Nice to see both of these released in a package together
Johnny Boy | Hockessin, DE | 02/18/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 1988, Capitol/Parlophone rereleased The Beatles' entire catalogue (well, the British albums anyway) onto CD. At the time of their releases onto compact disc, people loved them. They all sounded great, they thought. 'What a vast improvement this is to my vinyl' all were comments made at the time.
As the times changed, technology changed and vastly improved. Sound quality on Beatles issues started becoming vastly inferior to other reissues, and it began to irritate Beatles fans and music critics that The Beatles were not getting CD remasters, unlike many other artists of that era.
Finally, in 2009, 21 years after the first CD reissues of The Beatles' catalogue came out, The Beatles' finally got the treatment they have deserved. Their entire catalogue was remastered on compact disc. And, although I must admit, I only have but one remaster (as of February 18, 2010, that being 'Sgt. Pepper'), I have heard most of them, and let me tell you, they sound INCREDIBLE. Forget the 1980s CD reissues. THESE 2009 remasters are the ones to get if you are a new Beatles fan.
Now, enough with me boasting about the CD remasters. It's time for me to review to product on hand.
It was nice to have all of the original British records in on CD, but part of what made The Beatles great were their non-album singles. Many of their essential songs did not appear on any of their records, and it was quite nice to have them on CD again. They were not included on the albums as bonus tracks. Instead, Parlophone released 'Past Masters, Vol. 1,' collecting their first three years on Capitol (1962-1965) and 'Past Masters, Vol. 2,' which collects their latter day singles (1966-1969).
I have always thought that these should be reissued as one little package together as a two CD set. And finally, along with the other albums, in 2009, 'Past Masters' was remastered and re-released into a two CD set, something that is long overdue.
Now, to the review.
'PAST MASTERS, VOL. 1'
Review: This is, in my opinion (although believe me, this was a tough call) probably the weaker of the two volumes. This is The Beatles during their early years, although towards the very end of the disc, you can hear The Beatles maturing musically and giving a foretaste of things to come. The first track on this disc is the single version of 'Love Me Do,' released in 1962. This features Ringo Starr on drums (this is actually quite different than the version that is typically featured on Beatles compilations; that version was featured on the 1963 'Please Please Me' album and featured British session pro Andy White on drums, and Ringo only on tambourine). This also features early songs like 'I Want to Hold Your Hand,' 'She Loves You' and 'Thank You Girl,' three of their best early songs.
It's also interesting to hear two German-sung versions of 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' and 'She Loves You.' The Beatles were not the only band to rerecord a song in the German language; The Beach Boys also rerecorded their hit 'In My Room' in the German language as well. These are interesting, but were clearly included for the Beatles collector as opposed to the casual fan.
But the highlights of this disc come at the very tail end. 'She's A Woman,' 'Long Tall Sally,' 'Bad Boy' and 'Yes It Is' (why John Lennon hated this song is beyond me) are among the best songs of theirs from 1965 (and believe me, there were two studio albums worth of material in 1965, but that's a different review).
While this isn't as strong as 'Vol. 2,' this is a very good disc. It's the early Beatles, and it's very interesting, actually. You can hear the Beatles mature throughout the disc, as I stated earlier. They were experimenting with several different styles of music ('She's A Woman' is very much a 1950s-R&B influenced track, and McCartney proves how much Little Richard influenced him), something they would do frequently, especially during the next two years. This is a recommended listen for a seasoned or new Beatles fan. My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
'PAST MASTERS, VOL. 2'
Review: On this disc, you will hear The Beatles' single releases from 1966-1969. As I've mentioned several times, this is the superior disc of the two volumes. It starts off with 'Day Tripper,' a song about an LSD trip (or so I've heard) and 'We Can Work It Out,' two songs that were non-album singles in the UK but did appear on the 'Yesterday...And Today' album in the United States. These songs both reached #1, and rightfully so. The Beatles, as they proved here, were no longer a "Beat group from Liverpool."
As this disc goes on, you'll hear The Beatles as they enter their psychedelic rock phase. 'The Inner Light,' a George Harrison composition that is heavily sitar-driven, is a song that is quite interesting, and also showed Harrison's fascination with world music. It's a great song indeed; if I'm not mistaken, I think he's the only Beatle that appears on this track. It appeared as the b-side to 'Lady Madonna.'
Speaking of 'Lady Madonna,' that also appears here as well. It was yet another smash hit for the Fab Four; this was also a #1 single for the band. It's piano driven, and it shows the band as they are starting to move away from the psychedelic rock genre and back into the pure rock sound.
Perhaps the most beautiful and moving song in The Beatles' entire catalogue is 'Hey Jude.' This song was written by Paul McCartney in 1968 to comfort John Lennon's son, Julian, as his parents were divorcing. The song is incredibly uplifting, and it's not only one of The Beatles' best songs, but one of the best songs of all-time in my opinion. Why this didn't appear on an album is beyond me. (Note: In 1970, Capitol Records released a compilation album of rarities in America, entitled 'Hey Jude (or The Beatles Again).')
Now, we have two singles that were intended for release on the aborted 'Get Back' album, which was supposed to be produced by Glyn Johns. The title track and 'Don't Let Me Down' were both released as singles in 1969, and are among my favorite Beatles songs. They're just so rocking, unlike anything else in their catalogue.
Some new fans may be asking why 'Let It Be' appears here, after it appeared on an album (it even had an album named after it in 1970). This is the single version, released in 1969. Producer Phil Spector remixed the track to have a more "stinging" guitar effect for the album. This version is probably the better version, if you ask me.
As you all know, The Beatles disbanded in 1970 shortly after the release of the 'Let It Be' album, and all chances of a Beatles reunion died when John Lennon was shot and killed in December 1980.
Overall, 'Past Masters, Vol. 2' is an outstanding compilation of some of The Beatles' most interesting tracks that should have been released on studio albums, but weren't. Every song here is worthy of a billion stars, and it's the better of the two volumes (although not by much). My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
This disc is highly recommended for any Beatles fan. Regardless if you are new or a longtime fan of the Fab Four, buy this 2009 two-disc remaster/reissue. The sound quality is slamming, and everything here is essential material.
Highly, highly recommended.