Free as a Bird – The Beatles

Free as a Bird

The Beatles

1995

Apple Records

Damn, is it eleven already?  I probably should start writing a review for tomorrow.  Hmmm… what do we have the I could write about quickly and easily, but still something that I can pretend has relevance?  Oh!  The Beatles!  Of course!  This single is only four songs long, I know everything about them, and there’s even a christmas song at the end!  Awesome, the review should practically write itself!

So, yeah, The Beatles.  And their single Free as a Bird.  Which was released in December (look at that!  It ties in even more!) of 1995 as a promotion for The Beatles Anthology, which, it should be noted, is / was: an extremely interesting television series (which was put out on…), DVDs, an extremely large book, and an extremely enjoyable set of CDs. 

So, for those of you who haven’t been around for the past fourteen years now, “Free as a Bird” was a pretty damn popular song when it was released.  The story is that John had an unfinished demo, Yoko gave a bunch of his songs to the rest of The Beatles, and with the help of producer Jeff Lynne they recorded new parts to those songs.  So, presto, new Beatles’ material, which will be (and was) eaten up by the throngs of fans, which, of course, includes myself.

As it stands, this treatment has happened with two songs, “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love,” the latter of which I’m partial to.  Note: there is a rumor going around saying that Ringo and Paul are going to do the same thing to another of John’s songs using some of George’s recorded guitars.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but if it is, I’m sure it’ll be amazing.  Like all things Beatles related.  Tangent: that’s one reason why I’m so obsessed with the band.  They don’t release anything cheesy or corny, or oversaturate the public with new releases.  They only keep the legend going by introducing new things maybe once a year, but closer to every two years or so, and it’s always a great product.  Examples: 1, Love, Beatles Rockband, all the albums remastered, the special editions of  the movies A Hard Day’s Night and Help!.  But yeah, I could go on, but I’ll try to refrain from my obsessive fan-worshipping, though I can’t make any promises.

That all being said, this single is, rather blah.  It’s decent, but there’s not much among the four songs here that is worth caring about.

“Free as a Bird” is a great song.  Harrison’s slide guitar is brilliant, and musically, all the different chords show that the band has a profound experience with writing songs.  Which is the biggest understatement ever, since I’m speaking about The Beatles.  Hearing Lennon’s voice is… emotional.  His vocals sound distant in a way, because his demo was recorded on old tapes back in the ’70’s and early 1980.  But it gives us a reminder that he’s no longer with us, so to hear him singing something new with The Beatles is astounding.  Especially with the harmonies behind him, it’s almost as if he was with them recording the song.  It must’ve been a very moving experience for the other three working like that.  And this goes double for McCartney.  Here, he adds a section to the song in a minor key, which contrasts to the rest of the song.  This is reminiscent of the hundreds of songs that the two wrote together, working off of one another.  Just, the song is really emotional, so it’s very worth listening to.

“Free as a Bird” is then followed up by “I Saw Her Standing There.”  This is a nice moment for the former is their latest work together, while “Standing There” is the first song on their first album.  However, this isn’t actually the known version.  This is take nine, while the original version is take one plus take nine’s “One, two, three, FAWH!” intro.  Overall, there’s not much of a difference between the two takes.  This has some different vocal phrases and a lame guitar solo, but otherwise it’s essentially the same song.  It’s nice to hear a different take, but it’s not something to repeatedly listen to.

The Beatles’ beautiful “This Boy” is next, well, kind of.  It’s takes twelve and thirteen, both of which are incomplete.  This track is much better to listen to because the audience does get to hear something different.  The track contains snippets of talk before each take as the four joke around with each other.  Take thirteen is much longer, but towards the end you can hear that they’re barely able to keep it going.  And once John sings “Thas boy” getting confused between “this” and “that,” the band breaks into laughter.  It’s another touching moment which displays an inside look into their heavily private recording sessions (which the overall Anthology CD’s do very nicely).

The last track is the seasonal song “Christmas Time (is Here Again)” from their 1967 official fan club Christmas record.  And really, while I love most of The Beatles catalogue, this song probably falls into my “Top 5 Worst Beatles’ Songs.”   Right along with “Honey Pie” and “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill.”  The song starts off decently enough, with the harmonizing of the title as lyrics.  However, the song soon becomes an excercise in insipidness.  They repeat the title so many times, all the other lyrics are horrible (Paul singing “It’s been ’round since you-know-when”), and then they have nothing to do with the topic (Why is Ringo singing “O-U-T spells ‘out'” ?).  The four Beatles then wish all listeners a “Happy Christmas” over the music, which is nice at least.  Lastly, the song segues into one of Lennon’s inaudible “gobbledegook” (a word coined by him. See, how I fit that in perfectly?).  Again, the song is included on here for the sole purpose of being a different Beatles track, but I don’t particularly like this one.

Obviously, whatever The Beatles put out is going to sell.  This single was even certified Gold by the RIAA.  And for good reason, for the song “Free as a Bird” is amazing (even the video for it was, go watch!).  The rest of the songs are good to have for completeness of their discography, but won’t be listened to all that much.  Look at that, only took me an hour to review four songs.  Awesome.

Buy This Album

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