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Beatles

British rock/pop band

Studio Albums

Please Please Me (1963)

With the Beatles (1963)

A Hard Day's Night (1964)

Beatles for Sale (1964)

Help (1965)

Rubber Soul (1965)

Revolver (1966)

Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

White Album (1968)

Yellow Submarine (1969)

Abbey Road (1969)

Let It Be (1970)

 

Compilations

 

 

 

 

 

Beatles

Where do you start to review arguably the most important pop group the world has known or will ever know? The band that has influenced so many artists, had their music recorded by thousands and who were at the forefront of the first Brit Pop explosion - better known as Merseybeat.

The problem is no review section could ever be complete without the music of the Fab Four. So there's only one way to do it and that's to dive straight in. As I have always said my reviews are just personal assessments and should be treated as such. I wouldn't rank the Beatles in my top ten favourite artists of all time, but at the same time I would openly agree that as far as being influential goes they are up there with Dylan and Presley.

So the following are just my assessments and probably should be read as an entity on their own without comparing the ratings with any other

Please Please Me  - 7

I Saw Her Standing There/Misery/Anna (Go to Him) /Chains/Boys /Ask Me Why/Please Please Me/Love Me Do/PS. I Love You/Baby It's You/Do You Want to Know a Secret/A Taste of Honey/There's a Place/Twist and Shout

An album that was rushed out to co-incide with the success of Please Please Me and Love Me Do, so the real question is how does it stand as an album? The immediate problem of course is how to review an album of songs that you know so well and even more difficult how to try and erase from your mind all the later output and try to hear this as if it is the day of release. First thing to remember is this was released in 1963. I was 11 years old and I would love to be able to say that it entirely changed my world, that I had a blast of light. Sadly I would be lying - I can't even remember it coming out. I can vaguely remember the furore and the newsreel clips but somehow I was totally divorced from it all. Early Beatles albums seemed to be a collection of rock/pop songs and certainly there was a formula to most of these tracks. Not a single track weighed in at over three minutes and three of them were less than two minutes. It did showcase the emergence of Lennon and McCartney as  songwriters with eight of the 14 tracks being penned by the soon to be legendary duo. The opening track "I Saw Her Standing There" immediately shows the band's intent - good solid guitar driven rock/rhythm and blues and "Misery" features the almost guttural harmonies of Lennon/McCartney with lush chorus and cascading keyboard work from George Martin. You are beginning to see the kind of stir that this album would create, remaining at the top of the album charts for 30 weeks until it was replaced by With The Beatles. This in itself was an amazing achievement as at the time the album charts seemed to be dominated by film soundtracks and crooners. Now they weren't getting a look in as four lads from Liverpool began their journey towards world music domination. Suddenly music was being overtaken by a new sound, by four young people who could write their own material. The music world was changing forever. Some of the material on this album sounds a little like filler material from an album brought out quickly to co-incide with the band's success. There is a delightful feeling to many of the early Beatles songs. They may have been rather formulaic but songs like "Ask Me Why," "PS I Love You,"  "Do You Want to Know a Secret"  and There's A Place began to show the brilliance of the John/Paul songwriting partnership. The only surprise is that the final track Twist and Shout wasn't written by Lennon and McCartney. It really sounds as if it should be. Overall Please Please Me was an excellent starting point - a real springboard for success and a number of beautifully structured songs.

 

With The Beatles  - 6

It Won't Be Long/All I've Got to Do/All My Loving/Don't Bother Me/Little Child/Till There Was You/Please Mr. Postman/Roll Over Beethoven/Hold Me Tight/You've Really Got a Hold on Me/I Wanna Be Your Man/Devil in Her Heart/Not a Second Time/Money

Just four months after Please Please Me, the Beatles decided to do it all over again. So here we have a similar format of original numbers (eight in total including the first by George Harrison "Don't Bother Me") alongside covers (six in total). This time around the covers seemed to blend in more with the Lennon/McCartney songs - almost as if they had been chosen and could almost be passed off as Beatles originals. Certainly Meredith Willson's  "Till There Was You," Smokey Robinson's "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" and Janie Bradford/Berry Gordy's "Money" could so easily have come from the pens of the dynamic duo. "Till There Was You" is a genuinely lovely ballad. Whilst feeling that some of the covers on Please Please Me sounded rather like filler material, With the Beatles throws up the first track from the Fab Four that I genuinely dislike - "Please Mr Postman" which is horrible drivel. Neither have I ever been a big fan of Chuck Berry's Roll Over Beethoven. So what of the original compositions this time round. Well if the covers fitted in better, the originals weren't quite so strong. "All My Loving is a cast iron hit but some of the others are almost lacking in grace. So for me its a win some lose some album that has a raw energy about it but is less immediate than Please Please Me.


