Past Masters Volume 2 was released on March 7, 1988, after the Beatles’ original United Kingdom albums were released on CD in 1987. Both volumes of the Past Masters discs contain tracks that were not released on the twelve original UK studio albums or the Magical Mystery Tour LP. Past Masters Volume 2 contains both the A- and B-sides of several Beatles singles that were released between 1965 and 1970, as well as a track from a various artists charity album.
Past Masters Volume 2 opens with “Day Tripper,” and is followed by “We Can Work It Out.” Both of these songs were included on a double A-side single, and were recorded during the sessions for the Rubber Soul album. “Day Tripper” has lyrics that contain a play on words written by John Lennon, as well as a catchy guitar hook. The lyrics to “We Can Work It Out” were written by Paul McCartney, and it’s believed that the song was written about his relationship with Jane Asher.
The next song on Past Masters Volume 2 is “Paperback Writer,” which was the A-side for the band’s eleventh single. This is followed by “Rain,” which was the B-side of the single. “Paperback Writer” is an upbeat and catchy tune, and it’s written as a letter from an aspiring author to a prospective publisher. “Rain” utilizes the experimentation that the band became known for starting with the Revolver album.
“Lady Madonna” was the A-side of another Beatles single, and this is followed by “The Inner Light,” which was the B-side of the single. “Lady Madonna” features a piano that has playing inspired by Fats Domino, and there is also a saxophone solo by British jazz musician Ronnie Scott. Lyrically, “Lady Madonna” is about an overworked and exhausted mother. “The Inner Light” was written by George Harrison, and it has lyrics that are a rendering of the 47th chapter of the Tao Te Ching. On this song, there is a very strong musical influence of Middle Eastern music.
Next on Past Masters Volume 2 is “Hey Jude,” which is a song that Paul McCartney wrote for Julian Lennon to comfort him during his parents’ divorce. It is followed by “Revolution,” which was the B-side of the single. “Revolution” is a hard rock version of the song “Revolution 1,” which appeared on the Beatles’ self-titled album. The song was inspired by the political protests going on in early 1968, and the lyrics express doubt on some of the tactics being employed in these protests.
“Get Back” was recorded with Billy Preston, and is followed on the album by “Don’t Let Me Down”; this was the B-side to “Get Back,” and it was also recorded with Billy Preston. “Get Back” tells the story of a man named Jojo, who leaves Arizona and heads to California. The second verse is about the sexually ambiguous “Loretta Martin.” The song “Don’t Let Me Down” was a love song that John Lennon wrote for Yoko Ono. During the song, Lennon works toward the screams that would be heard on the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album.
The next song on the album is “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” and is followed by that single’s B-side, “Old Brown Shoe.” “The Ballad of John and Yoko” was written about John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s marriage. “Old Brown Shoe” was written by George Harrison, and is a song about the duality of things.
The version of “Across the Universe” that appears on this release is the “Wildlife” version, which was released on a various artists charity album. It sounds very similar to the song as it is known on Let It Be; however, there are some vocal differences in the chorus, and you can hear animal sounds in the mix.
“Let It Be” is next on Past Masters Volume 2. The album closes with “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number),” which was the B-side for the “Let It Be” single. Paul McCartney has said he was inspired to write “Let It Be” after having a dream about his mother, who died of cancer when he was fourteen. This song also includes backing vocals by Linda McCartney. “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” is a music hall comedy number, and John Lennon claimed to come up with the song after seeing a phone book.
Overall, Past Masters Volume 2 is an excellent compilation for any Beatles fan who wants to have a complete collection of the band’s works on CD, especially when this is combined with Past Masters Volume 1.