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I miss the harmonies
11 September 2014
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Matt Busby
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meanmistermustard said
The three-part harmonies are one of the few things i like about the two reunion tracks, despite it being 25 years later they still sounded as good as back in the Sixties.

Kudos to George (and/or Giles?) and the 3 surviving Beatles, all of whom had production experience, for creating those harmonies using John’s old tapes.

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11 September 2014
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meanmistermustard
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Jeff Lynne was heavily involved in the two reunion tracks, which is why it sounds at times more like a Beatles tribute band than the Beatles. a-hard-days-night-paul-3All we needed is some crappy 70’s keyboards, crummy effects and the like and it could well have been ELO just with better vocals, performances and actually listenable. blue-meanie

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12 September 2014
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Oudis said

What you wrote about dissonant harmonies resonated in my ears Matt. At times their harmonies do sound dissonant, and almost subliminal –almost.

I actually posted something about The Beatles’ harmonies in the “Most difficult Beatles song to sing” thread. Should any of the Moderators want to delete it and leave this one here (it’s the same) they are welcome to do it.

I’m copying from what I wrote in that thread: “What really amazes me about Yes, It Is isn’t just John’s performance, or George’s guitar (both are awesome) but the way they both sing with Paul. The harmonies are… very difficult to analyze, at times I feel they sing almost out of tune, yet they don’t, I don’t know what kind of strange harmony that is. Is it just me or is there anybody else who feels that way about this song? I’d appreciate any comments about this.”

Are they “dissonant” harmonies?

Oudis

@Oudis and whoever, I did some research on harmony and dissonance.  There is no “dissonant harmony”.  However, harmonies can be dissonant.  I won’t go into details, you can read the links and whatever, but things like half steps (or 7 1/2 steps), 4ths, and minors can sound dissonant.  I think MMT has some minor songs that give it a slightly spooky feeling despite some of the songs being quite happy.

American bluegrass/folk has some really dissonant harmonies.  An example you might know is Old Crow Medicine Show’s Wagon Wheel (which was sketched out by Dylan nearly 40 years ago).  But there are much better examples if you look – Soggy Bottom Boys is a start, but they only have 1 or 2 songs

Also, I think you’re dead on about the whole being more than the part.  Not just in the harmonies but in the whole group.  How close they were able to be for so long (sharing flats, hotel rooms) and their ability to bounce off each other in press conferences and interviews – sometimes they spoke in unison! – is probably the reason for this.

Ok I’ve been working on this for 12 hours, kept hitting bad keys that took me out or had to go somewhere…I better stop here :p

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12 September 2014
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^^ I have managed not to comment so far – and will continue (not) to do so :)

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12 September 2014
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@trcanberra, I found a more technically correct, or at least clearer, discussion of this here.  @Ahhh Girl, these two might be candidates for merging.

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2 October 2014
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Yeah I definitely missed the harmonies in there solo careers. It was also something that really stuck out to me on the White Album the lack of them. Obviously we all know why with the issues in the group at the period and trying to record a double album to a deadline. I think John wrote every Beatles song with a three part harmony. I wish he would of used more harmonies on his solo career. I think solo wise Paul did a decent job on harmonies with mostly Linda and Denny sometimes. I think Call Me Back Again has beatlesque harmonies. There has been some thought that the song is about John or the other Beatles never contacting Paul to play together. Maybe the is why he picked it for his song on the free itunes 4 EP. I know it is just him sining but on The Song We Were Singing Paul’s voice almost mimicks Johns at some points. I am sure Paul did this on purpose because the song is about them. Was wondering if anyone else noticed this? 

