LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

A troop of French Canadians has brought the Beatles to Las Vegas. The show, by Cirque du Soleil, is called “Love.” It celebrates the music of the Fab Four. The soundtrack of that live circus performance has been released as a new Beatles album, with all the music reworked - the elements of one song becoming part of another. NPR's Bob Boilen has been a fan of the band from their first days in America. When he picked up the new album, he was hesitant, but gave it a listen, anyway.

BOB BOILEN: I knew I was going to hate it. Why would anyone do this? Take the guitar solo from “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and tack it onto “Lady Madonna?” Or move the strings from the song “Goodnight” to create the backdrop to “Octopus' Garden?” Forget how much the Vegas thing makes me cringe, the whole idea seemed stupid. I knew George Martin was going to work on “Love,” so the project had credibility. But on the other hand, the famed and deeply respected Beatle producer is 81, and he's going deaf.

It turns out that his son Giles did the bulk of the work. Sounds like nepotism to me. How could this happen? A few weeks ago, the CD arrived. I didn't like the orangey cartoon artwork, but I could get over that. There's an audio-only surround sound DVD you can get for a few dollars more, and that's what I put in my player. I figured, at least hearing the Beatles in surround would be nice.

(Soundbite of song, “Hard Day's Night”)

BOILEN: And what I heard was astonishing. At first, I was overcome by the quality of the sound. I'd never heard all the instruments with such fidelity. And it wasn't just the surround experience. The CD sounds amazing, too. And there was real magic in some of those musical reworkings.

(Soundbite of song, “Get Back”)

THE BEATLES (Rock Band): (Singing) Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner, but he knew it couldn't last.

BOILEN: I had to find out how it was all done. So I called up Giles Martin, the son of George Martin, and found him at Abbey Road Studios in London. Giles Martin said that for him, it started with a demo tape, a tape he put together with added percussion to “Here Comes the Sun” and playing around with the song “I am the Walrus.” And he played that demo tape for Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney.

Mr. GILES MARTIN (Music Producer): You know, they loved it. Paul and Ringo came in and they said, you know, maybe you should go a bit further. So I played them, I'd done a mix to “Tomorrow Never Knows” with “Within You, Without You.” And I thought that song was going to get me fired, actually. I thought this was going to was - to really kick me out of the corporation.

(Soundbite of song, “Within You Without You”)

THE BEATLES: (Singing) We were talking about the space between us all, and the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion. Never glimpse the truth. Then it's far too late when they pass away.

Mr. MARTIN: And they loved that. They thought this is the way to go. And it kind of opened the door. They just said, right, you can do whatever you like.

BOILEN: And so Giles Martin began playing with The Beatles' music. Giles knew only too well that being the son of George Martin was probably the reason he had the job. And he lacked confidence, but with the help of his dad, he plowed ahead.

Mr. MARTIN: To be honest with you, I really approached the project thinking, oh, they're going to fire me at any stage, because I didn't think it was going to go ahead. I thought, you know, it's very nice to let me have a go, but really, you know, surely there might be someone better you want.

And so I realized, actually, that The Beatles catalogue hasn't been backed up properly. And so I decided to back it up. And so I took all the songs and I made notes on each one, which is great, because I sat down with my dad. The two of us sat down, and I went through stuff with him. And I played him stuff that he couldn't remember, and I thought he wasn't aware of most of it, you know. So, and I wrote down keys and tempos and interesting parts.

BOILEN: So did you then put it all in a spreadsheet of some sort in order to, you know…

Mr. MARTIN: I did. I did, because that's how interesting I am. You know, I'm a bit unfun at parties. It became essential to me to work, because otherwise you couldn't really do this.

(Soundbite of song, “Come Together”)

BOILEN: And so with direction from Cirque du Soleil, Giles Martin and his father created the soundtrack to “Love” - twenty-six tunes seamlessly woven together.

