The king of compilations has to be The Beatles Anthology; no other album has ever come close to cataloging the dazzling musical career of the Fab Four. Three double albums were released to accompany a fine tuned documentary and dazzling book in 1995. Beautifully packaged and bursting with outtakes, demos and bootlegs the Anthology collection is an immense playground for Beatles fans.
The Anthology is broken down into three parts. Anthology 1 contains ‘Free as a Bird’ the latest musical offering from McCartney, Harrison and Starr based upon one of John Lennon’s unfinished recordings. It was certainly a buyer’s hook to hear new music from the band decades after their tear jerking split. Yet Anthology 1 is a mixed bag of goodies; the emphasis seems to be on showcasing their 50’s rock and roll era with the Hamburg sessions in place and even some rare glimpses into ex Beatles members Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe. From the all-out raucous rock and roll to the soft flamenco twang of Besame Mucho, this is a whirlwind ride back into the past and gives a new edge of nostalgia to the notorious mop tops. It’s certainly not a beginner’s album, but fans will lap it up with a silver spoon and feel satiated.
Before the Beatles second coming could die down we were hit again with the next installment in the form of Anthology 2. The theme of this album seems less interested in showcasing bootlegs and more focused on letting us into the studio to hear the material pieced together. Anthology 2 opens up with another jeweled gift; a reunion cut called Real love, again pieced together from the past and handed over as a new song. The second installment has been dubbed by Rolling Stone as The Beatles Unplugged as you get to hear some all too familiar songs in their rawest form. The men behind the music pepper almost every song as you strain your ear to catch the verbal outtakes. Again Anthology 2 is a fans endless summer providing an enticing look into the development of The Beatles.
The last gift in the package takes us to Anthology 3; this is the end of the line, the last stop in The Beatles long and glorious career. With no less than 50 tracks it’s an opulent feast where each individual Beatle comes to life. By Anthology 3 you stop seeing the Fab Four and start seeing independently inspired solo artists. There are no live acts to be found as this was the period when the Fab Four had stopped all tours. Instead we are treated to first takes, solo demos and lots of adlibs. Arguably this is the best of the rest, the perfect final farewell album to those shining stars we called The Beatles.
The Beatles remain a pot of gold at the end of a musical rainbow; of course Beatles merchandise has been stuffed down our throats in every way shape and form. Yet the Anthology remains a purist offering. It seems it’s there to do more than strip fans of their last dime. It provides a beautiful piece of musical heritage, and reminds the world of the legacy The Beatles left behind.