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3 October 2014
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I much like how the harmonies were used more sparingly on the White Album , yet there’s still no shortage of them lush trademark 3-Part indulgences.  Many go on about Paul’s sheer belting on ‘Helter Skelter ‘, but those “Ahhhhs…..” that provide the “wash at the back of the picture” (one of George Martin’s analogies) make Paul’s patented “Little Richard/’Long Tall Sally ‘ voice” sound better and more powerful than ever before, they appear to be escalating each other to new heights here.  ‘Sexy Sadie ‘ is one of John’s absolute best solo vocal performances ever, and it’s highlighted by the others who appear to be almost “egging him on” on this one, as if to say, ‘Go on Johnny, slip him (The Maharishi) the answer”, ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun ‘ echoes the same sentiment.  ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da ‘ pre-cursors the triumphant ‘Carry That Weight ‘ while carrying on much of ‘Hey Jude ‘s epic refrain, long past the 7 minutes 11 seconds mark.  We’re even treated to a nice diversion on ‘Birthday ‘ where Patti Harrison & Yoko Ono provide a very nice touch to an all ready powerful vocal performance from the boys.

 

The many hours spent in India without all the technological marvels brought The Beatles back to their roots of singing as well as writing, and while there are many examples of pure vocal brilliance on virtually ALL of their albums, the ‘White Album ‘ ranks highest on my list of first rate vocal performances, and that’s including the harmonies, it appears most “refined” here, if however “perfected” later on ‘Abbey Road ‘…:-) 

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3 October 2014
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Billy Rhythm said
I much like how the harmonies were used more sparingly on the White Album , yet there’s still no shortage of them lush trademark 3-Part indulgences.  Many go on about Paul’s sheer belting on ‘Helter Skelter ‘, but those “Ahhhhs…..” that provide the “wash at the back of the picture” (one of George Martin’s analogies) make Paul’s patented “Little Richard/’Long Tall Sally ‘ voice” sound better and more powerful than ever before, they appear to be escalating each other to new heights here.  ‘Sexy Sadie ‘ is one of John’s absolute best solo vocal performances ever, and it’s highlighted by the others who appear to be almost “egging him on” on this one, as if to say, ‘Go on Johnny, slip him (The Maharishi) the answer”, ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun ‘ echoes the same sentiment.  ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da ‘ pre-cursors the triumphant ‘Carry That Weight ‘ while carrying on much of ‘Hey Jude ‘s epic refrain, long past the 7 minutes 11 seconds mark.  We’re even treated to a nice diversion on ‘Birthday ‘ where Patti Harrison & Yoko Ono provide a very nice touch to an all ready powerful vocal performance from the boys.

 

The many hours spent in India without all the technological marvels brought The Beatles back to their roots of singing as well as writing, and while there are many examples of pure vocal brilliance on virtually ALL of their albums, the ‘White Album ‘ ranks highest on my list of first rate vocal performances, and that’s including the harmonies, it appears most “refined” here, if however “perfected” later on ‘Abbey Road ‘…:-) 

Yeah when used on the White Album their great and effective. Almost teasing the listening with a great taste when given. There subtle but great. I also have to say Paul going high on Dear Prudence at the word Skies/child at end of verses and chorus. John voice almost fades into Pauls especially at skies. Always thought that was an underrated song Harmonies wise.

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3 October 2014
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meanmistermustard said
Jeff Lynne was heavily involved in the two reunion tracks, which is why it sounds at times more like a Beatles tribute band than the Beatles. a-hard-days-night-paul-3All we needed is some crappy 70’s keyboards, crummy effects and the like and it could well have been ELO just with better vocals, performances and actually listenable. blue-meanie

Hey, I like ELO… though each of their albums DID get slicker and more overproduced as they went on.  I wish Roy Wood had stuck around longer.  I love the baroque sound of their first album.

 

Slightly OT: It seems to me there are very few bands anymore where more than one person sings lead (and if there is, it’s usually merely TWO different people).  I miss that aspect, which tends to add to a band’s versatility in their sound.

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3 October 2014
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^ Loving the Beach Boys albums I am working through at the moment for the variety of lead vocals (including when Fataar and Chaplin were in the band in the early 70s).  The harmonies are also a delight which makes me a lot less sad than when I started the thread :)

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3 October 2014
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Duke_of_Kirkcaldy said

It seems to me there are very few bands anymore where more than one person sings lead (and if there is, it’s usually merely TWO different people).  I miss that aspect, which tends to add to a band’s versatility in their sound.

