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Putting a Few Curves in the Long, Winding Road : THE BEATLES "Anthology Apple3" (***)

ALBUM REVIEW / POP

October 29, 1996|ROBERT HILBURN

With what is billed as the "third and final" installment in the "Beatles Anthology" series due today, it's not too early to begin placing bets on when Apple will announce the next phase in the most successful reissue campaign in recording history. You can be sure this isn't the last time the John-Paul-George-Ringo carrot will be dangled before us.

The two-disc package arrives with a triumphant ad campaign, quoting a line from the London Observer: "In 1996 the Beatles have achieved what every group since them has failed to do: become bigger than the Beatles."

The ad notes that the Beatles, through the anthologies and original studio albums, have sold some 35 million units in the last year.

"Anthology 3"--drawn from the quartet's "White Album," "Let It Be" and "Abbey Road" periods--should add substantially to that total even though it's clear by now that the demo tracks, alternative versions and other material in the series is something you might just listen to once and then put on the shelf while you play the original versions of the songs.

Even with the sales, this Beatles invasion has not begun to define the cultural and social agenda the way the band once did. The most revealing moment on "3," perhaps, is a version of "Hey Jude" that reminds you of the pure excellence of the group. This treatment is so raw that it would have been unthinkable to release it in the '60s, yet there is something so magical about the song and Paul McCartney's vocal that it would have no doubt become an anthem even in this version.

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