A Hard Day's Night - 6.5

A Hard Day's Night/I Should Have Known Better/If I Fell/I'm Happy Just to Dance with You/And I Love Her/Tell Me Why/Can't Buy Me Love/Any Time at All/I'll Cry Instead/Things We Said Today/When I Get Home/You Can't Do That/I'll Be Back

Two steps forward - firstly this was the soundtrack to the Beatles first film and secondly it was the first all self-penned album. Weighing in at under 31 minutes, it would never break any endurance records, however. Indeed only the first seven tracks are featured in hte original film. The second side of the original vinyl features new Lennon/McCartney compositions. So was it a progression after the huge success of the first two albums or were they simply going through the motions. To me the answer is probably a little of each. Sticking with riginal songs gives it a tighter feel and there are plenty of accepted Beatles classics here that would find their way onto greatest hits and best of compilations throughout the world. The album contains some of the Beatles' best slow numbers with the likes of "If I Fell" and possibly their most slushy song of all time "And I Love Her." Elsewhere there were solid gold hits like "A Hard Day's Night" and "Can't Buy Me Love". Somehow you had a feeling that the songwriting was taking on a new lease of life without straying too far from the tried and tested songs of the previous year. You still felt there was much more to come - as indeed there was.


Beatles for Sale - 6

No Reply/I'm a Loser/Baby's in Black/Rock and Roll Music/I'll Follow the Sun/Mr. Moonlight/Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey/Eight Days a Week/
Words of Love/Honey Don't/Every Little Thing/I Don't Want to Spoil the Party/What You're Doing/Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby

It was almost as if the Beatles were on a conveyor belt. Another 14 songs weighing in at 35 minutes - under three minutes a song. With anybody but the Beatles this might be becoming a little tedious. Here we were back to the mix of originals songs (eight) and covers (six). There is a slight change of direction to be detected here with John Lennon impining "although I laugh and act like a clown, beneath this mask I am wearing a frown" on "I'm a Loser" It's the band's most confessional song to date and, despite still being a solid rock song, has tinges of folk in with it. In fact the lyrics are tighter and more subtle. Even when they are about lost loves, girl/boy relationships they still sound less dated as is exampled by "Baby's in Black." The lads are still rock n rollers at heart as is evidenced by the inclusion of Chuck Berry's Rock and Roll Music. There are undoubtedly some nice songs here such as "Follow the Sun" and "Eight Days a Week" - again with its subtle suggestions that things are changing in the songwriting department with a slightly tougher edge coming to the songs. O f course maybe we are guilty of expecting too much development over too small a space of time. It must be remembered that this was the Beatles fourth album in two years. I can't say I'm a great fan of the out and out rock songs such as "Kansas City/Hey hey hey hey. On "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party" they almost lapse into country. Overall something of a patchy album.


Help - 6

Help!/The Night Before/You've Got to Hide Your Love Away/I Need You/Another Girl/You're Going to Lose That Girl/Ticket to Ride/Act Naturally/It's Only Love/You Like Me Too Much/Tell Me What You See/I've Just Seen a Face/Yesterday/Dizzy Miss Lizzy

Same formula, but some subtle changes with seven songs appearing in the film Help. Primarily still songs about girls and relationships. Lennon's interest in the American folk scene is beginning to show through again. To me there is a slightly ramshackle feel about Help - the songs aren't quite as fresh as on some of the earlier albums. It all starts on a highpoint with one of the band's best compositions in the title track. It must be remembered that this was the Beatles' fifth album in three years and although they are by and large very short in length it is still an impressive output. I can't help wondering, however, whether the songs are becoming a little jaded. Of course that comment seems like so much bunkem when you realise Paul McCartney's classic Yesterday is included. In many ways. But standing alongside that Ringo's attempts to sing the novelty country song "Act Naturally" which is pretty average to say the least. There are a number of almost curio tracks like McCartney's "I've Just Seen a Face" with its huge nod to Simon and Garfunkel. Help was the last of a quintet of similar sounding and similar feel albums before the Lennon/McCartney songwriting partnership really began to blossom with the release of Rubber Soul


Rubber Soul - 7

Drive My Car/Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)/You Won't See Me/
Nowhere Man/Think for Yourself/The Word/Michelle/What Goes On/Girl/I'm Looking Through You/In My Life/Wait/ If I Needed Someone/Run for Your Life

