Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 2/18/10.
With new formats to present music coming in such new places and times, every artist often takes the advantage of the new technology. When the CD emerged in the 1980s, it was something new though for artists that came out before the new format. It gave them a chance to upgrade their old music for their fans along with new ones. The Beatles however, came in quite late in the game as it was often due to legal issues with their label EMI as well as some publishing issues when the Lennon/McCartney songs along with pre-1968 material that George Harrison and Ringo Starr contributed was sold for $47 million to Michael Jackson after outbidding Paul McCartney in 1985.
So when the Beatles catalog finally was set to come out in the new CD format in 1987, fans were excited as the U.K. albums were finally release to the public. Another package that came with the studio albums was a two-disc compilation that consisted of the band's non-LP singles, B-sides, the entire Long Tall Sally EP, and alternate versions of songs that were released as singles. The collection filled with more than 95-minutes of music in a two-disc set entitled Past Masters.
Past Masters is a compilation that chronicles the Beatles' non-album recordings from 1962 to 1970 in an expansive, two-disc set. With the first disc featuring material from 1962 to 1965 which includes singles, B-sides, a song from a U.S. album, two tracks recorded for a German single, and four tracks from the U.K. only Long Tall Sally EP. The second disc features material from late 1965 to 1970 consisting of singles, B-sides, and an alternate version of Across The Universe that was recorded for a charity album. All produced by George Martin with a majority of songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney plus two tracks by George Harrison including numerous covers. It is truly one of the best compilation material that explores the Beatles evolution as a singles act.
Opening the compilation is an original single version of Love Me Do featuring Ringo Starr on drums instead of session drummer Andy White on drums that appears in the album Please Please Me. While it's largely similar to the album except it doesn't feature a soft tambourine performance in the background, it is still a remarkable first single that features Starr playing a steady, mid-tempo drum fill to accompany John Lennon's soothing harmonica. From Me To You, the band's first number one hit single in the U.K., is an upbeat track with wailing, melodic vocal harmonies from Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison as Lennon and McCartney sing poignant lyrics of love. Featuring a bouncy, tapping drum fill from Starr with McCartney's bumping bass line and driving guitar riffs from Lennon and Harrison, the song includes a wailing harmonica solo from Lennon as it also includes some crisp production work by George Martin.
Thank You Girl, a B-side to From Me To You, is a driving, upbeat rocker with washy guitar riffs from Lennon and Harrison with Starr's bopping drum beats and McCartney's soft bass work. With Lennon singing the song with McCartney joining on harmony vocals, the song's lyrics shows some gratitude from the Beatles to their early female fans as it includes some pummeling drum fills from Starr. She Loves You is an upbeat, rousing song with a famous chorus of "she loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah" with driving guitars and a bouncy rhythm courtesy of Starr's pummeling drums as Lennon and McCartney sing poignant, innocent lyrics of teenage love. With Harrison's ringing guitar washes, it is without a doubt, one of the band's most quintessential singles. The B-side to that song, I'll Get You is a mid-tempo track led by Lennon's harmonica as he sings lead with McCartney on harmony vocals. With a bouncy rhythm led by Starr's tapping hi-hat cymbal and drum fills that is followed by Harrison's driving guitar, the song has somber lyrics of naive love as it is one of the band's fantastic B-sides.
The band's U.S. breakthrough single in I Want To Hold Your Hand with its driving guitar riff with swanky, ringing notes by Harrison and a bouncy beat led by Starr's pummeling drum fills. The song is sung by Lennon and McCartney in a simple plea of love as it features some superb, layered production by George Martin. The U.K. B-side to that track in This Boy, a ballad led by washy, spurting guitar by Harrison with Lennon's soft acoustic performance as Lennon, Harrison, and McCartney sing melancholic lyrics with Starr's soft, shimmering hi-hat taps in the background. Lennon sings a lead part with his anguished yet somber vocals as it is one of the band's best ballads. The next two tracks are part of a German single release in tribute to the band's early years when they started out playing clubs in Hamburg. The first is a German-sung version of I Want To Hold Your Hand entitled Komm Gib Mir Dien Hand as it a fantastic version with the band singing in German. The second German version in the single is She Loves You entitled Sie Liebt Dich that is exactly like its rousing, English counterpart.
The next four tracks are from the band's June 1964 EP entitled Long Tall Sally that features three covers and an original song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Opening that EP is the title track that is a famed Little Richard song. With McCartney singing in a growling vocal style with bopping rhythms from his bumping bass and Starr's rumbling drum fills with rousing guitar riffs from the band including a rousing piano to give the track a raucous feel that is a noteworthy tribute to Little Richard. I Call Your Name is a recreation of a song the Lennon and McCartney wrote for Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas. With Harrison's ringing guitar and Starr's bouncy drum fill with a tapping cowbell performance, Lennon sings the song with his washy guitar and McCartney's bumping bass line. The song is filled with melancholic lyrics as it includes a rousing, ringing guitar solo from George Harrison showcasing the band's ability to re-create one of their own songs.
