As the first compilation of the Beatles' music to show up after the murder of John Lennon, Reel Music was a pretty pathetic venture, and clear evidence that Capitol Records and its parent company, EMI, had run out of ideas when it came to marketing the group's music. A single LP with a dull cover design, Reel Music was comprised entirely of previously released material, and it accomplished nothing except to add another cheap-looking repackaging to the Beatles catalog (which was already cluttered with the two-volume budget reissue of Rock & Roll Music), and get them represented for a few weeks in 1982 in new-release racks in record stores. The 14 songs represented were all fine, and a few were even important -- all but a couple had been hits, in fact -- but they had all long been available on other, mostly better LPs. Except for context, there was absolutely nothing new here -- and barely in that regard, either, as precisely one song on this album, "I Should Have Known Better," was not already available on the 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 compilations; add to that the fact that hardly anyone in America even thought of Magical Mystery Tour as a movie (it's questionable how many people in England even remembered the movie 15 years after its disastrous television premiere) -- and did anyone really find much coherency (or point, musically speaking) in the jump from "Ticket to Ride" at the close of side one to "Magical Mystery Tour" at the opening of side two? This was the beginning of the home video era, however, and the group's movies were starting to get re-marketed, first to theaters and later on tape (Help! was already being bootlegged, as was Magical Mystery Tour, and Let It Be was out on Beta and VHS). Therefore, it probably seemed like a good idea to do something along these lines -- but couldn't they have maybe added some more interesting songs ("Hey Bulldog" and "It's All Too Much" from Yellow Submarine would have made side two a lot more fun). As it was, despite a game effort by Capitol's publicity department and a few writers who could always scare up something to say about the Beatles, the album was ignored even by a lot of people who had bought the Rock & Roll Music and Love Songs repackagings.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder