The White Album (Super Deluxe) (Capitol)
Reviewed by Abby Johnston, Fri., Dec. 7, 2018
Half a century after the so-called "White Album" dropped a whopping 30 tracks on Nov. 22, 1968, a breakout 6-CD reissue explores at great length and in minute detail the methodical experimentation and network of support resulting in the Beatles' über ambitious, sonically multifarious, and ultimately mind-blowing ninth long-player.
Giles Martin, son of "fifth Beatle" George Martin, helmed the subtle 2018 mixes on the first two discs. The percussive snap and enhanced reverb on "Yer Blues" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" make the songs all the more blistering, but overall, any flourishes are carefully considered. Better still, the true revelations occur after the familiar first 94 minutes are up.
Acoustic demos recorded at George Harrison's house fresh off of the English foursome's famed three-month retreat to India shift through the seeds and stems that become the double album. A single verse of "Glass Onion" repeats over chugging acoustic guitar for two minutes, peppered with nonsensical jibber-jabber of an in-progress song. In John Lennon's "Child of Nature," the swell up to the chorus that lapses into a slow walk back down is instantly recognizable as the tune to "Jealous Guy" from the fan-anointed "Smart" Beatle's defining 1971 solo disc, Imagine. Its faux-enlightened lyrics thankfully ceded their LP spot to Paul McCartney's "Mother Nature's Son," which also drew inspiration from the Fab Four's Indian guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
The last three discs dissemble a cornucopia of studio tracking, which peeks into perfectionist tics and struggles. Harrison's 102nd take of "Not Guilty," with its harpsichord progression bobbing along, didn't make the cut. Lennon pauses before launching into a rehearsal of the highly introspective "Julia," which he penned after his mother's death: "It's really hard to sing this, you know." Top highlight falls to the second version/take of methodical, psychedelic jamming on "Helter Skelter" that storms for an incredible 13 minutes of blues licks at half the speed of the final version.