So true, The Beatles’ vocals all blended so very well together that many had trouble figuring out who sang lead for some songs, especially during their earlier material, I even thought as a youth for the longest while that Ringo was the one who sang ‘Lady Madonna ‘!  I even had to convince myself with a couple of listens of my ‘Hey Jude ‘ 8-Track Cartridge upon learning that it was in fact Paul who belts it out…:-) 

7 October 2014
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Duke_of_Kirkcaldy said 

Slightly OT: It seems to me there are very few bands anymore where more than one person sings lead (and if there is, it’s usually merely TWO different people).  I miss that aspect, which tends to add to a band’s versatility in their sound.

 

Yeah I totally agree. It was actually a point I made to a friend why I prefer The Beatles over the Stones. Also having four singers and great song writers gave so much versatility. 

7 October 2014
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Billy Rhythm said

Duke_of_Kirkcaldy said
It seems to me there are very few bands anymore where more than one person sings lead (and if there is, it’s usually merely TWO different people).  I miss that aspect, which tends to add to a band’s versatility in their sound.

So true, The Beatles’ vocals all blended so very well together that many had trouble figuring out who sang lead for some songs, especially during their earlier material, I even thought as a youth for the longest while that Ringo was the one who sang ‘Lady Madonna ‘!  I even had to convince myself with a couple of listens of my ‘Hey Jude ‘ 8-Track Cartridge upon learning that it was in fact Paul who belts it out…:-) 

I mention them only for the few who don’t already know, the Everly Brothers patented and perfected this.  See this for example – you cannot tell the two voices apart, yet it cannot be one voice.  I won’t say they did it better than the Beatles (during their moments), but they did it more consistently.

I totally agree about the “3 (ok 4) lead singers” concept adding a lot to the Beatles and their ability to just harmonize with each other, 2 or 3 part, at will was not genius – it was talent,  They had enough genius and more than enough talent.  those are just two of the more important things they had going for them :)

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8 October 2014
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Matt Busby said

Billy Rhythm said

Duke_of_Kirkcaldy said
It seems to me there are very few bands anymore where more than one person sings lead (and if there is, it’s usually merely TWO different people).  I miss that aspect, which tends to add to a band’s versatility in their sound.

So true, The Beatles’ vocals all blended so very well together that many had trouble figuring out who sang lead for some songs, especially during their earlier material, I even thought as a youth for the longest while that Ringo was the one who sang ‘Lady Madonna ‘!  I even had to convince myself with a couple of listens of my ‘Hey Jude ‘ 8-Track Cartridge upon learning that it was in fact Paul who belts it out…:-) 

I mention them only for the few who don’t already know, the Everly Brothers patented and perfected this.  See this for example – you cannot tell the two voices apart, yet it cannot be one voice.  I won’t say they did it better than the Beatles (during their moments), but they did it more consistently.

I totally agree about the “3 (ok 4) lead singers” concept adding a lot to the Beatles and their ability to just harmonize with each other, 2 or 3 part, at will was not genius – it was talent,  They had enough genius and more than enough talent.  those are just two of the more important things they had going for them :)

Sometimes I say something that doesn’t come out right.  I’m not hating on the Beatles harmony at all, in fact I think John Paul and George were perhaps the most talented singing trio outside of opera.  The way they could just harmonize at will…look at their early performances…sometimes George will join either one, sometimes Paul joins John on a mic and George takes the other, or not…their talent was amazing – I’m sure they practiced it but it looked effortless.  And they did achieve the “two voices become one” or even 3, sometimes, but to me their specialty was not so much in blending as in what I mentioned above, the dissonant or haunting harmony.  An example is in Two of Us, at the ends of the verse, for example Paul’s high note and John’s low in “we’re going home” or “on our way back home”.  It’s great harmony, I  love it, and Paul had a tendency to sing a high haunting harmony in many songs (not as haunting as say, folk/bluegrass, and not really “haunting” at all, but it’s the same kind of harmony as the haunting kind).  Oh and of course the Beach Boys were the best quartet/quintet/sextet harmonizers…

