The idea of “beyond the grave” duets has an inherent creepiness factor, and somehow, even though “Real Love” is a much better song than “Free as a Bird,” it feels decidedly more unsettling. I’d chalk this up mostly to the hollowness of John Lennon’s lead vocals, filtered from a piano demo and carrying an (intentional?) almost ghostly effect amidst the added production from the surviving Beatles. However, I’m not going to take for granted one last opportunity to hear Paul harmonize with John, even artificially. George’s guitar work is also a wonderful addition.
Not only did Yoko wisely opt not to contribute, but kudos to her for not trying to snag additional royalties by taking a credit for playing “wind” or whatever.
After “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love,” you’d be forgiven for assuming that a third ‘reunion’ single would accompany Anthology 3, but apparently the remaining trio couldn’t agree on a Lennon demo to tackle. Rumor has it the leading contender was a song called “Now and Then,” and a few years ago, an astonishing, eerie fan-created remix was posted on YouTube that showcases what a poignant selection it could have been. Save for the brief ditty “Hey Majesty”–tossed in without the band’s input–the last song on the last album the Beatles recorded, Abbey Road, was the fittingly-titled “The End.” A poetic conclusion, no doubt, but one that could have been matched with an ultimate grand finale built around John Lennon singing, “Now and then, I miss you” as his bandmates pay tribute 16 years after his passing.