Saturday, July 18, 2015

At war with THE BEATLES: Spaz reviews All This And World War II!

All This And World War II:

Culture Factory gives the 1976 soundtrack the love it deserves

Before writing this review, I have to preface it with three questions:

Who the f*** thought it would be a good idea in 1976  to take stock Word War II footage, newsreels and clips of war-era movies, edit them together into a full length feature film and soundtrack all 88 minutes with the songs of Lennon & McCartney as performed by many of the biggest musical artists of the mid-‘70s?

 Did cocaine have anything to do with #1?

 Why did it take so long for this soundtrack to get a proper commercial CD reissue?

     All This And World War II remains one of the strangest ideas ever thrust upon the masses by Hollywood.  Yes, it really was a full-length motion picture made up entirely of stock WWII footage. Yes, it did feature artists like Elton John, The Bee Gees, Rod Stewart, Helen Reddy, Jeff Lynne, Ambrosia, Bryan Ferry, Status Quo, Roy Wood, Keith Moon, Leo Sayer and Frankie Valli performing classic  Lennon & McCartney songs as it’s soundtrack. And yes, it was a monumental flop.  It fared even worse than the atrocious Sgt. Pepper movie that came out a few years later.  In fact, ATAWWII was pulled from theaters after being brutally ripped apart by critics and ignored by movie-goers. However, I think it was an absolutely brilliant idea –  something that should have ended up a cult classic at the very least.  Emotionally, the horrors of war and the joys of music are polar opposites yet both possess the power to move and motivate people. The message may be ‘make love, not war’ yet the end result shows that one only intensifies the other.

     OK, so most of you are familiar with the images of WWII, but what about the music on the soundtrack?  Well, I’m from the school of thinking that nobody – no matter how good they are – can ever better a Beatles recording.  The fab four got it right the first time and you can’t improve upon perfection.  However, I’m open to listening to the songs in a different context and ATAWWII certainly offers up plenty to digest.  While some may be familiar with Elton’s version of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” (which was released two years before and licensed for this soundtrack) and Rod Stewart’s “Get Back” (one of the only songs here to make it to radio), there are some interesting, entertaining and worthwhile tracks. Most of the artists are backed by a symphony and choir so oftentimes, they seem like guest artists on a classical ‘tribute’ album but that does not distract from the experience. Standouts include Bryan Ferry’s take on ‘She’s Leaving Home,” Jeff Lynne’s medley of “With A Little Help From My Friends” and “Nowhere Man,” the various tracks by The Bee Gees (pre-Saturday Night Fever), The Four Seasons’ spirited “We Can Work It Out” (which incorporates “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” into the musical arrangement), Peter Gabriel’s haunting voice inhabiting “Strawberry Fields Forever,” Leo Sayer’s tracks, Status Quo’s “Getting Better” and more.  In fact, there are very few tracks that I’d recommend you to avoid. 

     This whole concept was bat-shit crazy and I’m surprised that anyone went along with the idea when it was first presented. Looking back, it does seem that cocaine ran Hollywood at this point and the dealers probably made more money than anyone involved with putting this project together. However, it is definitely worth your time and nearly four decades on, it is time to enjoy this soundtrack in all its glory!

     The excellent Culture Factory label has been on a crusade to bring the vinyl experience back to those who still prefer their music on CD. All of their releases are mini replicas of the original vinyl release. The CDs have the original vinyl label  printed on the disc, they have printed inner sleeves if the original LP came with one and they have remastered sound, which sounds crisp and punchy.  In the case of ATAWWII, the entire two record album is duplicated here (on 2CDs) in a gatefold mini sleeve housed in a slipcase with booklet (that features art and lyrics) as well as a mini replica of the t-shirt offer that came with the original vinyl set.

     Definitely for fans of any of the artists involved and for music lovers in general.  How could something that seemed so wrong then finally feel so right?  Find out for yourself with this fab reissue!

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