What's your favourite Beatles album?
- September 8, 2009 9:05 PM |
- By Arts Online
The digitally remastered versions of the Beatles’ studio albums arrive Sept. 9 with a hurricane of hype. For those in the know, these discs follow the track listings that appeared on the original U.K. releases.
Are you into the psychedelic reveries of Sgt. Pepper? Abbey Road’s slick production? Or maybe you’re a devotee of their middle period and have a tough time choosing between Rubber Soul and Revolver. We want to know which Beatles album is your favourite — you can vote at the bottom of this article. Before you cast your vote, here’s a guided tour to refresh your memory.
Please Please Me
Year of release: 1963
Standout tracks: I Saw Her Standing There, There’s A Place, Twist and Shout
Overview: Back in 1963, albums were an afterthought – much more attention was paid to the singles charts. For the Beatles’ first LP, producer George Martin simply decided to throw them in an Abbey Road studio for a day to recreate much of their live repertoire, honed over the years in Liverpool and Hamburg. Please Please Me was laid down in just under 10 hours, a far cry from the 129 days it would take to record Sgt. Pepper.
Less-than-stellar moment: A Taste of Honey, a turgid cover of a movie theme song.
Bonus fact: The album’s exultant finale, Twist and Shout, was the last song recorded in that marathon session. The group saved it until the end, knowing full well that Lennon would sing himself hoarse.
With The Beatles
Year of release: 1963
Standout tracks: Money (That’s What I Want), It Won’t Be Long, All My Loving, Please Mister Postman
Overview: Another impressive collection of cover versions and originals largely borrowed from the band’s live set list, With The Beatles took slightly longer to record than their debut album — the 14 songs were assembled in just 28 hours, over six days.
Less-than-stellar moment: Hold Me Tight, one of the rare Lennon-McCartney songs that never really achieves liftoff.
Bonus fact: Robert Freeman’s black and white photo of the unsmiling, turtleneck-wearing Beatles made for moody cover art – yet another area in which the group would innovate.
A Hard Day’s Night
Year of release: 1964
Standout tracks: A Hard Day’s Night, If I Fell, And I Love Her, You Can’t Do That, Can’t Buy Me Love
Overview: The first (and only) Beatles album that consists entirely of Lennon-McCartney originals. A Hard Day’s Night features seven tracks that appeared in the delightful Richard Lester movie of the same name, and another six that didn’t.
Less-than-stellar moment: I’m Happy Just to Dance With You, an uncharacteristically formulaic tune written by Lennon for Harrison to sing.
Bonus fact: This is very much Lennon’s album. His vocals and songwriting come to the fore on numerous tracks, including You Can’t Do That, a tune about jealousy and infidelity that indicates an imminent move away from teen-friendly love songs.
Beatles for Sale
Year of release: 1964
Standout tracks: No Reply, I’m A Loser, Eight Days A Week, What You’re Doing, I’ll Follow the Sun
Overview: Hastily assembled for the Christmas market, Beatles for Sale arrived in stores only five months after A Hard Day’s Night. Given the time constraints, it makes sense that only eight of the 13 tracks were Lennon-McCartney compositions. Still, introspective songs such as No Reply and I’m A Loser reveal increasing lyrical sophistication.
Less-than-stellar moment: Mr. Moonlight, an overwrought cover of a Roy Lee Johnson song that features a cheesy Hammond organ solo.
Bonus fact: In the U.K., the band almost always kept singles and albums separate, which explains why I Feel Fine – released just a week before Beatles for Sale – wasn’t included on the album.
Year of release: 1965
Standout tracks: Help!, You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, Ticket to Ride, Yesterday
Overview: The second big-screen Beatles vehicle was a globe-trotting comedy-adventure, shot as the lads were seriously embracing marijuana. As with A Hard Day’s Night, the soundtrack album contains seven songs from the movie and an additional batch of non-film tunes. Help! doesn’t rank in the upper echelon of Beatles product, but the experimentation continues: You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away features Lennon in full-on Dylan mode, and Yesterday takes the band in an orchestral direction.
