“Free as a Bird” straight-up rules hard, but a lotta jerkasses want to give this one the old pooh-pooh. Why?! What did you want from a Beatles reunion in 1995? What did you expect?? Rapping? Hott beatz? This is loose, natural, and SOUNDS like the Beatles, and that’s absolutely the best possible outcome (imagine the bitching that would’ve occurred if they’d done something completely outta left-field!). Grave-dwelling John’s in introspective, melodic mode; George puts down some awesome, Georgely slide guitar; Ringo has that crisp, tasteful drum sound that he rocked in the olden days; and while Paul doesn’t get too crazy on the bass, his vocals and new lyrics fit in perfectly. Heck, they even pulled Geoff Fuggin’ Emerick out of mothballs to engineer the thing! Don’t forget that the fellas didn’t sit down, stroke their chins, and try to write a hot-shit “Beatley” song from scratch; they were bound to a minor, late-70s – LATE-70s! – Lennon piano demo and dudes STILL managed to make it sound like a real group effort that coulda come from ANY decade, just like the best Beatle stuff does. Blends into the catalog quite nicely. And for cryin’ out loud, all the tons of idiotic non-musical baggage aside, this is simply a satisfying effort as a SONG: it’s a moody, engaging piece of music with some lovely – occasionally soaring – playing and singing. So lay off! Even the B-side’s a winner, as we finally get an uninterrupted version of the band’s 1967 psychedelic holiday jam, “Christmas Time (is Here Again).” If one can drop the ridiculous and unreasonable expectations, there’s just nothing to dislike about this 45. A real crowd pleaser, end to end.
And wait! What’s with all the Lynne bashing that went (and goes) on? His ear was the right ear to have in the studio for the two reunion tracks. Guy’s a stone-cold miracle worker and always has a good haircut. So impressed and inspired was I by his efforts, I worked on a screenplay about Jeff Lynne (Jeff Lynne: The Movie) for a while in high school. The only detail I remember is that he hurled Ringo through an upper-story window at one point.