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The Beatles - Help! CD (album) cover

HELP!

The Beatles

 

Proto-Prog

3.44 | 471 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars By the mid-60s BEATLEmania had taken hold of the entire planet after the British Invasion of the Americas was complete and the Fab Four couldn't pump out enough product fast enough to satisfy a rabid public obsessed with their favorite mop top rock icons. After the film "A Hard Day's Night" proved to be a smashing success, there was little doubt that THE BEATLES would continue their musical comedy-adventures in cinematic form for as long as they could get away with it. The band wasted no time at all conceiving a sequel in the form of HELP! which saw THE BEATLES moving away from the lo-fi antics of their first film into a multi-color high budget blockbuster type of production that was shot in a variety of exotic foreign locations. While "A Hard Day's Night" was based on the BEATLEmania craze that was unfolding around the Fab Four and their reactions around it, HELP! on the other hand took liberties in setting up a contrived plot about an Eastern cult that needed to sacrifice a woman to the goddess Kaili but realized that she was not wearing the sacrificial ring which somehow got sent to Ringo Starr in a fan letter.

The movie unfolds by a series of cartoonish antics revolving around the evil cult following THE BEATLES in order to regain the lost ring so that they can carry out their ritualistic practices. While i could go on about the movie in great length, the subject of this review is the accompanying musical soundtrack which in accord with the year of 1965 varied depending upon which side of the Atlantic you resided, not to mention that the film soundtrack is quite different than the album of the same name. One quick mention about the movie itself is the fact that the film HELP! seems to be the first taste of exotic Eastern musical influences for THE BEATLES and not (as commonly believed) with George Harrison's sitar playing on "Norwegian Wood" on the "Rubber Soul" album. The film goes as far as to include an instrumental version of the song "A Hard Day's Night" played by an Indian band with an exotic Eastern flair and the film itself is peppered with sounds and fashion styles from the Indian subcontinent that obviously permeated George Harrison's senses enough for him to delve deeply into the music and philosophy.

While this review is primarily concerned with the UK version of the album that took only seven songs from the film score and added seven more tracks for a total of fourteen, the differences between the UK album that is seemingly just another BEATLES release and the official soundtrack score that appeared in the US is worth mentioning. Firstly, the US version only included the tracks "Help!," "You're Going To Lose That Girl," "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away," "Ticket To Ride," "I Need You," "The Night Before" and "Another Girl" also from the UK album. The remaining tracks are from the George Martin Orchestra which were primarily used as background music for various events in the movie such as "The Chase," "The Bike Riding Scene" and so on. The UK album (which has rightfully become the official version) contains the aforementioned BEATLES tracks with seven more BEATLES tracks including the huge hit "Yesterday." While the tracks shared between the UK and US versions showcase the powerhouse songwriting skills of the McCartney / Lennon machine (with a Harrison track in the mix), the second set of songs show off lead vocal spots of each member. While the weakest of the bunch (as is usually the case) is Ringo Starr's "Act Naturally," all the other members strut their styles ranging from Lennon's skiffle origins showing in the Larry Williams cover "Dizzy Miss Lizzy," McCartney steals the show with his solo guitar and vocal performance on "Yesterday" that added a symphonic string section.

HELP! was very much a step forward for THE BEATLES by not only cementing their status as film stars but by expanding the band's sound significantly by adding new instruments, richer textures and a more diverse palette of songwriting styles with an extra emphasis on keyboards and acoustic guitar. George Harrison was also allowed to shine again after a two record absence with his tender ballad "I Need You" as well as "Tell Me What You See." As far as commercial success was concerned, HELP! continued to keep THE BEATLES in the number one spot across the globe with a stream of hit singles and a firm declaration of true artistic development. The album cover has an interesting story as well with the Fab Four donning oversized button-up shirts with their arms pointing in various directions. The idea was to spell the world HELP in flag semaphore but because the actual results weren't visually pleasing, the design created a random set of letters that spells out "NUJV" with McCartney's left hand pointing to the Capitol logo. The effort into the music of the days at every angle is quite amazing sitting here in the 21st century.

HELP! possibly may not rank at the top of anybody's favorite BEATLES album simply for the fact that they would only continue to better themselves in every aspect of creativity but HELP! is a vital transitional stage in the Fab Four's career as it proved without a doubt that the band could expand their creative edge beyond the simple pop rock and cover tunes that they had been churning out since their formation. While HELP! also showed the band reaching out into new arenas in the world of cinema, it more importantly created the moment when the East / West cross-pollination ideas were implanted in the band's psyche and would only continue to gestate until the classics that would follow. Standing alone, HELP! is a beautiful assortment of cleverly written pop rock performances with each member shining like never before. While the film itself was a little goofy in its premise, the music that revolved around the film more than stands on its own two feet well over 50 years from its initial release. After the lackluster rush job of "Beatles For Sale" that seemed to show a band having peaked and ready to fizzle into obscurity, the cry for HELP! was answered with this showcase of BEATLES powerhouse melodies and creative prowess. HELP! is a resoundingly excellent batch of classic BEATLES tracks that have aged quite well.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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