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Insight into the creative process for 'Beatles addicts', but for the more casual listener go the Red and Blue albums
on 27 November 2016
Released in 1996, this 2 CD anthology covers the period February 1965 to February 1968 when the Fab Four were at their creative peak: covering the albums/EPs of Help, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt Pepper’s and Magical Mystery Tour. CD 1 contains five live tracks, taken from two performances in August 1965 before they stopped touring. The rest of the CDs comprise previously unreleased first takes and variant takes of songs that the group and ‘Fifth Beatles’ George Martin went on to develop and rearrange for the released versions. There are three unreleased songs, all from 1965: ’12 Bar Original’ (an instrumental), ‘If You’ve Got Trouble’ and ‘That Means a Lot’ – in all cases it is not surprising they did not ‘make the cut’ for the Help and Rubber Soul albums. As was the case with Anthology 1 (‘Free as a Bird’), Anthology 2 includes one substantially new track: ‘Real Love’, which adds to the vocals taken from a 1979 John Lennon demo instrumentation by the (then) remaining three Beatles added instrumentation. This song has a nice melody, but I would have much preferred a George Martin reworking rather than Jeff Lynne’s mushy production here. It's inclusion seems to be more of a marketing gimmick. Anthology 2 provides interesting insights into how songs such as ‘Strawberry Fields’ and ‘I Am the Walrus’ developed from very sparse beginnings into the full multi-instrumental glory of their final released version. But, by doing so, it highlights two things. First, the key to The Beatles success was their ability to develop song ideas and, with the arrangement skills of George Martin, develop them into pop-rock perfection: none of the first or variant takes on Anthology 2 is superior to the final version. Second, with The Beatles releasing four albums and an EP in this 36 months period, virtually all the songs they wrote found their way to record: there are no hidden gems of unreleased songs hiding away in the vaults. The Anthology series give a fascinating insight into The Beatles creative process and is of great interest for ‘Beatles addicts’. But for the more casual listener who wants to hear Beatles songs in their finest versions, best to go straight to the Red, Blue and individual original albums.