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coverpic flag US - Michigan - Full Moon 90 - 02/06/04

The Singles
Better Than Before
Rainbow Quartz Records / Tuba (distribution in Norway)

On February the 7th 1964 the Beatles sailed across the Atlantic (ok then, by plane) for the first time. Two days later they performed at the Ed Sullivan Show and Beatlemania really got started over there. I don't know if the Singles' debut album is released right now to commemorate the event, but it fits very well! In addition to the Fab Four, the Singles' press sheet drops names like Roy Orbinson, the Zombies, Buzzcocks, Only Ones and the Dentists (who?). Not bad, eh? The Zombies' Odessey & Oracle from 1968 is up there in my top 10 of all time favourite albums. And the others have recorded a few memorable songs, too, don't you agree? (Well, I don't know about the Dentists. I'm not too fond of the profession and would hardly be tempted to listen to a band with such a name.)

After reading that press sheet, my expectations were great, too great. Better Than Before is around 85 percent pure Beatles anno 1963-64, I'd say, with some sharper guitar edges here & there (but not everywhere). The album is produced by the band and Jim Diamond and sure, the sound is sharper than and not at all muddy like in the 60s. But the songs show no traces of originality. The Singles demonstrate excellent handicraft; both blueprint songs of the era and performance couldn't be any better. "I'll Be Good To You" and "She's Got A Hold" for instance, each sound like a mixture of three or four Beatles' songs 40 years ago. Even the Rutles (and songsmith Ron Nasty/Neil Innes in particular) ought to bow in respect, though it seems the Singles lack some of their twinkle in the eye. If you miss John and George etc. and if you in addition seek some dirtier guitar work of the early 60s (Stones or even Pretty Things) or the late 70s (Buzzcocks etc.), you simply can't find any better replicas today. Also, "I'll Never Be The Same Again" and "Come On" (not the Stones' song) and the wild drum intro and tempo of "No More Places (Left To Go)" indicate that the Singles might be a treat live.

I only have one problem: I much prefer the 60s music of a few years later. The Beatles didn't reach their greatest moments until they started to wander the Norwegian Woods, felt fine, learned how to work it out and so on and on, methinks. So if the Singles enter the psychedelic phase in two or three years, I'll be the first to line up for a copy of their Revolver album.

(Well, I didn't succumb to the temptation to comment the evident paradox of the Singles releasing an entire album - until now!)

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