THE BEATLES -- Anthology 1 (Capitol)

One of the most eagerly awaited new releases in several months is the first in a series of three double-CDs from The Beatles, "Anthology 1". For the first time in 25 years, we have a "new" Beatles song -- the John Lennon-penned "Free as a Bird". Using an unfinished demo tape recorded by Lennon circa 1977 as the foundation, producer Jeff Lynne added instrumentation and vocal tracks by the three remaining Beatles to create the song. Unfortunately, the song doesn't live up to all the hype that was surrounding it. Is it interesting? Yes. Will you listen to it more than a few times? Probably not. The rest of the collection, however, is well worth the wait.

The remaining tracks on "Anthology 1" are made up of rare, unreleased demos, outtakes, rehearsals & live performances -- commercially available for the first time. Some of the cuts that really stand out are a Paul McCartney/George Harrison song performed live by the Quarry Men in 1958, a newly discovered recording of "You Know What to Do" (the second song ever written by Harrison), five live songs from the failed Decca audition, two songs from the first audition for George Martin, and the rocking cover of Little Willie John's "Leave My Kitten Alone". The packaging for "Anthology 1" is first rate. It comes with a 48-page booklet, and includes an introduction by the band's press officer, Derek Taylor. Extensive liner notes were written for each of the 60 tracks on the CDs by Mark Lewisohn. The cover art was designed by long time Beatles associate, Klaus Voormann (who also did the cover for "Revolver").

Some of the more entertaining tracks on the CD include five songs in excellent quality performed for Swedish radio in 1963, an unfinished version of "And I Love Her", and take two of "Can't Buy Me Love" with Paul messing up the lyrics. Other highlights on "Anthology 1" include takes two and three of "I'll Be Back" (which show how quickly the band could change direction in their songwriting), and the false starts on "Eight Days a Week" and "One After 909". If you like The Beatles, this is an essential addition to your CD collection.

© 1996 Steve Marshall