@trcanberra, I’d be curious to know what comments you’re withholding.  Feel free to pm me since you don’t want to say it here.  I’m thinking you know much more about harmony than I’m learning and spouting, and I’d love to be corrected a-hard-days-night-george-10

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8 October 2014
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^ Ha ha – no.  I’m just studiously ignoring mmm’s digs at Jeff Lynne and ELO :)

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8 October 2014
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trcanberra said
^ Ha ha – no.  I’m just studiously ignoring mmm’s digs at Jeff Lynne and ELO :)

I did find it deeply satisfying to read Graeme Thomson’s assessment of the reunion tracks in his George biography ‘Behind The Locked Door’. Nice to know i’m not alone in my feelings towards Jeff Lynne’s contributions.

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15 November 2014
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Because of this topic, I have been listening specifically to the harmonies, and I’ve come up with a list of songs that, to my ears, have 3-parts (even one 4-part!) that I can’t distinguish the individual voices.  For 2-part, I have to give the nod to the Everlys every time, but I think they had the advantage of nearly identical vocal chord dna a-hard-days-night-george-10  The songs I’m listing are all, imo, on par with the Beach Boys , and depending on your mood, maybe better (I call them “smooth” harmonies because they sound…smooth!). Because the Beach Boys often had more than 3 parts, and they did a lot of harmonies where the high or 2nd highest voice does an arpeggio or something similar, allowing me to hear at least one voice (and usually more) separately (God Only Knows is a good example).  The mixing plays a part in all this, because John’s voice is often mixed a little louder (or maybe it’s because he sings the low part) which makes it fairly easy (to my ears anyway) to pick Paul’s high voice out.  What I’m asking of you friends is (if you care) have additions, subtractions to to list based on your likes.  They’re in chronological order pretty much:

Misery

If I Fell

Nowhere Man

The Word

Girl

In My Life

If I Needed Someone

Tell Me Why

Nowhere Man

The Word

Girl

In My Life

If I Needed Someone

Good Day Sunshine

And Your Bird Can Sing

I Want To Tell You

Magical Mystery Tour

Sgt. Pepper ‘s Lonely Hearts Club Band

With A Little Help From My Friends (a couple lines of which are 4-part I believe)

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

She’s Leaving Home (backing)

Lovely Rita

Good Morning (backing)

Rain (is that 4-part the first word of each “chorus” – the words Rain and Shine?, also the backing vocal track)

Because

Sun King

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15 November 2014
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^ Some of those I’ve figured out (after listening to them MANY times, don’t get me wrong), but one that’s always confounded my ears is another song from Rubber Soul : “Wait “. I don’t know why, but those harmonies are really tough to figure out for me. I should probably get the remastered RS, then I bet I’d have it.a-hard-days-night-george-10And I couldn’t figure out Nowhere Man either, I had to watch that Galeazzo Frudua guy’s video for it.

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Bulldog said  why
confounded my ears is another song from Rubber Soul : “Wait “. I don’t know why, but those harmonies are really tough to

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, I can hear the different harmonies, but I couldn’t reproduce them with my own mouth…singing harmony is something I’ve never been able to do naturally, my ear is better than my vocal chords + ears put together a-hard-days-night-george-10

But seriously, I wonder why Rubber Soul has so many more than any of the other albums (well Pepper’s has several too).  I think they kind of branched out into different more “dissonant” (to use my word from previous posts) harmonies, and it’s easier for me to hear the different voices in those (Two of Us is a good example, in 2-part).

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Bulldog said
^ Some of those I’ve figured out (after listening to them MANY times, don’t get me wrong), but one that’s always confounded my ears is another song from Rubber Soul : “Wait “. I don’t know why, but those harmonies are really tough to figure out for me. I should probably get the remastered RS, then I bet I’d have it.a-hard-days-night-george-10And I couldn’t figure out Nowhere Man either, I had to watch that Galeazzo Frudua guy’s video for it.

Yes, Galeazzo! That guy is awesome, real in depth lessons. Great stuff. I gotta bone to pick with him over his Norwegian Wood lesson though lol. 

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