It took less than two minutes. With that much time to fill in a BBC Radio show, the Beatles crashed out a direct-to-air version of “I’m Talking About You.”
While they had no reason to think the song would be heard again, they still gave it their all. The Chuck Berry cover was one they ultimately didn’t perform for EMI during a recording career of little more than six years. Now the impromptu, energetic performance has at last made it to disc.
“On Air: Live at the BBC Volume 2” has 37 unreleased performances from 1962 to 1965. It’s a sequel to the 1994 “Live at the BBC,” which has now been remastered.
There are also 32 minutes of interviews, which are often charming, childish and funny. While these vocal fragments give a good idea of how the radio shows sounded, they would have been much better at the end or replaced by other songs. Even so, the result sounds fresh, rather than like the bottom of the barrel being scraped. Rating: ****.
So while some of the best “new” music is actually 50 years old, fans of the Fab Four also have “New,” the 2013 CD by Paul McCartney. His best effort in some years has lots of Beatlesque “oo-oo” harmonies. The collection works so much better than the nostalgia of “Memory Almost Full” and “Kisses on the Bottom.” Rating: ****.
David Bowie’s new track “Love Is Lost,” mixed by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, starts with a round of applause. The sporadic clapping, inspired by Steve Reich, gets more rhythmical and forms a drumming backbeat.
This weird but wonderful 10-miute epic also reprises the keyboards from Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” and is the centerpiece of Bowie’s “The Next Day Extra.” The three-disc set is double the length of his comeback “The Next Day.” Rating: *****.
Justin Timberlake is the bestselling album artist of this year, with two No. 1 discs called “The 20/20 Experience” that show he’s keen to be taken seriously. That’s all great, of course, but he’s stretching his range and the songs a little too far at times. His retro-soul gets out-stuffed and garnished with pomp-rock trimmings ready for Thanksgiving sales. Rating: **.
M.I.A. is making a career out of rebelliousness. Her biggest claim to infamy came on live TV when she flipped her middle finger during her Super Bowl appearance with Madonna. Somehow, amid the arguments, activism and bad behavior, M.I.A. has found time to make “Matangi.” The hit “Bad Girls” rocks with attitude. Elsewhere the ideas are piled on so thickly that the sound is an undisciplined mess. Rating: **.
Among other releases, Eminem’s “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” is better than early songs suggested. “Rap God” has a messianic ambition to rival Kanye West, asking “why be a king when you can be a God?”
The duo in MGMT move to trance music from psychedelic pop on their self-titled latest while Goldfrapp veers from electronica to ambient on “Tales of Us.” Ratings: ***.
For a better take on hushed music, try Mazzy Star’s first CD in 17 years, “Seasons of Your Day.” Rating: ****.
What the Stars Mean: ***** Exceptional **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include Manuela Hoelterhoff on arts, Frederik Balfour on Asian art, James Russell on architecture and Amanda Gordon’s Scene Last Night.