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The Beatles - Anthology 3 CD (album) cover


The Beatles



3.72 | 89 ratings

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4 stars I must admit that it's impossible for me to be objective about The Beatles. I was an impressionable 14 year old when I experienced my personal coming-of-age epiphany whilst witnessing their American debut on Ed Sullivan in early '64 (Yes, I'm an aging boomer but I wouldn't want to be associated with any other generation) and in an instant all my questions about what the future held for me were answered big time. John, Paul, George and Ringo were going to collectively lead not just me but all of us into the musical Promised Land where all the restrictive fences were going to be torn down and ceremoniously torched in a blazing bonfire of revolution. No genre was taboo, no concept too strange and the sky was the limit. The atmosphere was indescribable. I can tell you this much, though. We had a ball reacting to their every move. Each new LP release by the Fab Four was a mind-expanding, celebratory event. Even conservative AM Top 40 radio stations would play EVERY cut on the album for weeks on end. Society at large was gleeful to be engulfed, inundated and influenced by the sounds The Beatles conjured up from their unbridled imaginations and unleashed on the world. It was a magical time to be a teenager in love with life-defining music. If you haven't a clue as to what I'm on about then I'm afraid I can't help you. I doubt that such a widespread phenomenon will ever be repeated on such an enormous scale so I reckon you had to be there. Nothing was ever the same again. Nothing.

The three anthology sets that coincided with the huge celebration of all things Beatles in the mid- 90s (that included the airing of an exhaustive network television documentary) were intended to make available all of the incidental recordings, rare tapes and demos that few had ever heard. The public ate up the packages like free surf and turf. The first collection portrayed them as youthful, eager overachievers who took full advantage of being in the right place in the right era with the right material and the right look. Of course, none of those factors would've made any difference if they hadn't have possessed an unassailable and undeniable talent for tapping into the yearnings and dreams of everyone under the age of 30 and brilliantly expressing them through the highly efficient and accessible vehicle known as rock & roll. Anthology 1 is a testament to their enthusiasm and ambition. #2 shows them to be fearless pioneers who refused to stay in their assigned niche and had no qualms about going wherever their muse led them. When faced with the realization that touring and playing live concerts had become detrimental to their creativity they did what no other entity would've had the guts to do (because of the income involved) and sold all of their luggage. The fully-stocked workshop that was the studio would now be the sole medium through which they'd communicate to the masses. Anthology 2 is an intriguing exploration into how an adventurous, progressive-minded quartet of gifted musicians was able to permanently alter the planet's rotation forevermore.

Anthology 3 completes the triathlon. It generally covers the last two years of the band's existence when the changes they initiated and championed in modern civilization eventually began to change them, as well. Their innocence was long gone and they'd found that the golden crown of adulation was heavier than anticipated. Yet they sensed they had a reputation to uphold and a responsibility to not let their legion of fans down. That constant pressure forced them to work in a tight cocoon together and, as to be expected, they began to cherish their time away from the conclave. These two CDs reveal their own unique personalities and artistic leanings coming to the surface independent of the "group" mentality. They knew what they sounded like as a cohesive unit, now they each wanted to find out what they sounded like as individuals. One of the misconceptions about this final period of The Beatles' career is that they couldn't stand one another's company. The 50 cuts included here dispel that rumor completely. One can't help but hear their boisterous camaraderie seeping into many of the tracks. The fact is, they couldn't have produced the stellar music they did if they'd been preoccupied with conniving ways to stab the guy next to them in the back all the time. Making the best music they could was their reason for living and they took their job quite seriously.

