THE BEATLES ANTHOLOGY
Review by Michael Jacobson
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr
Director: Geoff Wonfor
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, PCM Stereo
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio: Apple Corps
Features: See Review
Length: 593 Minutes
Release Date: April 1, 2003
need to be afraid,
need to be alone,
don’t know what can be said about The Beatles that hasn’t been said before,
so let me begin on a personal note…
up in the 70s and 80s, The Beatles were no more, but like ripples in a pond from
a stone being dropped, the waves of influence were still apparent (they even are
to this day). You still heard their
music everywhere. I knew of them as
much as anybody my age did, but I didn’t really discover them fully until my
high school years.
with my fellow musicians, enthusiasts, and best friends Norm and Mark, I plunged
into the slowly-but-surely emerging compact disc re-releases of the group’s
CDs. The hits we knew well, of
course, but we were more fascinated by their later, more experimental and more
musically daring pieces. We’d
spend hours together or apart listening and re-listening to these classics of
rock and roll that shaped and defined a generation that existed while we were
just coming into the world.
were happy days, indeed. And my
love for The Beatles has never dissipated.
Which brings me nicely to another happy day in my life as a Beatles
fan…the long awaited release of the 10 hour Anthology on DVD.
originally aired on ABC television back in 1994 as three nights of 2 hour
programming, but became something of a legend when it hit laser disc in its
expanded form. It was an audacious
piece of work and an incomparable amassing of footage.
No narration guided the movie; everything was in the words of The Beatles
themselves and their close associates in both new and vintage interview
segments. Live clips featuring the
lads at their youngest (Hamburg and the Cavern Club), at their happiest (Ed
Sullivan and the Royal Command Performance), and at their discontent (the
Philippines and their finale at Candlestick Park) are here, but often expanded
to include several full song performances.
music is, of course, what the group and this documentary are all about.
The songs you know and love are here, but there are also plenty of
rarities for the rabid fans. Want to hear early Hamburg recordings with Pete Best on
drums? How about an early home
recording of Paul and John at about ages 14 and 15 respectively?
The demo that eventually landed them their recording deal and partnership
with George Martin? Or how about famous songs in development…like “I’ll Be
Back” in waltz time instead of common, or “Norwegian Wood” in a different
key? How about “The Long and
Winding Road” without Phil Spector’s orchestration?
Man, it’s ALL here.
can’t speak for the casual Beatles fan…for them, 10 hours might be overkill.
But for those like me for whom this band’s music shaped their
imaginations and ideas, and inspired them into making music for themselves, this
is like the world’s biggest ice cream sundae that you can eat and eat and eat
from, and never get full, fat or sick.
if the Anthology is a sundae, then the cherry on top is the inclusion of
two new (at the time) Beatles songs. “Free
As a Bird” and “Real Love” were home recordings of John Lennon that were
turned into full blown band numbers thanks to modern technology and the
irreplaceable input of Paul, George and Ringo. The former is a nice tune with a great video to go along with
it. The latter, “Real Love”,
still occasionally brings tears to my eyes.
It proved that the lads from Liverpool could still make magic…even if
it was for the last time.
the story of the group isn’t overlooked here, of course.
From their childhood days to their break-up (this truly is the BEATLES
anthology; it doesn’t go into their solo years or the loss of John), this is
as complete and thorough a documentary as can possibly be produced on the Fab
Four. The rise of Beatlemania is
well documented, as well as its eventual backlash, plus the evolution of the
group from a touring outfit into a studio one.
Everything is included, from their highs to their lows, from their humble
beginnings to their sad ending. I
cherished every minute of it, and had it been twice as long, I wouldn’t have
loved it any less.
NOTE: I want to dedicate
this review to four special people. Two
are no longer with us, and the world has been an emptier place without
them…John and George, I miss you both, but I know in my heart that where you
now dwell, the music never dies.
finally, to Mark and Norm, my best friends in music and in life, who helped me
learn my appreciation of The Beatles and made my life more enjoyable because of
it. Real Love to you both, always.
hard to put into words the amazement I felt looking at the Anthology.
It combines new and old footage, as mentioned, but what really
impressed me was the effort that must have gone into the cleaning up of the
historical clips! As a Beatles fan,
I’d seen quite a few of them before, but never in this good a shape!
Some bits, like the Cavern Club footage, still show a bit of age, but the
improvement is still remarkable. The
Shea Stadium footage looks better than ever, as did the Ed Sullivan bits and the
world wide broadcast of “All You Need is Love”.
That last bit was beautifully colorized, too, and while I normally
condemn the practice of adding color to films that were originally black and
white, for the Beatles and that number, it seemed highly appropriate…and no
one can argue with how good it looks.
modern pieces were all done well, of course, and feature varying settings, from
the lads’ homes and studios to outdoor night scenes with Paul by campfire and
such. Overall, this set looks as
good as fans could hope for, and maybe even better.
bliss…it was gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh, to steal a phrase!
The Dolby Digital and DTS remixes are flat out amazing, and I’m now
convinced a Beatles’ fan hasn’t lived until he’s heard some of these
legendary recordings come to life in full digital surround…even the early mono
recordings sound live and fleshed out! The dynamic range created by the music was SO strong I had
turn my receiver way down from the opening strains of “In My Life” on disc
one…but lowering the volume didn’t dampen the experience in any way.
rest of the disc is mostly dialogue oriented, and all audio from vintage to
current sounds clean and well presented, but the music is never far away.
I’m somewhat at a loss for words overall…I can only say that you
won’t be disappointed.
discs contain the feature, and the fifth disc in the set is bonus material.
The recollections of Paul, George and John is a terrific piece, as the
old friends share memories, and…better still…make some music together.
Whether it’s a rendition of “Blue Moon of Kentucky” or re-enacting
a furniture commercial, when those guys got behind their instruments, they made
look at the compiling of the Anthology CDs features interviews with the
group and George Martin, discussing the trip down memory lane through countless
hours of outtakes, first runs and rarities.
A 1995 look at Abbey Road Studios brings The Beatles back to place where
they captured most of their magic to tape.
There is even a look at the recording of the two new tracks with the band
and producer Jeff Lynne.
production team discusses the enormous effort in making this 10 hour features,
while video director Joe Pytka discusses the making of the incredible “Free As
a Bird” video.
this disc includes the video for “Real Love”, while the aforementioned
“Free As a Bird” one is at the end of disc four.
No commentary tracks are needed; as mentioned, the band and their
associates actually do “narrate” the program in their own words through new
and archival footage. This is an