Classic Rock Review

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The Beatles Anthology 3 (1996)


And again we’re exposed to a flood of ‘musical skeletons’. Disc 1 is pretty much the White Album complete, with minor omissions due to disk space, and it’s chock-full of uninteresting, dull, sloppy versions which would have been brilliant were they not completely obliterated by their elaborate peers on original releases. Who needs a quiet acoustic ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’? Interesting… but no keyboards? No Clapton solos? No George wailings in the background? Who needs it? Not me. I mean, it’s a good start if you’re planning to learn how to play this kind of thing, and it is moving in quite a different way, but the definitive version will always be the definitive version. What is the point to listen to half-finished, raw versions of ‘Rocky Raccoon’ or ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’, or listen to an overlong version of ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?’.

Nice to know ‘Mean Mr Mustard’ and ‘Polythene Pam’ began life as possible candidates for the White Album as well, though. Still, this is rather a good treat for historians than for music fans. Likewise, historians will be pleased at the hilarious “tame” demo version of ‘Helter Skelter’, with just a timid guitar rhythm track and cute little drum fills from Ringo, far from the ‘I got blisters on my fingers!’ hysterics. Or they’ll be pleased at the gentle acoustic version of ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road’ featuring Paul having a lot of fun with his voice, modulating it in as many ways as possible. (All the greater is the fact that he settled down on just two or three different intonations in the final version, which saved it from looking way too self-indulgent.) And they’ll be certainly pleased at the first disc ending off with John playing a near-acoustic version of ‘Julia’ and shouting ‘Couldn’t I go from there? ‘Cause that was almost perfect!’.

Still, there is some actively good news as well, in that overall there’s a bit more previously unreleased material than on the second volume. George’s sad, melancholic, confessional ‘Not Guilty’ is at the least entertaining; it’s kinda clumsy and doesn’t hold up well, but it has enough quality to have been later resuscitated for his 1978 album, although it did not do much there. John’s ‘What’s The New Mary-Jane’ is certainly fun and could have been a ten tons better contribution for the White Album than ‘Revolution 9’ ever was: a groovy psycho number that starts out as a nursery rhyme and goes on to become a scary, creepy sound collage. Finally, Paul’s ‘Step Inside Love’ is a pretty ditty, chunking off in a mellow tempo before the band goes drooning in a psychedelic schizophrenia (‘Los Paranoias’). But that’s about it.

Disc 2 gives us insight into the Let It Be and Abbey Road sessions, and believe me, you won’t be tremendously excited about hearing it over and over, either. Sure, Phil Spector’s ‘wall-of-sound’ production is missing, and a lot of people rave about ‘The Long And Winding Road’ sounding a lot greater without the orchestral background. Could be. Could be not. Me, I personally don’t feel the need for another version, I quite enjoy the original. Here, the standouts are ‘Come And Get It’, an interesting McCartney product which was later relegated to Badfinger who performed it in the exact same way, and some rock’n’roll jams which you can also see live in the Let It Be movie.

Again, I think it’s much more interesting to see the movie where you can really see the boys take off their load and engage in some mindless fun, forgetting about their problems. Here, on the other side, the only thing you notice is the displeasant sloppiness of these numbers. Come on now, the boys were just banging on their pianos and wailing out the lyrics to ‘Rip It Up’ and ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ that they probably haven’t played for six or seven years already. Why this stuff ought to have been extracted from bootlegs and offered to the general Beatles’ lover is way beyond me. ‘Nuff said.

Other than that, there are also some interesting demo versions of songs which would later become solo Beatle songs: Paul’s ‘Junk’ and ‘Teddy Boy’ were later included on McCartney, and George’s ‘All Things Must Pass’, sure enough, on All Things Must Pass. If you like ’em, be sure to get these albums! They’re as good as any Beatles disc… well, here I am – talking of solo Beatles instead of the Anthologies. Pure chance?

Nah. I mean, if you’re really objective and if you’re Beatles-obsessed, you would do yourself a much better job to grab the best of the Beatles’ solo albums before even thinking of getting the Anthologies. If you ask me, indeed, I’ll say that all this crazy hype did nothing but ruin the Beatles’ reputation. At least, these archives should not be marketed under slogans like ‘the lost great Beatles’ legacy’ or something like that, but with a severe warning to fans that these records are documents, not new records. As it is, I suppose many an ignorant fan of ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Michelle’ has shelled out his money for nothing.

On the other hand, I think that, with a little (ok, with a huge) editing, you could tape off the best of the new material, outtakes and live performances to make a really good 90-minute tape or a superb 45-minute tape, which you’ll be sure to enjoy just as fine as your average Beatles album. And don’t forget to put ‘Cry For A Shadow’, ‘That Means A Lot’ and ‘Come And Get It’ on it!

May 8, 2013 Posted by | The Beatles Anthology 3 | | Leave a comment