Somehow Rubber Soul sounded very different to what had gone before. Talk about a rushed job. Rubber Soul was produced in just four weeks to reach the Christmas Market but it's difficult to grasp that it came out in the same year as Help. All the songs were written by band members which in itself gives a fresh face. Overall the feel is of a very eclectic bunch of songs that hang together well and read like a list of great Beatles songs. Rarely have the band's harmonies been tighter or sharper than on "Norwegian Wood" which introduces the sitar to proceedings. In fact the instrumentation on Rubber Soul was much sharper and more experimental. Similarly the lyrics are more observational as evidenced on "Nowhere Man." There were attacking rhythm and blues material such as "The Word" alongside lovely ballads such as "Michelle" and "In My Life" one of my favourite and one of the band's most reflective songs. Here the lyrics seem to mesh wonderfully into the melody and there's a beautiful baroque keyboard passage.


Revolver (1966)

Taxman" (George Harrison)/Eleanor Rigby/I'm Only Sleeping/Love You To" (Harrison)/Here, There and Everywhere/Yellow Submarine/She Said She Said/
Good Day Sunshine/And Your Bird Can Sing/For No One/Doctor Robert/I Want to Tell You" (Harrison)/Got to Get You into My Life/Tomorrow Never Knows" 

Sergeant pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - 8

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band/With a Little Help from My Friends/
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds/Getting Better/Fixing a Hole/She's Leaving Home/Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!/Within You Without You" (George Harrison)/When I'm Sixty-Four/Lovely Rita/Good Morning Good Morning/
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)/A Day in the Life

Many critics regard Sergeant Pepper as the greatest rock album of all time. I would fall short of that appraisal but it was certainly a groundbreaking album in a pivotal year for rock music. Other critics claim 1967 as the birth year for popular music. Again that is tragically unfair to what has gone before. There is no doubt, however, that the evolution of the Beatles which began with Rubber Soul and continued with Revolver climaxed here. Famous songs, famous album cover. Whilst not being a full concept idea, the Beatles did use their alter Sgt Pepper egos to construct a framework that in many ways was a precursor to the strange feel of the White Album which was to follow a year later. One of the mind-boggling things about the Beatles was their ability to produce such quality in a very short space of time. Now it's hard to realise that Sgt Pepper came out just four years after Please Please Me. The albums are so different despite the ease with which the natural progression can be clearly seen. Sergeant Pepper is a mixture of serious song writing ("She's Leaving Home," and "A Day in the Life") with the rest of the album which seems to be a set of wonderfully idiosyncratic songs that work on many levels. There was evidence of blossoming psychedelia in the shape of George's "Within You Without You" In some ways the success of Sergeant Pepper was simply was a collection of songs without any notable singles. The great Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane were left off the album and released instead as a double A sided single. A shelved project to produce an album linked to childhood and everyday life saw a number of songs with that theme appearing on Sgt Pepper. There is a huge dollop of everyday life and growing up in "She's Leaving Home," "When I'm Sixty Four", "Lovely Rita" and "A Day in the Life." At this point in their career the band had become tired and disillusioned with touring and that turned them into a studio band and presumably gave them more time to experiment with mysticism etc. That is one of the things that made Sgt Pepper such a highlight in recording history as the band had extra time to try out new ideas. Beatlemania was in effect almost finished and that turned the group into much more mature songwriters.


Magical Mystery Tour - 7

Magical Mystery Tour / The Fool On The Hill / Flying / Blue Jay Way / Your Mother Should Know / I Am The Walrus / Hello Goodbye / Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane / Baby You're A Rich Man / All You Need Is Love

So the film wasn't exactly great, but the album is certainly well above average. This is a stylish set of songs that seems to incorporate the different aspects of the Fab Four's music. While George gives vent to his pyschedelic side on Blue Jay Way, there are distinctive differences in the songs written by Paul and John, although most are credited to both. Your Mother Should know and Penny Lane are undoubtedly McCartney numbers whilst I Am a Walrus and Strawberry Fields Forever are full of Lennonesque music and lyrics. Sergeant Pepper was a hard act to follow and perhaps that's why Magical Mystery Tour sounds more like a group of random songs stitched together. The delightful things is that however random they were there are some classic Beatles songs here. Many have already been mentioned but The Fool on the Hill, Hello Goodbye and All You Need is Love are all brilliantly written short pieces.