Of course, having George Martin as a mentor and advisor didn't hurt. That's why the opening piece, "A Beginning" is appropriate. It's a lush symphonic instrumental originally intended to serve as an intro to Ringo's goofy "Don't Pass Me By" on the White Album. It's obvious that the two didn't jive as a couple so Martin's score was jettisoned but, fortunately, not destroyed. Its inclusion is a lovely way to begin. Seven of the next eight selections were culled from homemade tapes recorded at George's house in Surrey. Having knocked the residents of the earth for a loop with the ground-breaking masterpiece that is "Sgt. Peppers," one gets the feeling that they were now more comfortable with and confident in their songwriting skills and they were willing to lay down every tune idea they came up with no matter how unorthodox or weird an outsider would've considered it to be. The best of this bunch is John's raw rendition of "Happiness is a Warm Gun." It's a ragged, incomplete outline to be sure but Lennon's raspy vocal riding atop his aggressive acoustic guitar strumming is convicting and real. "Junk," an unfinished melody idea of Paul's, displays a lot of potential but I guess it fell to the wayside. A pity. Harrison's "Piggies" showcases his uncannily mellow vocal style in its unaffected state and it's a treat. McCartney's nostalgic "Honey Pie" shamelessly demonstrates his enjoyment of the creative process that seemed to enrapture him at times. The rest of disc 1 (except for one cut) consists of demos they recorded in rehearsals at Abbey Road. Of special interest is the piano/vocal run-through of "Good Night." Mr. Starr's singing is especially unaffected and the orchestral score is gorgeous. "Sexy Sadie" sports an unexpectedly laid-back aura that surreptitiously underlines John's sarcastic skewering of their once-esteemed Indian guru. But the highlight is George's solo version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." It's an incredibly haunting presentation of his immaculate song that proudly stands on its own two feet without unnecessary decoration. "Not Guilty" is another Harrison-penned number that stayed hidden for eleven more years until he put it on his eponymous LP. It has a proggy slant that's worthy of note.

Disc 2 is a mixture of demos captured at the Abbey Road and Apple Studios. Most of the tracks are rough test runs but it's the screw-up moments that demonstrate their wit and nonchalant attitude that I've always found endearing. They knew that amazing tunes often grew from small ideas if they were only given the chance to sprout so little hiccups along the way didn't faze them in the least. It was all part of the process. Honorable mentions go out to Lennon's poignant rendition of "I'm So Tired," the group's loose but upbeat take on "I've Got a Feeling" that exudes pure elation, George's smooth-as-silk offering of "All Things Must Pass" that demonstrates his ongoing maturation as a composer of merit and the edgy vocal performance John delivers on "Come Together" that coats it with a truckload of grit. I've always loved Badfinger's breakthrough single, "Come and Get It," and it's a sweet bonus to get to hear Paul's original version that's almost as irresistible. The most astounding cut is the isolated, vocals-only track of "Because." Arranged by the master George Martin (and employed later on to raise the curtain on the engaging "Love" soundtrack), it's a marvel to behold. Their awesome blend of voices is ethereal and wholly captivating. I also appreciate the no-frills demo of "Let It Be" and it makes me wonder what it was like to hear one of the greatest songs of the modern age being unveiled for the first time ever. Lennon's complimentary remarks uttered when they finish the take says volumes. Even he was stunned by his partner's accomplishment. It's only fitting that they decided to exit with "The End" but the tacking on of a backwards rendering of the climactic piano chord on "A Day in the Life" was a stroke of absolute genius. Can't ask for more.

Like its predecessors, Anthology 3 went straight to #1 and didn't stop selling until it reached triple platinum status. Hard to believe that folks would gladly pay top dollar to have in their grasp an assortment of outtakes, coarse demos and snippets of tomfoolery from four lads from Liverpool, England but they weren't just anybody. These cuts had emanated from the one-and-only Beatles who rattled the universe with regularity throughout the turbulent but marvelous 60s. My humble opinion is that prog rock was destined to be an inevitable offshoot in the evolution of rock & roll but it would've been delayed in being nurtured, investigated and expanded by years if not for this spectacular band blowing the doors off the establishment's fortress. I make no apologies for indulging in every tidbit of Beatlemania I can wallow in because they did what other artists only dream of doing. Making an indelible mark in history that will never be duplicated. I was lucky enough to get to watch it happen before my very eyes. Perhaps no one's ever rocked you and your peers' world down to its core. My condolences. This group thoroughly transformed my life. Therefore I'll always be in their debt.

Chicapah | 4/5 |


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