Anthology 2 is less a historical document than 1, but the sound here is of better quality, even if the takes sometimes break down. The two disk set covers the period from 1965-1968, so we get a lot of studio experimentation and alternate takes of familiar songs.
The set kicks off with "Real Love" which I think is a stronger and more complete tune than "Free as a Bird." Lennon's voice is stronger, there are melody changes, and no added sentimental verses. Great slide work by George.
The second song is "Yes It Is" and I like the way they tricked this up, starting with a rather thin sounding guide vocal by John, nearly collapsing into some silly nonsense singing, then suddenly blossoming full of three-part harmony. That is the strength of this set, showing the progression of early demos and song fragments to the finished versions we all know.
A couple unreleased tracks, "If You've Got Trouble" and "That Means a Lot" have appeared on bootlegs, and when you listen you can understand that while they weren't bad songs, they just lacked that Beatle magic.
Other interesting bits are "Tomorrow Never Knows" without that cool backbeat that Ringo used to propel the song. Here it merely drones. "And Your Bird Can Sing" has a very different guitar instrumental track and the Fabs cutting up in the vocal booth. "Got To Get You Into My Life" is minus the horns and with a much more martial feel. "Eleanor Rigby" strings only gives an interesting contrast to how a song is put together and the timing involved. "I'm Only Sleeping" has a mellow vibe intro, then changes to something more like the released version.
Disk 2 features a number of "Strawberry Fields" edits, in different time signatures and keys, and with a final edit. Again, following the process is fascinating here. So it continues with alternates and outtakes from the Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour period. The set closes with an early version of "Across the Universe" in which Lennon's vocals are spotty, but this piece is still moving and the strings absolutely shimmer.
I like this set very much, but suggest newcomers to familiarize themselves with the studio work first before delving in here.