Less-than-stellar moment: Act Naturally – Ringo covers the Buck Owens country classic about making it in Hollywood. Amiable and reflective of Starr’s burgeoning acting career, but glaringly out of sync with the rest of the album.
Bonus fact: According to the Guinness World Records, Yesterday is the most-covered tune of all-time, with over 3,000 interpretations. Among the giants who’ve had a go at it: Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Marvin Gaye and Frank Sinatra.
Year of release: 1965
Overview: A quantum leap forward, Rubber Soul represents the Beatles’ full embrace of the recording studio. This was no rush job – the band spent around 100 hours at Abbey Road. On Norwegian Wood, Lennon continued to mine Dylanesque territory and Harrison even added some sitar – further proof that the band’s sonic palette was expanding.
Less-than-stellar moment: The only song ever written by Starr, Lennon and McCartney, the jaunty country ditty What Goes On falls short of the impossibly high benchmark set by the other tracks.
Bonus fact: Rubber Soul’s album cover was the first to omit the group’s name.
Year of release: 1966
Standout tracks: Taxman, Eleanor Rigby, Here, There and Everywhere, Tomorrow Never Knows, For No One, Got to Get You Into My Life
Overview: The studio experimentation continues on this Swinging London masterpiece. It’s hard to believe that Revolver was released just two years after A Hard Day’s Night — the musical transformation is so stark. This isn’t a conventional pop album. McCartney’s Eleanor Rigby, for one, deals with the theme of death and contains a haunting string section arranged by George Martin; Lennon’s Tomorrow Never Knows is inspired by LSD and The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and features backwards tape loops. Due to its breathtaking production and songwriting, Revolver often winds up at No. 1 in polls of the greatest albums of all time.
Less-than-stellar moment: There isn’t a lame track on this album, but of George Harrison’s three tracks, the Indian-flavoured Love You To is the least compelling.
Bonus fact: After making massive technological advances with this album, the band decided to stop touring and become a studio-only entity.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Year of release: 1967
Standout tracks: A Day in the Life, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, With a Little Help From My Friends
Overview: Ten months after Revolver, the soundtrack to the Summer of Love arrived – one of the most ambitious, painstakingly recorded rock albums of all time. Although it poses as a concept album — on which the Beatles pretend to be another band — the “concept” disappears after the second track and doesn’t reappear until the penultimate song. Still, what creative audacity — just listen to the orchestral climax and that final chord of A Day in the Life. This is a band at the peak of its powers.
Less-than-stellar moment: Sorry, but after all these years, When I’m 64 is jarringly twee compared to psychedelic classics like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and A Day in the Life.
Bonus fact: Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane were originally intended for Sgt. Pepper, but manager Brian Epstein decided they should be released on a single in advance of the album.
Magical Mystery Tour
Year of release: 1967
Standout tracks: I Am the Walrus, The Fool on the Hill, Strawberry Fields Forever, Baby You’re a Rich Man
Overview: The soundtrack to the Beatles’ ill-fated, largely improvised TV movie sees the band still in psychedelic mode. Although the movie was savaged by critics, it’s musically significant because it gave us I Am the Walrus, a Lewis Carroll-inspired Lennon masterpiece.
Less-than-stellar moment: Blue Jay Way – George droning on about waiting for publicist Derek Taylor to arrive at a house in L.A.
Bonus fact: This is the only Beatles album being re-released in its U.S. configuration. It contains the six tracks from the movie, along with some stellar 1967 hit singles (including Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields Forever, Hello Goodbye, All You Need Is Love).
Overview: Perhaps the most eclectic rock project ever, The White Album contains elements of blues, country, honky-tonk, doo-wop, British music hall, experimental sound collage, 1950s-style rock ’n’ roll and folk-rock. By 1968, the Beatles’ group dynamic had eroded. The three songwriters in the group basically used the other members as session musicians on their individual tracks. Still, the results are sprawling, disturbing and utterly compelling.
