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The Beatles - Help! CD (album) cover

HELP!

The Beatles

 

Proto-Prog

3.44 | 519 ratings

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bfmuller
4 stars Now here things are starting to get serious. At first glance (or audition), Help not only keeps up with the aesthetics of the previous albums, but also is, in retrospect, still far from any relation with prog rock. Both statements couldn't be farthest from the truth.

At this time the suscetibilities of fame were starting to get to The Beatles heads, frustrated with the (bad) quality of the shows to screaming audiences, where they could hardly hear themselves, the busy schedule, the constant harassment from both fans and the press. These all are very clearly stamped in the album's title track (written by John), a song of a person who feels lost, with no direction and, ironically, lonely, pleading for a helping hand.

One can also acknowledge the role that their contact with Bob Dylan (and maybe also drugs) played, along with the stimulus of classically-trained producer George Martin, that instigated them to welcome new sounds and instruments to their repertoire.

And so they did. Of course, there is the never enough mentioned Yesterday, probably their most popular and well-known song, the most re-recorded one in popular music history, covered by hundreds of artists (legend says that it is ininterruptely played in some version, in some point of the Earth). Yesterday features a string quartet in, the earliest example I am aware of in a rock and roll album. If only for this reason, that would deserve these recording and album a special place in the history of rock and roll and, maybe, music in all forms. Of course, it happens that this is NOT the only reason for the inclusion of Help among the list of the most important and influential albums ever recorded.

There are plenty of novelties that this album has to offer. The clearly Dylan-esque song You've Got to Hide Your Love Away (composed by John and supposedely refered to the band's manager Brian Epstein and his homosexuality) is closed with flutes. There is another Dylan-like John composition, It's Only Love. Both are magnificent. And I Need You, the first contribution of George to this album, features some inovative guitar effects (though they are best heard in a Beatles b-side single, Yes It Is).

But the real tricks of this album are, insterestingly, in some more obscure tracks. They are: The Night Before, Tell Me What You See and I've Just Seen a Face, by Paul and You Like Me Too Much, the second George song. The Night Before, Tell Me What You See and You Like Me Too Much might be, though I can't state for sure, the pioneers in the jazz-rock experiment that would blossom late in the sixties. The Night Before, a great song (maybe my favorite from this album), features the famous Fender Rhodes electric piano that would be one of the key elements of fusion in a rocking sound that pretty much antecipates what Miles Davis's band and pupils would do some years later. (Let's not forget that Miles was introduced to the Beatles by his drummer, Tony Williams, who highly influenced Miles to explore new sounds both as a listener and as a musician.)

You Like Me Too Much opens with a beautiful, jazzy piano line, and follows with some more use of electric piano in the main section of the song. Tell Me What You See features the electric piano in a more evident, but less imaginative fashion. Last but not least, I've Just Seen a Face is a fast country-like song, but what really makes it worth to notice is the guitar introduction that builds in a crescendo in what might be one of the most imaginative guitar works to date in a rock album - let's not forget it's early 1965.

And then, of course, you still have Help! and Ticket to Ride, the most classic tracks (along with Yesterday, of course), to enjoy. The remaining four songs, Another Girl, You're Going to Lose that Girl, Act Naturally and Dizzy Miss Lizzy (the last two being the only covers) are not at the same level of the other ten, but not enough to harm the whole experience.

In sum, the experiments both lyrical and musical make this one in fact more of a transition album than a continuity of the early sound. An often overlooked record by admires of the most daring Beatles phase, because the inovations are too subtle to make a radical change in the band's sound. Subtle, but quite significant. Pay close attention to these subtleties and you will be rewarded with the (re)discovery of a wonderful album with a great legacy.

For its contribution to the enrichment of the Beatles sound and rock and roll in general, plus its (still) thin link to the prog-rock world, Help undoubtedly deserves a 4-star rating. Don't miss the oportunity of checking out how the adventure of combining rock and roll, classical music and jazz was first insinuated.

bfmuller | 4/5 |

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