`Anthology 3' documents the demise of the Fab Four

By Thor Christensen
Dallas Morning News

Oct. 27, 1996 -- The Beatles ended their final album, Abbey Road, on a warm and fuzzy note: "The love you make/is equal to the love you take."

But in real life, the four lads weren't exactly singing All You Need Is Love to each other in the late-'60s: Paul McCartney was trying to boss his mates around in the studio; Ringo Starr felt so useless he temporarily quit; and the four members often pieced together the albums in total seclusion from each other.

Anthology 3, which arrives in stores Tuesday, also closes with the optimistic "love you make" lyric from The End. But the double-album's subtitle could have been We Can't Work It Out. This is the sound of a band slowly imploding.

The collection marks the final chapter in Anthology, a year-long campaign in which the three surviving Beatles cleaned their vaults of studio outtakes and rare video footage. Coming in the wake of March's Anthology 2 - which gave a detailed portrait of the Fab Four at their creative peak - the 50 rejects on Anthology 3 seem sketchy and anti-climactic.

The Beatles made brilliant music during the period covered by Anthology 3 (May 1968 to January 1970), producing the two-album masterpiece The Beatles- a k a "The White Album" - Abbey Road and Let It Be (which was made before Abbey Road but didn't come out until the Beatles split in 1970). And hard-core fans will be salivating over rough drafts of landmark songs like Hey Jude, with its vaudevillian intro, and The Long and Winding Road, without the sugary choir and orchestra added by producer Phil Spector.

But at 2 hours long, Anthology 3 is bogged down by too many outtakes that even Beatlemaniacs will find dull: Does anyone really need to hear Starr crooning a rejected version of the forgettable Don't Pass Me By?

What's mildly interesting about the set is hearing how disjointed John, Paul, George and Ringo had become in their final years together. While McCartney is off woodshedding on songs like Blackbird, Mother Nature's Son and I Will, we hear Lennon finishing Julia by himself as a solo Harrison works on a gorgeous acoustic version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

In fact, the various Beatles squirreled away several songs heard on Anthology 3 for future solo projects, including Harrison's All Things Must Pass and McCartney's Teddy Boy. McCartney's classic pop-rock tune Come and Get It was never even considered for a Beatles album: The singer offered his demo tape to Badfinger before his band mates ever heard the song.

While the Beatles' last years together were marked by tension and bickering (for proof, rent the film Let It Be), there are some very lighthearted moments on Anthology 3.

McCartney makes up a comic Latin-pop ditty, Los Paranoias, and cracks up during Rocky Raccoon when he accidentally sings "sminking of gin" instead of "stinking of gin." A wise-cracking Lennon ad libs lyrics about Yoko Ono's divorce from her first husband during Oh! Darling. And the group sounds like a bunch of giddy school kids as it plows through Blue Suede Shoes, Rip it Up and Shake, Rattle and Roll during the Let It Be sessions.

But such offhand pleasures are hard to find. While the first two Anthology sets boasted some decent never-heard-before compositions, the only "new" song on Anthology 3 is Lennon's What's the News Mary Jane, a half-baked bit of psychedelia from "The White Album" sessions. Thankfully, the three remaining Beatles chose not to make a "reunion" song with one of Lennon's outtakes - something they did with stilted results on Anthology 1 and 2.

Anthology 3 is filled with missed opportunities. Instead of including the oft-bootleged She Came in Through the Bathroom Window with Lennon singing instead of McCartney, we get a less intriguing outtake with the Cute Beatle on lead vocals. Instead of unearthing the "controversial" version of Get Back - with its lyrics about Pakistani immigration in England - we get an innocuous version recorded live on the roof at Apple Records. And if Anthology 3 producer George Martin had really wanted to get daring, he'd have used the legendary 25-minute version of Helter Skelter instead of the four-and-a-half-minute outtake that shows up here.

But Anthology 3 isn't about risk-taking, it's about dishing out one last serving of odds-and-ends for all the Beatlemaniacs. For casual Beatles fans, however, this final portion of The Long and Winding Road is a pretty mundane trip.

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