Rush-released at the end of 2013, just weeks after the heavily hyped appearance of On Air: Live at the BBC, Vol. 2 and just weeks before the release of the similarly promoted box The U.S. Albums, The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963 arrived as a bit of a shock to Beatles fans. There were no rumors about its existence until a week before its December 2013 release but, in retrospect, perhaps there should've been because this set, like Bob Dylan's under-the-radar 2012 The Copyright Extension Collection, Vol. 1, is a way for a record label to extend its rights of ownership on sound recordings and thereby prevent them from entering the public domain. This means Beatles fanatics are treated to an unexpected clearinghouse of rare early Fab Four recordings. Much of this has been bootlegged before, either through collections of BBC recordings or through the ballyhooed Ultra Rare Trax series, but it's a delight to have these raw run-throughs and live performances, plus demos of "Bad to Me" and "I'm in Love," enter easy-to-access circulation. Most of this is devoted to live BBC material that didn't make the previous two BBC collections, either due to song repetition, subpar sound quality, or the performances not being quite as dynamic as what made the cut. It's all fun to hear, particularly the covers ("Some Other Guy" and "Roll Over Beethoven" are especially hot), but what's more revelatory is hearing the Beatles tentatively work through "There's a Place," "Misery," "From Me to You," and "Thank You Girl," feeling their way through the songs (they never found a way through "One After 909," returning to it many years later); more than on the heavily-edited Anthology, you get a sense of being in the studio with the Beatles. Although the audio quality of "I'm in Love" is quite rough, it's also charming to hear the demos. While this can't be called necessary listening -- it's for fanatics only -- its existence is wonderful for not only presenting the official release of rare Beatles material, but for whetting the appetite for similar releases in the future.
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