Larry Williams' Slow Down is a rousing, upbeat track led by a flourishing, 12-bar blues piano performed by George Martin with Starr's rapid, pulsating drum fill as it features driving guitars and Lennon's growling vocals. It is one of the band's remarkable covers as they pay tribute to one of their favorite songwriters. The last track of the EP is a cover of Carl Perkins' Matchbox that is sung by Ringo Starr with his drawling vocals and a steady, bouncy drum track with growling guitars from Lennon and Harrison. Featuring George Martin on a flourishing piano track and McCartney on a wobbly bass, the song includes Lennon playing a ringing solo with Harrison on a washy 12-string guitar. The single I Feel Fine opens with a bit of feedback from McCartney's bass as it is then led by ringing, melodic guitar tracks as Lennon sings the song with Starr's bouncy, bass-pounding drum fills. Featuring poignant lyrics about heartbreak, the song is one of the band's most inventive thanks to a famed, arpeggio-laden riff that is performed by Harrison as it also features tempo changes from Starr's drums.
The B-side to that track is She's A Woman that opens with swanky guitar riffs and Starr's bopping beat with jangly cymbal crashes as McCartney sings the song with growling vocals. Featuring haunting lyrics about a woman, the song has McCartney playing a soft piano accompaniment as the song's tempo picks up a bit with Starr's tapping cymbals and McCartney's rousing bass line. From the U.S. album Beatles VI is a cover of Larry Williams' Bad Boy is an upbeat, guitar-driven track with Lennon's growling vocals singing snarling lyrics as Harrison plays a ringing, double-tracked guitar solo with McCartney's driving bass line and Starr's pummeling, bopping drum fill.
Next is a B-side track from the Ticket To Ride single in the love ballad Yes It Is. With a swooning, ringing guitar track from Harrison with double-tracked vocal harmonies from Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison with somber lyrics of heartbreak. The song also includes a slow yet steady drum fill from Starr maintaining the song's melancholic tone as it features a solo singing section from Lennon singing with anguished vocals as it's another of the band's fantastic B-sides. The closing track of the first half of the Past Masters is another B-side in the song I'm Down from the single for Help! A rocking track led by McCartney's growling vocals and wobbly bass line with driving guitars from Lennon and Harrison. Along with Starr's bopping drum track with pummeling bass fills, the song features rousing lyrics that includes a ringing guitar solo from Harrison and wailing organ tracks by Lennon as it is a fantastic, raucous rocker.
Opening the second half of the collection is Day Tripper, an upbeat track that opens with a snarling guitar riff by John Lennon that is supported by Ringo Starr's pummeling yet steady drum fill. Lennon and Paul McCartney sing the song with playful lyrics as Harrison fills in with a driving guitar riff with McCartney's bouncy bass line. The other A-side track from that same single is the mid-tempo We Can Work It Out as it is a song with a fast-driving guitar track with Starr's bopping rhythms. McCartney sings the track filled with optimistic lyrics with concern about the state of the world while Lennon sings a verse with a more cynical view about life as he accompanies the track with a swooning harmonium. The single Paperback Writer is a bouncy rocker with Harrison's drone-heavy guitar riff and McCartney's loopy bass line as Starr plays a steady yet hard-hitting drum fill. Featuring some great backing vocals from Lennon and Harrison, McCartney sings the song filled with a narrative-driven lyrics that shows the band progressing into their lyric themes.
The B-side to that song is the experimental Rain that is led by Starr's bouncy but pummeling drum fill and Harrison's swirling guitar riff with McCartney's bumping bass line. Lennon sings in a snarling vocal filled with mesmerizing lyrics as McCartney and Harrison sing backing vocals. Filled with reverb echoes and backward guitar loops, it is one of the band's most spectacular tracks that pushes the boundaries of pop music. Lady Madonna is an upbeat, piano-driven track led by McCartney's growling, bluesy vocals about a fascinating woman. Featuring Starr's bouncy drums and driving guitars from Lennon and Harrison, it's one of the band's playful singles as it includes a great tenor saxophone solo by Ronnie Scott. The B-side to that single is The Inner Light by George Harrison. A hypnotic, Indian-influenced track filled with vibrant percussions and flourishing sitar as Harrison sings spiritual-heavy lyrics with Lennon and McCartney providing backing vocals.
