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An Apple a Day: Billy Preston - That's the Way God Planned It
by Bruce Spizer
Billy Preston began his association with Apple by playing keyboards for the Beatles during the "Get Back" sessions. George Harrison had recently seen him in concert playing keyboard for Ray Charles and got word to him to drop by Apple. Upon Preston's arrival at Apple, Harrison invited him to the basement studio where the Beatles were recording. He was asked to play keyboards to augment the band, which had decided that the recordings from the sessions would not have overdubs.
Preston later played keyboards on the early Beatles sessions for the songs "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" and "Something." The Beatles first met Preston in 1962 when he was is Little Richard's backing band. The group was on the same bill with Little Richard in two Brian Epstein-produced concerts in the fall of that year. Preston recorded two instrumental albums for the Beatles first American record label, Vee-Jay, "The Most Exciting Organ Ever" and "Wildest Organ In Town!" The latter included Preston's version of "A Hard day's Night."
Shortly after the "Get Back" sessions, Apple bought out Preston's contract with Capitol Records, which had already started recording an album with Preston singing and playing keyboards. In April, 1969, George brought Preston into the studio with a stellar cast of musicians, including guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker (who played together in Cream), Rolling Stone Keith Richard, bass played Klaus Voormann and Ringo Starr.
The first release from the sessions was the single "That's The Way God Planned It" b/w "What About You," which was issued on July 14, 1969. Both songs were written by Preston and produced by Harrison. "That's The Way God Planned It" was a great rock song with a strong gospel flavor both in its lyrics and church-sounding keyboards. Preston, Clapton and Baker put in fantastic performances. The single peaked at 62 in the U.S.
Preston's first Apple album, named after the single, was released on September 19, 1969. The 12-song album contains three songs left over from the Capitol sessions. The remaining tracks were produced by Harrison, including some that had previously been recorded during the Capitol sessions. All but two songs were written or co-written by Preston, including three with Doris Troy.
The opening selection, "Do What You Want" is an effective gospel-sounding rocker. "Everything's All Right" sounds like Sly & the Family Stone, but with more gospel. The song was later pulled from the album as a single. "It Doesn't Matter" is another rocker full of gospel influences, including a powerful chorus. "Let's All Get Together Right Now" is a beautiful gospel ballad. "This Is It" fades in and rocks along with swirling Hammond organ through a Leslie speaker cabinet and great lead guitar augmented by a gospel-sounding chorus. The album closes with the full-length version of "That's The Way God Planned It."
The remastered album includes four bonus tracks. "As I Get Older" is an instrumental written by Preston and Sly Stone. Also of interest is an alternate version of "That's The Way God Planned It." Although not nearly as effective as the released version, the track shows how Harrison was able to build the song into a gospel-rock classic.
Fans of George Harrison, Eric Clapton and gospel music will enjoy this remastered release of "That's The Way God Planned It."
Additional information about the artists who recorded for Apple Records can be found in Bruce Spizer's book "The Beatles Solo on Apple Records." Bruce Spizer is the author of a series of critically acclaimed books on the Beatles American record releases. He also wrote "The Beatles Are Coming! The Birth of Beatlemania in America," which is the definitive book on the subject. He served as editor and publisher of "Price Guide for the Beatles American Records," which was written by Perry Cox and Frank Daniels. Bruce is currently working with Frank Daniels on a new book covering the Beatles U.K. record releases from the sixties titled "Beatles For Sale on Parlophone Records." He has served as a consultant for EMI/Capitol Records on Beatles projects. Information regarding his books can be found at his website www.beatle.net.
Published December 7, 2010
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