(Soundbite of song, “Come Together”)

THE BEATLES: (Singing) He wear no shoeshine. He got…

Mr. MARTIN: We didn't want a fade or nothing. As this album was meant to flow one to the other, you can't do fades, really. And “Come Together” has one of those famous fades. I had the same problem with “All You Need is Love.” And my dad goes, you can't change “Come Together.” You can't do anything. And I said, listen. I've got an idea. I want to get out of it, because I've got to get into “Revolution,” which is - this is the requirement of doing a show. The director said I want to go from “Come Together” to “Revolution,” but I want something a bit creepy there between the two. And they had this under “Helter Skelter,” or loud music. And I thought - I looked for ages. I was trying to work out what to do.

(Soundbite of song, “Come Together”)

Mr. MARTIN: And so I tried “Dear Prudence,” and I love “Dear Prudence.” I think it's such a great track. Not that you really recognize “Dear Prudence” as far as this goes. And that's the thing that bothered my dad.

(Soundbite of song, “Come Together”)

THE BEATLES: (Singing) Come together. Yeah. Come together. Yeah.

Mr. MARTIN: Right now, you're hearing the guitars coming underneath.

BOILEN: Yeah.

Mr. MARTIN: And there's the major chord here. My dad goes, you can't have a major and a minor. I was like, yes, you can. Go for it. It just opens it out. And so - and Paul and Ringo liked it, so I won that battle.

(Soundbite of song, “Dear Prudence”)

BOILEN: So does your dad wince when he hears this?

Mr. MARTIN: And yes, he still goes, it's too - it should go for another round. And I said well “Dear Prudence” doesn't. I'm not looping it. And this, and this bit here, this is the end of “Cry, Baby Cry.” It's actually a song called “Can You Take Me Back.”

(Soundbite of song, “Can You Take Me Back”)

THE BEATLES: (Singing) Won't you take me back.

Mr. MARTIN: (Unintelligible) you have the strings from “Eleanor Rigby.”

(Soundbite of song, “Can You Take Me Back”)

THE BEATLES: (Singing) Can you take me back where I belong? Can you take me back?

Mr. MARTIN: And you've now got the climax from “A Day in the Life” with the strings from “Eleanor Rigby” with “Can You Take Me Back.”

(Soundbite of song, “Can You Take Me Back”)

Mr. MARTIN: There's the orchestral buildup with “A Day in the Life,” without the orchestra.

(Soundbite of song, “Can You Take me Back”)

Mr. MARTIN: And it was really to try to create some dramatics for a show. And it's funny, it kind of works in a record. Because when “Revolution” comes in, you know, it really, really kicks in.

(Soundbite of song, “Revolution”)

Mr. MARTIN: And there we are.

(Soundbite of song, “Revolution”)

THE BEATLES: (Singing) You say you want a revolution. Well, you know. We all want to change the world.

Mr. MARTIN: And so now, “Revolution” is playing Vegas - and in my living room and in my car and my iPod, and so is “Hey Jude”, “I am the Walrus”, “Blue Jay Way,” and so many more, all gloriously remixed from the original four-track tapes. There are moments when I'm listening to “Love” that I want all the collage sounding stuff to just go away so I can hear The Beatles the way George Martin originally heard them.

But there's fun and magic in “Love,” moments of honest surprise. It was George Harrison that wanted the music of The Beatles to somehow become part of a Cirque du Soleil show. He'd met Cirque's found because they both had a passion for Formula One race cars. George Harrison, race cars, The Beatles, Las Vegas - magic is best when you expect one thing and get something better.

(Soundbite of song, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”)

THE BEATLES: (Singing) Having been some days in preparation, a splendid time is guaranteed for all. And tonight Mr. Kite is topping the bill.

WERTHEIMER: The new Beatles CD is called “Love.” Bob Boilen is host of NPR's online music show, ALL SONGS CONSIDERED. You can hear an extended interview with producer Giles Martin at npr.org. This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

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