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The Beatles - Help (US version) CD (album) cover

HELP (US VERSION)

The Beatles

 

Proto-Prog

2.22 | 26 ratings

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js (Easy Money)
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars The US version of Help differs from the UK version in that the US version is an actual soundtrack to the movie, whereas the UK version includes some Beatle songs from the movie as well as some other songs they put out around the time that they made the movie. That was also the case with the two different versions of the Beatles' previous movie soundtrack, Hard Days Night.

Since it is an actual soundtrack, the US version of Help contains instrumental music that is heard during the film as well as the Beatle songs that appear in the film. This time around, the Beatles turn to Ken Thorne to write the film's background music, instead of fifth or sixth Beatle George Martin who wrote the background music for Hard Days Night. Thorne does a great job and gives the listener classic movie orchestral drama, as well as a lot of music performed by Indian musicians playing their traditional instruments.

Unfortunately, none of Thorne's instrumentals are given a name, on the album jacket each one is called "instrumental". The first of these unnamed cuts contains tense orchestral buildups that alternate with soft buzzing sitars and tambouras. It sounds similar to pieces I have heard by John Zorn. The next instrumental starts off with a weird Felliniesque march before Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries interrupts the march. I would assume that the use of Wagner's overwrought music is supposed to be sarcastic.

The next instrumental is my favorite, it is a medley of Hard Day's Night, Can't Buy Me Love and Should Have Known Better played by the Indian musicians on sitar, tamboura, violin, flute, tablas and tambourine. It is a sublime piece of 60s instrumental exotica, but it is played without a trace of sarcastic kitsch. This is followed by a cut that features quiet suspenseful orchestral music, with mysterious melodies played by the vibraphone and celeste floating on top, this section eventually fades into twangy spaghetti western styled guitar playing.

The last instrumental is a high energy jam by the Indian musicians. It sounds like the final climatic section of a long Raga, without the beginning build-up sections. The Beatles' songs on here are quite good too. This soundtrack shows the group moving beyond the trite love songs of Hard Days Night to much more interesting chord changes and sound textures. The song The Night Before in particular shows traces of psychedelia starting to manifest itself in the Beatles' sound.

This album is quite good, especially when you consider the fact that real progressive rock was still a few years away. The combination of artsy pop songs, exotic orchestrations and Indian music make for an excellent proto-progressive rock album.

js (Easy Money) | 3/5 |

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