 

White Album - 6

Back in the U.S.S.R/Dear Prudence/Glass Onion/Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da/
Wild Honey Pie/The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill/While My Guitar Gently Weeps/Happiness Is a Warm Gun/Martha My Dear/I'm So Tired/Blackbird/Piggies/Rocky Raccoon/Don't Pass Me By/Why Don't We Do It in the Road?/I Will/Julia/Birthday/Yer Blues/Mother Nature's Son/Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey/Sexy Sadie/Helter Skelter/Long, Long, Long/Revolution 1/Honey Pie/Savoy Truffle/Cry Baby Cry/Revolution 9/Good Night

So this is where they were travelling to. Suddenly in music terms the Beatles become somewhat outrageous, veering off in new musical directions. Many claim this to be the group's finest work. I still find it very hard to take in one sitting. There are plenty of highlights but also some very average material. More than ever the psychedelic nature of the group is at the fore, but it is the fact that just two years later they were to break up that almost dominates the songs. There is a certain angst here that is hard to hide. Originally the album was destined to be called A Dolls House which somehow seems entirely inappropriate. It ended up just being called The Beatles and then became known ever after as The White Album due to its colour. All the original LPS were numbered. I am the proud owner of number 160,194 which is of no relevance whatsoever. Really the double album is all over the place and whether you see that as a plus or a minus is down to individual taste. I can see both points of view and I guess I am somewhere in the middle. There are wonderful songs here - Back in the USSR is an out and out rocker, While My Guitar Gently Weeps is arguably the best song George Harrison ever wrote, Martha My Dear is a typically fun McCartney song and I Will is one of McCartney's most endearing ballads. Even the John Lennon song Good Night which he wrote for dear old Ringo to sing has a subtle beauty to it. Elsewhere there's quite a bit of dross with the likes of Why Don't We Do It in the Road and the dreadful Revolution 9 which is a wasted eight minutes of experimentation that hold the dubious distinction of the longest Beatles song to appear anywhere. The White Album is flawed - simply because Lennon and McCartney seem to be desperate to throw off the mantel of classic songwriters and move into a more experimental field that somehow sums up the internal problems that were going on at the time.

 

Yellow Submarine (1969)

Yellow Submarine/Only a Northern Song" (George Harrison)/All Together Now/
Hey Bulldog/It's All Too Much" (Harrison)/All You Need Is Love/Pepperland/
Sea of Time/Sea of Holes/Sea of Monsters/March of the Meanies/Pepperland Laid Waste/Yellow Submarine in Pepperland" (Lennon, McCartney, arr. George Martin)

Abbey Road (1969) - 7.5

Come Together/Something/Maxwell's Silver Hammer/Oh! Darling/Octopus's Garden/I Want You (She's So Heavy)/Here Comes the Sun/Because/You Never Give Me Your Money/Sun King/Mean Mr. Mustard/Polythene Pam/She Came in Through the Bathroom Window/Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End/Her Majesty 

Technically the Beatles last album but released before Let It Be there is an impishness to Abbey Road that makes it more akin to the White Album than Let It Be. George Harrison was emerging as a good songwriter in his own right with the classic "something" and elsewhere McCartney is in decent form with one of his whimsical offerings "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and "Oh Darling" which showcased the rockier style that would become evident in much of his later solo work. To me Abbey Road has always been a fun album with the tracks just tacking into each other in seemless fashion. It was probably fitting that the band released Let It Be after Abbey Road otherwise we might have been left with the feeling that they were having too much fun to break up.

 

 

Let It Be (1970) - 7.5

Two of Us/Dig a Pony/Across the Universe/I Me Mine" (Harrison)/Dig It (Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starkey)/Let It Be/Maggie Mae" (traditional, arr. by Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starkey)/I've Got a Feeling/One After 909" (live)/The Long and Winding Road/For You Blue (Harrison)/Get Back.

Recorded before Abbey Road but released as the final Beatles album, there is certainly an inevitability about Let It Be. Arguments rage over the value of Phil Spector's contribution making some of these songs have an overblown feel but it is a closer inspection of the divisions within the band that somehow become apparent. It's certainly not a bad album in any way, shape or form but it does lack the feeling of togetherness of albums such as Sergeant Pepper and Rubber Soul. Having said that I prefer it to the more clinical feel of Rubber Soul. Lennon in particular seems to be getting tired of the whole Beatles thing and his disillusionment comes over as aggressive rather than fun with his verbal asides not helping the album to gel. In spite of that or may because of that there are still four classic Beatles songs here with Lennon coming up trumps with Across the Universe and McCartney weighing in with one of their greatest songs The Long and Winding Road along with Let it Be and Get Back