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Live At the BBC - The Collection
on 11 November 2013
When Live At The BBC was released in 1994 it kicked off a major archival excavation that culminated in the Beatles Anthology Project but to my mind the Live At The BBC was the most interesting of these archival releases and the one that I have listened to the most over the years. It wasn't without it's flaws though and with the bootleg releases that included most of their complete shows, a volume 2 seemed like a no brainer. So it's a surprise that it's taken nearly 20 years for that to happen, especially as volume 1 shifted something like 5 million units.
I must admit that the pricing of this 2 volume set doesn't really make much sense when you can purchase both volumes separately cheaper. There is nothing other than a cardboard sleeve to justify the extra 2. Surely there should be a saving for buying both?
Anyway, with regards to volume 1 the question is whether its worth purchasing the remaster if you already have the original from 1994. I would certainly say yes, if you don't have volume one then its essential and the stronger of the 2 volumes as it contains the most unreleased tracks. Although there isn't any new music or major upgrades in sources to what you would already have, the use of noise reduction is a lot better and less heavy handed than the previous issue and the key thing is the completely unnecessary cross fading between tracks have been removed, meaning you can compile both volumes chronologically without cutting of the start or end of tracks. There are also a few more snippets of dialogue like the inclusion of the amusing introduction from George to Soldier of Love, wish they'd also included the equally amusing intro to the Honeymoon Song or the `Honeyboot Song' as George calls it because of his `terrible nose'.
As for `On Air - Live At The BBC Volume 2' this is long overdue. I really didn't think we would see any further official releases of the BBC recordings so this is hugely welcome. There aren't many sound upgrades from the bootlegs but on first listen Words of Love, Ask Me Why and Anna are considerable upgrades from the latest bootleg sources. Of the 36 unique songs the Beatles recorded for the BBC only the tracks from their very first session are still to be officially released. Those are Dream Baby, Besame Mucho (the EMI recording was released on Anthology One) and Pictures of You, all with Pete Best on drums. Not sure why those haven't been included because sound quality wise they are no worse than `I'm Talking About You' or Keep Your Hands of My Baby. Volume 2 also contains the tracks from the Baby It's You CD single but contains a different version of Devil In Her Heart, so need hang on to those singles, Lend Me Your Comb which was missing from volume 1 is also included here. The only frustration for me is we still don't have at least 1 performance of every song performed for the BBC! Of the 88 different songs recorded for the BBC we are still missing, I Call Your Name, I Should Have Known Better, The Night Before and I'm Happy Just to Dance With You as well as the 3 tracks I mentioned above from the first BBC sessions. All of these tracks are available on the boots but in poor quality so I suspect the compilers wanted to keep the poor quality off air recordings to a minimum on a mainstream release.
So all in all, Volume 2 is a very worthy addition to the Beatles catalogue and a excellent reissue of Volume 1. The studio outtake of I Feel Fine especially is a highlight. The booklets are excellent with essay's from Kevin Howlett (author of the excellent The Beatles: The BBC Archives: 1962-1970) as well as a track by track analysis. I never tire of these performances and would happily sit through every one of their 275 performances (and have done on many occasions). Performances like Soldier of Love, Some Other Guy and To Know Her is To Love Her are every bit as good as the covers they recorded for EMI. It never ceases to amaze me that 2 of the greatest rock and roll singers of all time ended up in the same band!
So is there enough material left for a Volume 3, damn right there is. We are still missing those 3 unique tracks as mentioned earlier but there are sufficiently interesting versions of the already released tracks to justify another volume. The version of I'm a Loser with John substituted lyrics `Beneath This Wig I'm Wearing a Tie' immediately springs to mind, as well as superior performances of Misery from Pop Go The Beatles 14 and There's a Place from Pop Go The Beatles 5 also I can't believe they kept that version of A Hard Day's Night on volume one with the solo flown in from the EMI recording when they played it live on another performance. Hopefully as new sources are discovered this will happen.
*Edit 16/12/13. 41 more BBC tracks are being released on iTunes on the 17/12 along with studio outtakes and demo's in an effort to prevent them from becoming public domain![...]