A vital, invest-now compilation of non-LP favourites.
Mike Diver 2009
Though not an official album as such, Past Masters is a firm favourite amongst fans of the Fab Four, collecting an array of The Beatles’ non-LP tracks including evergreen classics Lady Madonna and Hey Jude, and early career highs Love Me Do and She Loves You.
Initially released across two separate discs, this version – issued as part of the catalogue-wide remastered series – combines said compilations to present a neatly chronological package, replete with extensive notes written by Keith Howlett in February 2009. Listening as sequenced – from the original single version of Love Me Do through to Let It Be b side You Know My Name (Look Up the Number) – makes for an enlightening experience, and the four-piece’s studio evolution is absolutely apparent once the Revolver-era Paperback Writer and its flip-side, Rain, enter proceedings.
The naïve charm of enduring arrangements like I Feel Fine is replaced by a boldness that few early supporters of the band could have foreseen – and it’s this maverick element to The Beatles that has carried their popularity through to this day. Memorable though the simplest pieces from John Lennon and Paul McCartney are – only two George Harrison compositions feature here – it’s the multi-layered splendour of The Inner Light, The Ballad of John and Yoko and the World Wildlife Fund charity version of Across the Universe (later re-recorded for the Let It Be album) that ensured the group appealed to such a wide spectrum of music fans that few people in the world wouldn’t, in some way, be touched by their work.
The collection’s climactic You Know My Name…, while scratchy compared to a great many other pieces here, is buoyant with bonkers cheer, sitting counterpoint to the internal friction that would, just a month after its March 1970 release, lead to the band’s break-up – McCartney left in April, filing for dissolution in December. The track is the only one featured on Past Masters that wasn’t exclusively produced by long-term studio partner George Martin, indicative of the loyalty within the camp during The Beatles’ most productive, inspirational years. It is rare indeed to see such relationships today.
A special compilation rightly regarded as just as important in The Beatles’ long-play canon as Sgt. Peppers… and Rubber Soul, Past Masters might be a posthumous affair but it’s full of more life than a thousand brand-new releases filling store shelves. Investment is a no-brainer.