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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Tonight, a Beatles reunion of sorts will take place in Las Vegas. The surviving members of the band and the families of John Lennon and George Harrison will gather at the Mirage for the launch of Love, the latest show from Cirque du Soleil. Also on hand will be the Beatles original producer, Sir George Martin. He put together the music for the show with a little help from his son.

Flo Rogers of member station KNPR reports.

FLORENCE ROGERS reporting:

It's hard to upstage Cirque du Soleil. Their shows are dazzling and inspire breathless reviews. But center stage this week is a dapper, 80-year-old gentleman with a cut glass accent wearing a pale blue sweater and a hearing aid. He created the show's soundtrack.

Sir GEORGE MARTIN (Music producer): If there's anybody going to do it, I think I'm more entitled to do it than anybody.

ROGERS: That is about as close as the Commander of the British Empire, Sir George Martin, will get to claiming any part of the Beatles legacy for himself. And Sir George also has no patience for purists who might balk at mining everything, including studio banter from the Abbey Road vault, to make a soundtrack for the show, Love. He says the Beatles catalog is not some set of sacred text.

Sir GEORGE: It shouldn't be treated like a religious icon, which some people do. They walk fearfully and they cross themselves as they listen to the record. It's not that. You know, this is something which everybody enjoys, which should be available to everybody in the form that it was originally intended.

ROGERS: Freed from the constraints of what Martin describes as the primitive 1960s technology he wrestled with at Abbey Road Studios to record John, Paul, George and Ringo.

(Soundbite of The Beatles)

ROGERS: The result is a panorama of mixes, mash-ups and alternate vocal takes direct from session masters. 25 plus full songs with more than 100 other fragments, including the iconic opening chord from A Hard Day's Night. Since Sir George's ears aren't what they used to be, he's entrusted his son, Giles, to help bring the Beatles into a new era.

(Soundbite of The Beatles)

Mr. GILES MARTIN (Music producer): Here Comes the Sun, we decided, was one of the first things we actually attempted to do. The beginning starts off with tableaus. Indian music is what John brought to the Beatles.

Sir GEORGE: George.

Mr. MARTIN: The sounds - George, sorry, George brought to the Beatles more than anything else, you know? The textures that he brought in were incredible, so we decided to use the tablas and tamboras from Within You, Without You, some backing vocals from Oh, Darling and to create a sort of, an ambient atmosphere that starts Here Comes the Sun.

Sir GEORGE: All the same, I wish I'd done, used the tablas and the tamboras on that song originally. George brought all these Indian ideas to us and we used them. You know, the swarmandel(ph) in Strawberry Fields. That's the kind of harp-like tinkling sound. I'd actually done a lot of work with Indian musicians before I ever met the Beatles, and I used sitars and tables and dilrubas with other people. In fact, mainly as a comedy thing, I must confess, with Peter Sellers.

ROGERS: It was those comedy recordings that gave George Martin some cred with the streetwise Beatles. Think of those studio shots with Martin sitting up straight at the console, hair slicked back, the Fabs slouching around sporting droopy mustaches and improbably flowery shirts.

(Soundbite of The Beatles)

ROGERS: Age has not dulled Martin's aristocratic features, graceful manner or dry wit. He says the boldest thing they've done is to deconstruct Within You, Without You and Tomorrow Never Knows.

(Soundbite of The Beatles)

Sir GEORGE: When Giles overlaid the rhythm from Tomorrow Never Knows, it became something else and it became something, I think, actually quite magical.

Mr. MARTIN: It's actually interesting that Tomorrow Never Knows is so contemporary. The rhythm is so contemporary, that actual people term track as sort of a new track. But it's, you know, it's obviously two Beatles songs put together. And that was the song that I kind of had to step out of the room when he played it to Paul and Ringo and I definitely didn't want to be there just in case, you know? I'd get fired off the project. But as it happened, everyone liked it.

ROGERS: Giles and his father had free reign to use everything and anything ever committed to tape for the show that grew out of George Harrison's friendship with the founder of Cirque du Soleil, a departure from the Beatles' fiercely protective and litigious Apple Corps.

(Soundbite of The Beatles)

ROGERS: Along with the music, Cirque has brought to life the beloved characters of Sergeant Pepper's Band with their full-on Alice in Wonderland weirdness. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is an aerial ballet and conspiracy fans will recognize the white VW bug from Abbey Road, one of the clues that Paul McCartney was supposedly dead.

Ann Powers, pop music critic for the LA Times, says the restored production makes the Beatles sound fresh.

Ms. ANN POWERS (Los Angeles Times): We're so used to hearing these songs in every context, you know, walking through a store, coming out of our car radio, on our tinny little childhood stereos. You know, all different ways. So I think we stop hearing this music. I found myself as someone who, frankly, had grown a little tired of The Beatles, remembering all the reasons why I love that music. And I really think, both for a new generation to learn about the Beatles and for those of us who grew up with them, this is a wonderful renewal.

ROGERS: But don't call it a swan song. There's still a CD version to be finished before the end of the year. Martin and his son will share equally in the credit for that as they do the soundtrack to the show, Love.

Sir GEORGE: Absolutely.

ROGERS: Did he do 50/50 of the work on it?

Sir GEORGE: No, he did more than I did.

Mr. MARTIN: But no but you, I say you did a lot of the work -

Sir GEORGE: 40 years ago.

Mr. MARTIN: 40 years ago. He did all of the work then.

ROGERS: For NPR News, I'm Flo Rogers in Las Vegas.

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