Magical Mystery Tour

The Beatles

Capitol Records, 1967

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


A few weeks ago, we were fortunate enough to be featured in an online column by Jeff Ambramowitz, a writer for The Jerusalem Post. And while he generally had some nice things to say about us, he raised a very good question: How could we have only reviewed three Beatles albums so far? (Memo to Jeff: Hate to break this to you, but we'll eventually get around to reviewing the Spice Girls - that is, once I get up the gumption to actually listen to my wife's copy.)

So, into the infamous Pierce Memorial Archives (Go Chicago Wolves... the only true pro hockey team in the Windy City), and out with Magical Mystery Tour, a combination soundtrack/new release that still has critics scratching their heads.

The first half of the album is a soundtrack to the television special that aired the day after Christmas in 1967. Two problems, though: Not many people in Great Britain had color TVs, meaning a lot of the psychedelia was lost in the black-and-white haze. Second, the script was supposedly so far out that you literally needed both the Cliff's Notes and a translator to figure out just what the hell was going on.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Musically, this portion of the album contains both strengths and weaknesses. The title track, "Fool On The Hill" and "I Am The Walrus" never fail to put a smile on my face, even if the lyrics to "I Am The Walrus" are best comprehended with the aid of other substances. (This coming, of course, from someone who has never experimented with drugs in his life.) Some of the other cuts fail to impress, like "Flying" and "Blue Jay Way," while "Your Mother Should Know" is both quirky and cute at the same time.

It is the second half of Magical Mystery Tour, however, that will best be remembered. The half which featured new material from The Beatles, it reads like a playlist from any classic rock station: "Hello Goodbye," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Penny Lane" and "All You Need Is Love". (The other song on the side, "Baby, You're A Rich Man," is okay, but not up to par with the other songs.) And despite the passage of 30 years, these songs have not worn out their welcome one iota, remaining pleasant to the ear and the mind.

The biggest obstacle that John, Paul, George and Ringo had to face was their own success - their last album was the groundbreaking Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, a record that gave the industry a solid kick in the ass. Let's be honest: no matter what they followed this record up with, it would be viewed as a disappointment, albeit a minor one.

And the fact is, Magical Mystery Tour is only a minor disappointment. Only four tracks fail to hit the bullseye, and two of those tracks at least are on the target. I have yet to see the actual special (gimme a break, it took me six months to get around to watching The Beatles Anthology on tape, and I still have to buy the CDs), so I'll save any snide comments about it.

Magical Mystery Tour is, admittedly, a more challenging listen - even though I've owned it for years, I still listened to the record three times before finally grasping the big picture. It's a short enough album to allow you to give it the attention of multiple listens - but you will have to invest a little time on this disc.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B+



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.