This is the first volume of the Beatles "Anthology" - a double CD set featuring 60 tracks, released in 1995. It's followed by Anthology 2 and Anthology 3. The music presented here is from the period 1958 to 1964 (aside from the inclusion of the "Free as a Bird" song). There are several previously unreleased songs - such as the very early recording 'In Spite of all the Danger' - and a number of dialogue tracks (involving conversation). The majority of the tracks are alternative takes, live performances and demos of well-known songs, including many hits, e.g. 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' and 'A Hard Day's Night'. Nothing featured on the album had previously been released by the Beatles in the form it's heard here. Rather, this album represents an opportunity to listen to the Beatles in a slightly new way. And, as a fan of the band, I thoroughly enjoyed the 'Anthology' experience ... although the inclusion of several unnecessary snippets of dialogue does, in my view, slightly detract from the overall quality of the album.
The "Anthology" project was a major contribution to music - consisting of three double albums, new singles, a documentary series (The Beatles Anthology [DVD] ), and a book (The Beatles Anthology). It aimed to present the history of the Beatles, in a new an more intimate manner, in chronological order. This volume - consisting of 52 songs and 8 dialogue tracks (each of which I've separately reviewed) - was the first instalment of the project.
Included with the album is a deluxe 46 page booklet - providing information on the songs. If you're a fan of the Beatles, I thoroughly recommend this collection. If you're totally new to the Beatles then, while you may well enjoy this compilation, I'd suggest you first listen to the original Beatles studio albums (or perhaps the so-called 'Red' and 'Blue' double CD sets, featuring the greatest hits of the band - see The Beatles 1962 - 1966 (The Red Album) and The Beatles 1967 - 1970 (The Blue Album)).
Overall, a fantastic item which I highly recommend.
This first Anthology CD has lots of treasures, including the earliest recordings The Beatles made. The spoken word segments are interesting, I think. It is helpful that they have been assigned a track each, so that you don't have to listen to them every time you play the CD. A lot of the material was previously released on expensive bootleg recordings. These LPs, tapes and CDs were often marketed at about twice the price of commercial recodings, and were often only 15 minutes long. The sound quality of the Anthology is vastly superior and much much cheaper than those now superseded pirate recordings. Even if the Anthology series had not been produced, it would still be hard to sell those bootlegs in our peer-to-peer on-line environment. Some of my favourite tracks: Free As A Bird It is great to hear The Beatles together, even if one member was not able to appear personally. Real Love is a better song, but FAAB was a great introduction to the Anthology set, I think. Three Cool Cats and The Sheik of Araby are great fun. I love the "not 'arf!" in Sheik. How Do You Do It It is interesting to hear how The Beatles, however reluctantly, performed this song, later recorded by Gerry and The Pacemakers.P>One After 909 The alternative versions made available in this set are interesting and this one is a real gem. Leave My Kitten Alone is one of the best songs recorded, but not released by The Beatles. I'll Be Back is one several songs on the Anthology series which let us listen to The Beatles creating their masterpieces. It is great to hear this version with a different metre and feel, and The Beatles evaluation of their experiments. Not the best of the 3 sets, but well worth owning and listening to every once in a while.
The really seismic stuff was still to happen, of course - that's why I haven't bought this till now, when second hand copies have become very reasonable.
Two things strike me about it. One is how raw and exciting some of the live stuff is. The Kinks, The Who etc are credited with having pioneered the 'heavy' sound - but what did they really add to the power and energy shown here on numbers like Money (That's What I Want)?
The other is the breadth of the Beatles' musical interests, even back then: country, folk, doo-wop, soul and what I want to call 'lounge jazz' as well as rock'n'roll. The last, especially, stood them in good stead - you can see the connection between songs like 'Besame Mucho' or 'Till there was You', and the surprising agility between chord sequences, time signatures and tempi in their own early records. Some people will try and tell you there were loads of bands around at the time doing what the Beatles did; and that they just got lucky or had better management. I don't believe a flippin word of it. Even technically, they were way ahead of the average rock band then and now.
For the last few decades, bands have had the attitude that all they need is 'three chords and the truth'. (which of course also makes their lives, and the critics', a lot easier) The Beatles showed that you can convey the truth better if you have a few more chords. The astonishing odyssey that took them through Revolver, Sergeant Pepper and the white album had already started here.
These tracks will not do much to convert the Beatles-sceptic; but for anyone who loves the group, they do need to be heard. What they give you, which you don't get from the ordinary records, is the ebullient atmosphere of their rise to the top. This is a bunch of lads conquering the world with sheer good vibes - and beginning to change it in the process. And if you're jaded by the familiar, originally released versions, these will help you hear the songs afresh.
There's also the 'new' single, Free As a Bird. I don't think I'm capable of assessing it objectively; what it represents is just too poignant. But anyway, I like it.
For Beatles enthusiasts, the three anthologies which were released by Apple/EMI Records in 1995/1996 to tie-in with the 'The Beatles Anthology' eight-part television series are truly indispensable.
If you are looking for a collection which contains the timeless pop tunes which helped to change British culture forever, you should look into the following two boxsets instead: 1962-1966 [The Red Album] and 1967-1970 [The Blue Album], both of which have all of the essential singles, and songs you'll always hear played on the radio, These 'Anthology' series however, loaded with treats and rarities, are probably of the most interest to collectors, and genuine devotees.
If you fall into either one of the above categories, what you have on offer here are two CDs covering the period 1958–1964, with everything, mostly in chronological order. The opening track though, 'Free as a Bird', was originally composed and recorded in 1977, but never saw the light of day until this collection's release. The track was released as a single around the same time, peaking at no.2 in the UK charts in December '95, 25 years after the band had broken up.
Other previously unissued treasure on here includes alternative studio takes, home demos, short TV interviews, and exciting live recordings of songs we are already familiar with, and tunes which the four men never put to record, like the Isley Brothers' 'Shout'. We also have the chance to hear some excellent covers of R&B hits like 'Kansas City' and 'Hallelujah, I Love Her So'.
A wonderful bonus in each of these sets are the bumper booklets, containing detailed information about each of the recordings, and some excellent vintage photographs of the band from over their first period. With so much of real merit on offer, the Anthology albums are an excellent series for fans of John, Paul, George and Ringo, four talented men who gave us some of the best British music that has ever been written and composed. These aren't 'greatest hits' packages, their treasure troves.