While it is wonderful that the Beatles’ albums are finally being remastered, their LPs are only half of the story. In the 1960s, singles did not usually come from albums, and so many of the Beatles’ most famous songs were never featured on any of their albums. This Past Masters set was originally released in 1988 as two separate albums, and is now combined into one set for this new reissue series. These two discs essentially combine every notable single or B-side the Beatles ever released, ranging from classics (“I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Hey Jude”) to studio oddities like “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number).”
These 33 tracks are essential in filling in the holes in the Beatles’ story, and that of rock n’ roll itself. For instance, “I Feel Fine” basically invented the use of guitar feedback as an instrument, and the astonishing run of singles from 1965 to 1966 (“Day Tripper,” “We Can Work it Out,” “Paperback Writer,” “Rain”) bridge the gap between Rubber Soul and Revolver. Also noteworthy are the overdub-free versions of “Let it Be” and “Across the Universe,” which later appeared on the 2003 remix project Let it Be…Naked. Even the truly inconsequential tracks (basically just the German versions of “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”) are fascinating to hear once, and the rest of this material is timeless.