The Beatles Anthology

The Beatles Anthology
At nearly double its original television broadcast length, and now with nearly 90 minutes of extras added on DVD, Beatles documentary Anthology is as comprehensive an assemblage of raw materials as you'll find on this ridiculously well-documented band. Simply due to availability of materials, it is particularly rich in the period from 1961 to 1964, which takes up more than half of its ten-hour running time. The band's earliest performances in Liverpool, as well as their famed residency in Hamburg, Germany are well outlined, but what may come as a surprise is the sheer wealth of concert material — not only famously filmed shows like Shea Stadium, but television and concert appearances around the world. Anthology keeps its inner circle tight — only the three living Beatles (at the time it was made, in 1995), and the surviving members of their inner circle (producer George Martin, road manager Neil Aspinall and press agent Derek Taylor) participate. Even Yoko Ono — who could surely provide some insight into late-period activities — is surprisingly absent. The dependence on available raw material — film footage particularly — also weights the material in a bizarre way. The detail of their early years is painstaking, yet 1965, a revolutionary year musically, when both Revolver and Rubber Soul were recorded, is practically ignored, and late-period efforts are filled with their early "videos," since making public appearances became impossible. As raw material, it's unbelievable, and the DVD particularly sounds and looks better than you can imagine. It's not the whole story, of course, but I think a book or two might have been written on the subject. DVD additions range from mundane looks at the "Free As A Bird" video to charming footage of Ringo, Paul and George chilling in George's backyard. Worth the investment for anyone interested in the minutia of John mumbling "sugarplum fairy." Extras: featurettes of jamming at George's; compiling the Anthology albums; recording at Abbey Road for "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love"; "Free As A Bird" making of; "Real Love" video. (Apple/EMI)