Hey Jude is a somber, mid-tempo piano ballad as McCartney sings comforting lyrics to John Lennon's young son Julian following his parents divorce. With McCartney's soothing vocals and melancholic piano, the track is later accompanied by Starr's slow but rumbling drum fill and washy guitar tracks from Lennon and Harrison as it builds up a bit through each section. The song intensifies with people singing to a melody as they're later accompanied by brass and string orchestra in one of the band's greatest singles. The B-side to that single is the chaotic Revolution led by a fast-wailing guitar riff by Lennon as he sings angry lyrics about the fallacies of revolutions. With Starr's hard-hitting drums and drone-heavy guitar and bass from Harrison and McCartney, respectively. The track also includes a wailing, melodic electric piano track by Nicky Hopkins.
Get Back is led by a bouncy yet riding rhythm by Starr's drum and McCartney's thumping bass line as he sings nonsensical but fun lyrics. With Lennon's sliding guitar solo and Harrison's spurting rhythm guitar, the track includes a wonderful electric piano solo by Billy Preston that get things going. Don't Let Me Down is a mid-tempo love song led by Lennon as he and McCartney sing anguished lyrics with Preston's flourishing keyboard track. Starr's steady yet thumping drum track with McCartney's low bass line and Harrison's smooth guitar riff complement Preston's playing in one of the band's best tracks. The Ballad Of John & Yoko is an upbeat, bouncy song led by McCartney's thumping bass and bouncy drum track that he plays with Lennon's sliding guitar track and flourishing piano. The song has Lennon singing about he and Yoko's adventure of their marriage that is filled with playful humor.
The B-side of that single is Harrison's Old Brown Shoe which is a rousing, upbeat track filled with McCartney's bouncy piano and bass with Starr's bopping drums and Harrison's driving guitar. Filled with bluesy lyrics and a sliding guitar by Harrison, it's one of his best cuts that exemplifies his love of back-to-basics rock music as he also plays organ in the track. Next is an alternate version of Across The Universe from the 1969 charity album No One's Gonna Change Our World that opens with sounds of birds calling. Filled with spiritual-laden lyrics and a washy acoustic track, Lennon sings the song as he is accompanied by Harrison's sitar and McCartney's soft piano. Along with George Martin's soft organ, the track features falsetto backing vocals as it is one of the band's best songs.
The piano ballad Let It Be in its single version produced by George Martin & Chris Thomas is a simpler version than the additions Phil Spector made for the album of the same name. With McCartney's piano driving the track filled with inspirational lyrics, the song includes Linda McCartney on backing vocals along with a different guitar solo from George Harrison that is more subtle in its performance. The closing track of the collection is the B-side to that song in You Know My Name (Look Up The Number). A music hall-inspired track with elements of comedy led by a piano track by McCartney as he sings the song with a bouncy drum track from Starr with Lennon and Harrison's driving guitar. The track then goes into a wild, calypso-like rhythm as the whole band plays around with sound effects provided by Lennon, McCartney, and Mal Evans along with a blaring saxophone from Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones.
When it was released on March 7, 1988, the compilation album gave Beatles fans a chance to have something to complete their collection along with the studio albums that were reissued on CD. The collection was widely received by critics for its collection of non-LP singles, B-sides, and rarities.
The 2009 remastered edition is released as part of the Beatles stereo box set and as an individual, 2-disc collection. The remastering gives more punch to several tracks, notably for the latter-day stuff of the band as there's more to hear in the songs. The album is also released in alternate version for the mono box set known as The Mono Masters that is a bit longer than the entire collection as it excludes The Ballad of John & Yoko, Old Brown Shoe, and Let It Be in favor of unreleased mono mixes of Across The Universe (Wildlife version) and the four songs that were from the unreleased Yellow Submarine EP as it's a collection that hardcore Beatles fan would have.
Past Masters is a must-have collection for fans of the Beatles as it features all of the non-LP singles, B-sides, and rarities that will be something not for completists but also for casual fans to hear the famed singles. The collection is also a great overview of the band's evolution as a singles artists from their early Merseybeat days to the more experimental work they would do in the middle of their career. In the end, Past Masters is an amazing collection of music from the Beatles.
The Beatles Reviews: Please Please Me - With the Beatles - A Hard Day's Night - Beatles for Sale - Help! - Rubber Soul - Revolver - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - Magical Mystery Tour - The White Album - Yellow Submarine OST - Abbey Road - Let It Be - (1962-1966) - (1967-1970) - (Live at the BBC) - (Anthology 1) - (Anthology 2) - (Anthology 3) - (Let It Be... Naked) - (Love)
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