George Martin & His Orchestra

George Martin Plays 'Help'

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George Martin, by virtue of his work as the Beatles' producer, had something of an inside track in terms of getting an early look at new songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Coupled with his intimate knowledge of the group's way of working, one would think -- or, at least, suspect -- that this own interpretations of Beatles songs would be worth hearing, more so than, say, those by other instrumental outfits, such as the 101 Srings et al. But this is only partly the case -- as it turns out, Martin's recordings of what were the Beatles' latest songs are tasteful but otherwise largely undistinguished, really just routine instrumental pop. What did distinguish this album was the details: the cover had a better still from the movie than Capitol Records' notorious official U.S. soundtrack, and the early access that Martin had to the group's songwriting catalog resulted in three of the songs here, "Yesterday," "It's Only Love," and "I've Just Seen a Face," going out under their working titles as, respectively, "Scrambled Eggs," "That's a Nice Hat," and "Auntie Gin's Theme," little details that Beatles fanatics of the time simply devoured. And, of course, the title here revealed more than it probably meant to, to American audiences, who had no inkling that the U.K. Help! album had all of those additional songs on them (and why would UA have cared if it tipped Capitol's hand to U.S. listeners who had the latter label's third-rate package foisted off on them?).