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Long overdue compilation
from The Beatles' Apple Records

Various Artists - Come and Get It: The Best of Apple Records
(Apple Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Feb. 11, 2011
The Best of Apple Records

Review by Tony Bonyata

So you've got all The Beatles' records on vinyl, remastered CDs and, perhaps, even as digital files - now that the surviving Beatles and their label, Apple Records, have finally released their music through Apple's (no relation) iTunes online music store. You've seen "A Hard Day's Night," "Help!" and "Yellow Submarine" a hundred times, 'bought the t-shirt' and maybe even still have your mop-top wig from the mid-sixties. So what's left for the hardcore Beatle fan to add to their collection? Why the first commercially issued multi-artist compilation CD in Apple's history, that's what.

This 21-track compilation purposely omits any songs recorded by The Beatles themselves, and instead focuses on the emerging artists from the late '60s and early '70s that The Beatles signed to their label. That's not to say The Fab Four's influence doesn't weigh heavy throughout. There are covers of their songs by a number of artists, such as the Scottish group Trash's by-the-book version of "Golden Slumbers/Carry The Weight," gospel singer and keyboardist Billy Preston's soulful interpretation of George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord," former Ronettes front-girl Ronnie Spector revisiting Harrison's "Try Some, Buy Some." along with a rather sleepy reggae walk-through of John Lennon's iconic "Give Peace A Chance" by Hot Chocolate (a band that would later breakthrough in the '70s with chart-topping hits like "Brother Louie" and the disco/funk numbers "You Sexy Thing" and "Every 1's a Winner").

There are also a number of hits featured that were penned by one of the Beatles specifically for that respective Apple artist, such as the jaunty folk of Mary Hopkins' "Goodbye" and the irresistible pop of Badfinger's "Come and Get It," both written by Paul McCartney. Also included is the real curiosity of McCartney's "Thingumybob" as recorded by brass band Black Dyke Mills Band. This rather odd antiquity actually sounds like something you might have heard crackling from your great grandfather's old Victrola record player back in the day. Jackie Lomax also turns in snaky blue-eyed soul remake of "Sour Milk Sea," an outtake written by Harrison in '68 during The Beatles' White Album sessions.

As good as most of these songs are with heavy Beatles connections, it's some of the artist's own music that, quite often, proves most interesting. There's a great early version of "Carolina In My Mind" from the young and freshly signed James Taylor, while The Iveys (who would later change their name to Badfinger) offer up their heart-wrenching pop-ballad "Maybe Tomorrow." Apple's first single from a non-Beatle appropriately leads off-this collection - Mary Hopkin's multi-million selling debut 45 "Those Were The Days," which was produced by McCartney, who discovered this 1920s Russian folk song in a London night club in the late '60s.

One of the album's rarest tracks is a long lost single by the NYC band Brute Force. The song is called "King of Fuh," and was immediately banned in 1969 upon its release due to the band's lyrical delivery of, "There was a beautiful land called Fuh, and in this land there was a king. All hail the Fuh King." Interesting and cute perhaps, but it's really little more than just a throwaway novelty track. The Eastern-spiced "Govinda," as recorded by the Radha Krishna Temple, is an ancient Sanskrit hymn to Krishna, which, not so surprisingly, was produced by Harrison who was very influenced by the Hare Krishnas and their religious beliefs. What was surprising, is that this song actually cracked the Top 30 chart in the UK in 1970. A 'hit mantra'... whoda thunk?

For my money, however, the single best track on this collection is "Saturday Nite Special" by the Louisiana-based band The Sundown Playboys. Sung in Cajun-French and spiced with an infectious accordion and reeling fiddle this song proves to be the real odd-man out compared with all of the other material featured here. But it's also the most authentic and spirited track of the lot (it's said that they were signed to Apple after their teenage accordionist sent the song to the label on a whim). Interestingly enough, The Smiths' former frontman, Morrissey would include this song on his 2003 Under The Influence album. Now if they only would've included the Apple b-side to The Sundown Playboys' 45 "Valse De Soleil Choucher" this set would've been almost perfect. As it is though, it's a pleasing and historical look back at what The Beatles as businessmen and A&R reps felt was some of the best new emerging music of the late '60s and early '70s.

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