The Beatles

Turn Me on Dead Man: The John Barrett Tapes

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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger

A superb-sounding double CD of alternate mixes and (just a few) actual alternate takes, named after the late Abbey Road engineer John Barrett, who catalogued and copied many Beatles vault tapes in the early '80s. At first glance, this appears to be a goldmine of unreleased Beatles goodies, spanning "From Me to You" to the Let It Be sessions, but read the fine print carefully. Most of the takes are in fact stereo and mono mixes that happen to be rare or commercially unavailable, not performances that are commercially unavailable. To some fans, these different mixes are revelations; to many, however, they are barely or completely indistinguishable from the familiar versions on official Beatles albums. There are a few previously unheard takes here: a rougher alternate of "What You're Doing," with a key change not heard on the Beatles for Sale version; a bunch of attempts (most feeble) at "That Means a Lot," some of which are so lame that one gets the impression that the Beatles eventually decided to sabotage the tune; "The Way You Look Tonight," which is some loose jamming in the middle of the "I Will" session, and an extended "Can You Take Me Back?," which was the uncredited link track between "Cry Baby Cry" and "Revolution 9" on The White Album. These are nice to hear, but not cuts that are going to excite the ordinary fan, let alone incite a $40-50 purchase. Among the rare mixes, the most exciting discovery is the "complete oboe version" of "Penny Lane," different from the "hybrid of the oboe and trumpet versions" that was on Anthology 2, according to the very professional and thorough liner notes. If that sounds like hair-splitting, be warned that such subtle variations form the core of this bootleg.