Appearing in the U.S. just two months prior to the band's April 1970 breakup, Hey Jude is one of the odder Beatles records released during the group's lifespan. Essentially a clearinghouse for singles that never appeared on album, the record relies heavily on songs released between 1968 and 1969, but it also stretches back to get both sides of the 1966 single "Paperback Writer"/"Rain" and "Can't Buy Me Love" and "I Should Have Known Better," two 1964 songs that never appeared on a Capitol LP (but did show up on the soundtrack to A Hard Day's Night, which was released by United Artists in 1964). This scope inadvertently showcases the Beatles' versatility and growth, as they move from the exuberance of Beatlemania to the intense psychedelia of the mid-'60s and then settle into rich post-Pepper days, where John, Paul, and George (Ringo sings no songs here) were all pursuing their own obsessions. Paul has the title track and the Fats Domino homage "Lady Madonna," George counters with the boogie of "Old Brown Shoe," and John delivers the searing rock & roll of "Revolution," the heart-wrenching soul of "Don't Let Me Down," and the clever pseudo-autobiography "The Ballad of John & Yoko." Great songs all, they all sound good together here and if the usefulness of the compilation diminished after the 1988 release of Past Masters, Hey Jude is nevertheless a fun, satisfying (albeit short) listen.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine