The Beatles – Past Masters, Volume Two

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 6)

Do I have anything left to say about the Beatles? No. I haven’t spent much time with the solo stuff. Harrison, as it turns out, had some pretty good songs (“Devil’s Radio,” anyone?); McCartney’s career was the most disappointing, probably, indulging his worst impulses (though as a rule, I don’t have a problem with silly love songs); Ringo’s work was predictably fluffy but fun; and John’s career I actually enjoy the least (though it’s also the material I have the least amount of familiarity with). As for this mop-up comp, Volume One didn’t interest me in the slightest, but this is a pretty strong collection of 1965 and beyond material.

What I Think of This Album

“Day Tripper” has a clever riff (doubled on the bass), great tambourine, and fun lyrics. Not a major song in the catalogue, but a pretty good one. “We Can Work It Out” is a bit too reminiscent of early Beatles for my tastes; I like the harmonium and the change of feel during parts of the song. Excellence returns on “Paperback Writer.” An amazing vocal intro, fantastic riff (played by Paul), cool bass part, the “frere jacque” backing vocal, the overall rushed tempo and the cool vocal effects all are standout features of this superb track. Otherworldly “Rain” has some excellent drumming, as well as a great bass line and thrumming guitars, plus the backwards vocals – a first on a recording; a great drug song that could’ve been on Revolver. “Lady Madonna” is beset by really stupid lyrics, and the piano is jaunty to the point of being annoying (this is reportedly intended to be a tribute to Fats Domino). The horns are cool, admittedly. This sounds very much like a White Album-era piece. “The Inner Light” casts a shadow over the proceedings. I really have no interest in Harrison’s spiritual beliefs.

Needless to say, “Hey Jude” is fantastic. A Paul ballad that, naturally, features a backing orchestra but, less naturally, also has the rest of the Beatles contributing on their usual instruments. I don’t care for Paul’s bluesy vocals on the lengthy outro, but so be it. Of the three “Revolution”s, I prefer “Revolution 1” – I really like the slow shuffle and backing vocals – then this version comes in second (with a distinctly rawer sound and loads of distorted guitar), and in distant third is “Revolution 9.” As with the earlier “Taxman,” this rare bit of Beatles political positioning is fairly distasteful. I have no stomach for a millionaire assuring the oppressed that everything is “gonna be alright” and that they should in no circumstances resort to violence. I am sure all that the Algerians, Vietnamese, Irish, Angolans, Indonesians, etc. would have had to do to reclaim their countries from their imperial colonizers was to simply ask politely and wait. I guess we’ll never know.

“Get Back” is pretty cool, with some fine drumming from Ringo. I’m not a fan of the blues, and particularly not of blues-based rock, and I also don’t think the Beatles do it very credibly, so I pass on the turgid “Don’t Let Me Down.” “The Ballad of John and Yoko” is a loose-limbed song with a great melody. It’s fun that this is just John and Paul doing everything themselves. “Christ, you know it ain’t easy,” indeed. Another Harrison contribution, “Old Brown Shoe” is inoffensive lite-Dylan; I neither like it nor dislike it. The guitar part is alright, and Harrison does an excellent job on the bass. “Across the Universe” is a thoroughly pleasant song – how else can you describe it? I think it has a sort of underwater sound – the warbly harmony vocals border on odd. And “Let It Be.” I mean, c’mon. Astonishing music, but sort of simplistic lyrically. Perhaps the most fun track here, “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)”  – with Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones on saxophone – is surprising, silly and carefree. Completely unnecessary but somehow entertaining; the grunting vocal at the end reminds me a little of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.

The Best Thing About This Album

I’ve always loved “Paperback Writer,” though the guitars on “Revolution” deserve an honorable mention, as does “Rain.”

Release Date

March, 1988

The Cover Art

Meh. I don’t really expect a lot from a record company comp like this anyway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