The Beatles


Phases and Stages

The Beatles

Anthology DVD (Capitol) When all 10 hours of the Beatles Anthology aired on PBS in 1994, the absence of John Lennon wasn't the yawning void a planet of TV viewers anticipated. Editing in archival interviews, the producers managed to integrate Lennon's version of Beatlemania with that of his surviving bandmates -- George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr -- all of whom lent their candor to this epic endeavor and even reunited for two "new" tracks on the accompanying CDs. As a documentary, Anthology glosses over and/or omits plenty (Phil Spector ruining Let It Be, hello?), the group members' personal lives summarily dismissed, while bogging down in footnotes like the Apple boutique. Abbey Road is given short shrift at the finish line. As a video scrapbook, however, bursting with mind-boggling historical footage (down in the Cavern; onstage in Japan), live song performances in their entirety (Ringo's "Act Naturally"), and rarely glimpsed videos (the Beatles virtually invented MTV), Anthology remains unparalleled. Both configurations, audio and visual, are genuinely awe-inspiring additions to the Fab Four's precious legacy, and the new 5-DVD issue is no exception. The upgrade in sound alone will blow you off the couch, not to mention that eight unwieldy VHS tapes just morphed into an index-finger-tip's worth of digitized discs; the convenience of DVDs (for those who've mastered their remote) makes VHS technology look as modern as the steam engine. More striking is the fact that nearly a decade after its televised premiere, Anthology serves as a memorial for George Harrison, who died of cancer last November. While no one disputes that the Beatles were ultimately Lennon's band, Harrison's tart harmonies and lead-guitar precision reveal themselves as both glue and buffer to the Lennon/McCartney singer-songwriter axis. Watching Harrison add licks to McCartney's "Blue Moon of Kentucky," unreleased reunion footage from the bonus DVD, and provide the sharpest commentary/presence throughout Anthology, is to feel all guitars gently weeping.

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