Less-than-stellar moment: Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – a McCartney reggae jam that Lennon detested. Ringo’s Don’t Pass Me By is also a bit of a shambles.
Bonus fact: McCartney wrote Helter Skelter in a conscious attempt to outdo the loudness and rawness of The Who’s I Can See For Miles. And yes, Ringo did have blisters on his fingers after recording that song.
Year of release: 1968
Standout tracks: Hey Bulldog, All Together Now
Overview: This isn’t a full-fledged Beatles LP, but rather a hodge-podge of tunes featured in George Dunning’s animated film. The soundtrack album contained only four previously unreleased Beatles songs, none of them top-drawer material.
Less-than-stellar moment: The George Martin film score tracks (including March of the Meanies and Sea of Monsters) must surely rank as the least listened-to songs on any Beatles album.
Bonus fact: In It’s Only A Northern Song, George Harrison registers his displeasure with the Beatles’ music publishing company, Northern Songs.
Year of release: 1969
Standout tracks: Here Comes the Sun, Something, Come Together, Because, Golden Slumbers, The End, Side Two medley
Overview: The tracks were actually laid down after the contentious Let It Be sessions, which makes Abbey Road the last Beatles album ever recorded. It’s a suitable coda to their studio career. According to McCartney, the band decided to “put down the boxing gloves” and co-operate with each other and producer George Martin. Subsequently, it feels like more of a group effort than either The Beatles or Let It Be. George Harrison’s two songs here – Here Comes the Sun and Something – rival and perhaps even surpass the quality of Lennon and McCartney’s output.
Less-than-stellar moment: Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, another one of McCartney’s “character” songs, which tries too hard to be clever, and just ends up cloying.
Bonus fact: The Beatles briefly considered calling the album Everest, and thought about flying to Mount Everest to shoot the cover photo.
Let It Be
Year of release: 1970
Overview: This is the sound of the biggest rock-pop group of all time falling apart. Yes, there are some sublime moments here, but Let It Be makes a convincing case that it was time for the band to split up. Originally conceived as a combination “back to basics” album and behind-the-scenes documentary, there was one gigantic problem: the band members often couldn’t tolerate being in the same room with each other.
Less-than-stellar moment: One After 909, a railroad-inspired Lennon-McCartney track written early on in their songwriting partnership. The album could also have survived without the meandering Dig It.
Bonus fact: Don’t Let Me Down, one of the stellar performances from the famous Apple rooftop concert on Jan. 30, 1969, wasn’t included on the original Let It Be album, due to the machinations of producer Phil Spector. (It was, however, featured on the Let It Be…Naked re-release in 2003.)
What’s your favourite Beatles album, and why? Leave your comments below.
Greig Dymond writes about the arts for CBCNews.ca.
All Arts & Entertainment blogs
Things That Go Pop!
- FILM REVIEW: Titanic 3D - minute by minute
- James Cameron's Titanic was always a marathon at three hours and counting. As it returns in 3D, Eli Glasner examines the experience --- minute by minute -- and discovers Céline Dion's ubiquitous soundtrack, and James Cameron's risible dialogue, have not improved with age. Continue reading this post
- Sparkle trailer gives last glimpse of Whitney Houston
- A trailer for the movie musical Sparkle was released Monday, giving us a glimpse of Whitney Houston's last project. The late singer plays the mother of Jordin Sparks, an aspiring singer in the 1960s who rises with a girl group similar to the Supremes. Sparkle will be released in August. Continue reading this post
- FABLE FIGHT: Mirror Mirror vs. Wrath of the Titans
- It's a box office battle of mythic proportions this weekend as remixed fables and fairy tales go head to head. In one corner, Mirror Mirror, a snarky retelling of the Snow White fairy tale. In the other, Wrath of the Titans, the sequel to the widely panned remake from 2010. Continue reading this post