner order then the tape cross fades in to George apologising for a mistake he’s made.
Take 25 sounds no different to the CV but ends with a clean finish. While Take 26 (?) is studio chatter as the Beatles put on camp voices and George admits to trying to be ‘Smokey’ ( Robinson? Voiced? ) but his voice isn’t up to it.
Dear Prudence ; The first track – ( SI on to Take 1 ) – again souds like a slightly muffled version of the CV and ends with an engineers voice stating “Still rolling”. The “Unknown take” is studio chatter between sessions with John telling ‘Norman’ ( Smith ) that his positioning isn’t right as he’s not seated close enough to his mic.
Take 1, RM 1 first appeared on Midnight Beat’s “Gone Tomorrow, Here Today” but here seems to have a few additional seconds at the end as the tape slumps to a halt.
Down in Havana / Step Inside Love / Los Paranoias / The Way You Look Tonight / “Jamming” / Can You Take Me Back ; These tracks all appeared on Unicorn’s “Down In Havana” CD in 2000 when the John Barrett tapes first appeared. Unicorn now suggest that these recordings appear from an alternate Barrett source but apart from a longer stretch of silence between “Down In Havana” and “Step Inside Love” – which could have been the way that the tape originally presented itself – there’s no real difference to what’s included here.
Unicorn’s referencing of the where these adlibs took place between is nice to see but as no one else attributed these to their covers it does look a little confusing if you hadn’t studied the John Barrett tapes thoroughly
I’m from the camp that suggests “Jamming” is actually real and undoubtedly comes from a Beatle session ( “Yer Blues” has been mentioned as the probable contender but “Helter Skelter” is another of my own guesses )
I Will ; The first take – Take one – is preceded by another Rock Band snippet but this is shunted on so close to the begining it sounds a little forced and as if Paul is playing the song on the radio. Now, one thing I should mention is that while the version is the same as the Anthology 3 CD the track continues for a couple of bars longer than the CV and features a little scat singing from Paul in the fade.
Take unknown is the snippet of Ringo complaining that the sound is too loud in his headphones
Take 65 is no different to the CV.
Birthday ; Take 21 ( the finished article ) is preceded by a minute of various studio chatter before the song begins as the Beatles ape about between takes. None of this is valuable listening really but serves a purpose for Unicorn’s compilation only.
A small note must be made for the cover though. Neatly aping the U.S. release “The Beatles Second Album” with one of the ‘Mad Day Out’ photos and the rest of the booklet featuring other ‘White Album’ sessions and a write up of the tracks inside it’s a sweet little package that it comes in but, as it features no new Beatles tracks, is more of a novelty item for completists or fetishists.