The project has been an interesting look at what remains canon for the Beatles. The news isn't big--the UK versions of Rubber Soul and Revolver remain definitive, the LP-length US Magical Mystery Tour gets the nod, that Christmas compilation is ignored (but unlockable in Beatles: Rock Band), Anthology versions are absent--but I was sad to see that the Red and Blue albums weren't remastered. As a refresher: the Red and Blue albums, officially known as 1962-1966 and 1967-1970, were a pair of 2 LP best-of's released in 1973. They ran through the Beatles music in more or less the order that a pop-conscious listener would have heard the songs.
They have their shortcomings, sure: Pre-Rubber Soul material gets the short shift; the White Album gets three songs (10% of the album) to Rubber Soul's six (43%), while Revolver is represented only by "Eleanor Rigby" and "Yellow Submarine" (14%); the sequencing is chronological, except when it's not; and of course you could argue with the song selection. Personally, I'm astounded McCartney allowed the string-laden "Long And Winding Road"--which he detests--to close the Blue album. Why not close things out with "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)", the last Beatles song released at that point, a track the band had worked on for years, and a tune that showcases the Beatles influences and goofy brilliance? Alas, the Red and Blue albums don't challenge listeners with obscure cuts.
But the Red and Blue LPs represent just about the best way to listen to the Beatles. These days, you could easily assemble a playlist of your favorite Beatles tracks, but I challenge you to come up with a collection of tunes that coheres and flows as beautifully as either of these:
Red album, side two: "A Hard Day's Night," "And I Love Her," "Eight Days A Week," "I Feel Fine," "Ticket To Ride," "Yesterday."I still listen to those songs, in that order, when I need a pick me up. I don't think I'll stop any time soon.
Blue album, side two: "I Am The Walrus," "Hello Goodbye," "The Fool On The Hill," "Magical Mystery Tour," "Lady Madonna," "Hey Jude," "Revolution."
In other news, it looks like Rutles fans will be waiting a while longer for the Mononucleosis Box Set.
*The awfulness of the Times' Rock Band piece, authored by black hole of insight and video game critic Seth Schiesel, and the Star Tribune's review of the remasters, written by some guy called Chris Riemenschneider who managed to land a gig at the once-respected newspaper, is so apparent I need only link to them. The latter is particularly hilarious, and inspiration for a feature on this blog I may or may not follow through with. It'd be called "Review Of Reviews," in debt to a brilliantly-titled journal of the 1890s, and would be exactly what it claimed to be.