Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl Album Review

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RS63_Cover art_ The Beatles_Live At The Hollywood BowlThe late George Martin likened the din of fans’ deafening screaming at Beatles concerts—the “eternal shriek,” he once called it—to a jet airplane taking off. Grounding that jet—getting rid of some of the fan noise—was one of the major hurdles Martin faced when prepping the Fab Four’s 1964 and 1965 shows at the iconic Hollywood Bowl for their original release in 1977.

Although Martin reportedly was not wild about the idea of the release nor enamored of the tapes’ sound quality, The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl LP nevertheless hit stores in May 1977, ostensibly to compete with Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany, a horrible-sounding collection of questionable legality whose release the Beatles had unsuccessfully attempted to halt. (The two albums ended up being released at approximately the same time; while the Star-Club album topped out at #111 on the Billboard charts, the Beatles-authorized Hollywood Bowl record rose to the #2 spot in the U.S. and hit #1 in the U.K.)

beatles-hollywood-bowl-1977-original

The artwork for the original 1977 was a little less inspiring

But the album fell out of print and, like the bastardized ’70s-era Beatles compilations Rock and Roll Music and Love Songs, never officially made it to compact disc. Rumor had it that the Beatles were less than satisfied with their performances, which had been cobbled together from three different shows. Beatles fans have long clamored for an official Hollywood Bowl re-release and now, in conjunction with the impending release of the Ron Howard-directed feature film, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years, comes the remixed, remastered and ever-so-slightly retitled The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl CD (also available as a digital download, with a 180-gram gatefold vinyl LP due on November 18).

Related: Review of Howard’s Beatles’ Eight Days a Week documentary

The retooled The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl was produced by Giles Martin, son of George Martin, who took the 50-plus-year-old three-track tapes, performed what he calls a “demix” (splitting mono tracks into different parts), and reduced “the eternal shriek” somewhat, although the screaming fans are definitely still present. Martin also had the opportunity to work with some better quality tapes of the Bowl shows that had been located in Capitol Records’ vaults. In addition to the original 13 tracks, there are four bonus tracks appended at the end: “You Can’t Do That,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (both from the ’64 show), “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby” and “Baby’s in Black” (from 1965).

Related: Insiders discuss the Beatles at the Bowl in ’65

While many fans griped about the album’s running order—why stick the new bonus tracks at the end rather than follow the original concert set lists as closely as possible?—Giles Martin has explained that he strove to preserve the original 1977 album based on the fact that his father and all four Beatles were happy with its sequencing.

So what of the music? It’s raw, it’s visceral and it’s still as exciting as hell. It’s far from perfect—John Lennon is guilty of a few lyrical flubs and some of Ringo’s fills on the bonus track “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby” are charmingly clumsy, for example—but the updated disc is certainly more dynamic and definitely more powerful than the original, thanks to the remix. As a matter of fact, a few of the cuts—“Long Tall Sally” and “Boys,” to name two—are so tight and action-packed that they either eclipse the studio versions or come damned close. Warts and all—and there aren’t all that many warts here, really—The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl is an entertaining historical and aural document of the bedlam that was Beatlemania.

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John Borack

John Borack

John M. Borack is a California-based music journalist who is a contributing editor for Goldmine Magazine; his reviews, articles and interviews have appeared in the magazine since 1986. He is also a regular contributor to Goldmine’s website, via his Power Pop Plus column.

Borack is the author of two books: Shake Some Action: The Ultimate Power Pop Guide (2007) and John Lennon: Life is What Happens (2010). He is currently at work on an as-yet-untitled book detailing 100 pivotal moments in the Beatles’ career, due in 2017. He has contributed to the book (and website) The Trouser Press Guide to '90s Rock, written liner notes for more than a dozen CDs, and served as executive producer for Beyond Belief: A Tribute to Elvis Costello, a 50-song tribute disc released in 2015. He resides in Southern California with his family and two adorable dogs.
John Borack

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  1. maccafan
    #1 maccafan 11 September, 2016, 19:24

    Got my copy today!

    I put it on and cranked my Bose system, right out the gate I noticed the Boom of McCartney’s bass!

    I have so many thoughts about what I’m hearing that I almost don’t know where to start!

    First off, Giles Martin deserves high fives from everyone! The sound improvement cannot be denied, the vocals on this album come thru loud and clear! In fact the entire band comes thru!

    This album absolutely ROCKS!

    She’s A Woman is absolutely bad to the bone! The Beatles are tight, hot and laying it down! It is absolutely amazing that they were this tight and played this good under the conditions they were in. Anyone who says the Beatles weren’t a good live band is just wrong!

    Dizzy Miss Lizzy is Heavy Metal in 1964! When Lennon screams the Beatles are taking no prisoners, this is absolute hard rock, in fact this is one of the hardest rocking performances I’ve ever heard of the Beatles! What Giles Martin has done allows you to really hear the band, and man what a hard rocking band the Beatles really were!

    One of the things I always hold against all of the Beatle tribute bands is they don’t really rock as hard as the real Beatles.

    The sound is just so much improved, listen to Harrison’s guitar solo in Roll Over Beethoven, now you can hear it so clear!

    Ringo’s drumming can be heard much better.

    McCartney’s vocals shine in Can’t Buy Me Love !

    As I said, I love the boom of McCartney’s bass behind it all! I’ve always thought that you should be able to hear McCartney’s bass, Giles Martin deserves credit.

    I could go on and on about the songs, but I’ll just say they were right, this does bring the thrill of a Beatles concert! The improved sound let’s you really hear how powerful and absolutely hard rocking the Beatles really were live!

    To me, this is a must have album, what they’ve done should change how anyone looks at this album now! This album isn’t the stepchild anymore, these are absolutely hot hard rocking performances that sound better than they ever have!

    I like the four additional songs as well, I really love Lennon’s vocals on You Can’t Do That!

    I am actually excited, this sounds way way better than I was expecting! I still don’t like the cover, but this has easily become one of my very fave Beatle albums!

    To my ears, this is a proper and very very good live album

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  2. John B
    #2 John B 12 September, 2016, 19:27

    The new Live at the Hollywood Bowl CD is great, and the sound quality is a huge improvement over the original vinyl record. The screaming has been toned down enough that the Beatles performances (warts and all!) really shine through.
    This is your only chance now to relive a Beatles concert from the Beatlemania era, well worth the money. The cover art is kind of weird (photo taken August 22, 1964 in Seattle, on their way to Vancouver), but I guess Capitol wanted to tie the CD in with the documentary film.
    Great new liner notes and fab photos from the gigs as well as George Martin’s original notes from the LP.

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  3. doolindalton
    #3 doolindalton 13 September, 2016, 08:31

    The album is full of Beatle energy (they obviously were having a great time), vast improvements in the sound quality (McCartney’s bass is always a welcome addition) and yes a number of the tracks are better than the studio version. Great job, Mr. Martin, Jr.

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