Sound: An sonic trip through the back lots of post-war Liverpool all the way up to the teetering edge of stardom, The Beatles Anthology 1 offers a more than vital glimpse to the fan of the group's inception and early fame. Like others in the series, Track 1 (in this case, "Free As A Bird")is a "new" Beatles song, a Lennon demo completed by the then three surviving Beatles in 1995. From there the Anthology rewinds to 1958, starting at the Quarrymen's first recording and continuing onward, leaving Best behind and picking Starr up, and moving from scratchy tape recordings to studio demos.
Of course, the early recordings sound dated and the live recordings are a little grainy (still miles better than Live at the Hollywood Bowl and Live at The Star Club 1962). But it is the historical significance that gives them merit, and even by 1961 (the recordings in Hamburg) they sound is almost no different than some of the hall reverb-drenched recordings of present day. All in all, the remastering process has left all of their songs intact, and made the earliest recordings listenable. // 9
Lyrics: As they whizz through show tunes ("Shiek of Araby"), covers (numerous), and eventually their own B-sides, the listener can hear Lennon/McCartney's voice grow from their skiffle roots to the pop genius of their early hits. It's difficult to say much about the record lyrically as many of the songs are written in the same vein (most of them were written at the same time and therefore have some similarities in wordplay and even in the music itself), but it certainly sounds ambitious. To hear them go from the simplicity of "How Do You Do It" to the alternate arrangement of "Eight Days A Week" is something to marvel in a band that had only rudimentary musical knowledge but a love for RnB and rock'n'roll.
"No Reply" (demo):
"I nearly died/'cause you walk hand in hand, with another man/plank...YOUR FACE."
It was a work in progress of course, but it sounds like they're having a hell of a time doing it. // 8
Overall Impression: Although in terms of music it isn't as originals-orientated as Anthology 2 or 3, it is nevertheless an interesting look into the history of a group with more of a back story than groups that lasted twice as long as they did. Klaus Voorman's artwork for the series is both sentimental and irreverent, using torn up images of the Beatles (in their early leather days here) in a scrapbook style arrangement. It's as if you were in 1962, looking at these pasted-over advertisements for some "savage young" group called The Beatles. // 8