Beatles Song Reviews
Please Please Me (1963)
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I Saw Her Standing There A+
With a simple “One, Two, Three, FOUR!!,” The Beatles songwriting existence was off to a rollicking start! This simple pop-rock song that's not unlike what everyone else was doing at the time, but it had a melody so infectious that the gates of hell might just as well have busted open! (Don't you just love the way everyone likes to romanticize The Beatles? And here I am... doing more of that. Oh, sue me!) Paul McCartney takes the lead vocals, and he sounds as excited as ever.
They did rock 'n' roll pretty well with “I Saw Her Standing There,” but how are they at ballads? They excel of course! This isn't even two minutes long, and the melody is remarkably simple. But how on earth did they make it so dang catchy? I mean, you listen to the song production and you can tell that it was a bit rough on the edges... and yet it catches fire faster than gasoline...
Anna (Go to Him) B+
Even the covers are good! It's interesting to hear the covers right next to the originals and note The Beatles songwriting powers right from the very beginning. Next to the much simpler and probably triter “Misery,” this perfectly fine ballad noticeably pales by comparison in a big way. I can't explain the technical reason for that other than it's The Beatles' special magic!
This was originally a minor hit for Little Eva and was a composition by Carole King and Gerry Goffin. Well, that songwriting duo would blossom later in the decade along with The Beatles,writing some great songs for The Monkees! Anyway, this incredibly likable mid-tempo rock song is very catchy, indeed! And the performance here is very fresh and vibrant!
Ringo sings! ... Er, why is he singing about boys? ... Nevermind! Compositionally speaking, this is even less interesting than that King/Goffin number. But it's that spirited vocal performance that gives it the juice! That's not to mention the fresh and vibrant instrumentation. Anyone who thinks The Beatles weren't that great instrumentalists probably haven't listened to the average 1963 pop album. I mean, listen to The Beach Boys if you want a good example how wussy white rock bands were at the time...
Ask Me Why B+
I guess the story goes that Paul was the band's greatest songwriter by far at this point in their history, and John was trying his best to keep up! That love-hate relationship is the stuff of legend! This Lennon/McCartney composition was mostly written by Lennon, and it does sound notably less inspired than the two songs that opened the album. I also get the feeling that I'll eventually find some song written in the '50s that sounds exactly the same! Oh well... I like it anyway!
Please Please Me A+
HHHHHHELL YEAH!!!!!!!!! Here's concrete proof that people who claim to hate The Beatles are kidding themselves. It's been medically proven that it's impossible to hate this song. ...Perhaps I should come to terms with the fact that I cannot speak for other people, but ... I'm quoting medical science, folks. ... Actually, this was was originally a Lennon song, but the legend of his relative inexperience with songwriting still holds true. The song is catchy as hell, of course. It's upbeat and toe tapping. Do I need to say anything else? ... You guys know it by heart already, right?
Love Me Do A
According to Wikipedia, this one dates back to the '50s, and McCartney wrote it when he was ditching school! I'm sure a bunch of people who were in school in the '50s now with they played hookie more often to write these hit songs!! I sure wish I did! ... And the guy just had that natural gift, obviously! Their songwriting would get more complex later on, but this remarkably simple little pop-rock tune is something that's immediately prone to get stuck, happily, in your mind for the rest of your life. But of course, I don't need to actually say that!
P.S. I Love You B+
This joins the ranks of “Ask Me Why” as one of the least memorable of all these memorable songs. This is a McCartney composition written somewhere in Germany. It's very simple, and you could even make the argument that it's throwaway. But even these “throwaway” compositions have these catchy melodies! (I'm learning all sorts of awesome things from Wikipedia. That's not even Ringo playing the drums! No wonder that wimpy pitter-patter sucks so much!!!!)
Baby It's You B
Geez... This was a Burt Bacharach composition. This is more evidence that pretty much every songwriter got better by the end of the '60s. I guess that's why that decade was magical! ... Anyway, I like this song, naturally, though in retrospect it's probably one of the weakest things here. Lennon has certainly given better vocal performances...
Do You Want to Know a Secret A-
John Lennon wrote it, and George sings it. I guess John wanted to make sure that George had a chance to take the vocals for once, George didn't have a very good voice, and this was an easy song to sing. Again, you don't need to have a PhD in music theory to know that this is an incredibly simple pop song that repeats a lot. And yet, it's catchy! (That little deviation around the 1:10 minute mark is terrible!!!!)
A Taste of Honey B
This isn't a rock song! It was a vocal standard by Bobby Scott. But at least Ringo still gives a nice drum beat! It's funny how the song keeps switching back and forth between 3/4 and 4/4 time. I'll tell you that I almost don't like this song. It's a nice tune, of course, but it's actually a bit ... er ... boring?
There's a Place A
There is a place, and it's the mind!!!!!!!! (...another interesting Wikipedia factoid...) Paul McCartney was the principle songwriter of this, and it's easily one of the catchiest melodies here. It's even quite a bit more complex than the other songs, which gives it a little bit more distinction. Although it's perhaps not quite as instantaneously memorable. (OK, I'm also reading on Wikipedia that this was inspired “Somewhere” from The West Side Story. That's so blatantly obvious now that it was pointed out to me...)
Twist and Shout A+
This is absolutely the only instance in the history of mankind where a cover on a Beatles album is in serious contention as the best song of the album! Nothing else ever comes close, actually. And I have no doubt that part of the reason this song is so great is because of John Lennon's raucous and incredibly gritty and raw vocal performance ... And the reason it was so incredibly gritty was because he had a terrible cold, and he completely lost the use of his voice after this.
With The Beatles (1963)
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It Won't Be Long A+
Oh no... Am I overextending myself by awarding an A+ rating so early in this album when the best is clearly yet to come? Ah, I don't care. As far as I'm concerned at this very moment, this is the catchiest song on the planet. Also, if you've just come off listening to Please Please Me, you may be shocked to learn that this is considerably more polished and fully baked than anything appearing on there. That call and response style “yeahs” is quite innovative and, according to Wikipedia, so is that chord progression! And that guitar!!!!!!!! ... Ringo!!!!! OK, I'm dribbling.
All I've Got to Do A-
This is less inherently wonderful as the previous original composition just because it's not nearly as innovative. But The Beatles can revert back to the old styles all they want as long as they play it this well. John's vocal performance is gorgeous. And, listen to that drumming! God, these guys put everyone to shame.
All My Loving A+
John was the principle songwriter of the previous two tracks, but this one was all Paul's doing... This is also one of the Beatles hugest classics. Oh! The jealousy and tension between them mounted! And what on earth could I say about this song, because we all know it. It's only two minutes long, but somehow it seems longer. Ringo's pounding away, and George is quietly shredding his guitar in the background.
Don't Bother Me A-
Even George is writing good songs now! (OK, it's pretty funny his first song would be called “Don't Bother Me” given his reputation.) This in fact marks a historic occasion as the first Harrison composition on a Beatles album. As you expect, George would get better. This doesn't quite pop out at you like the others. I think George himself almost immediately disowned it. I don't know why. If I wrote a Beatles song I'd be dang proud. (But I guess that was different for him, because he's George Harrison.) For some reason, Ringo is giving us this knocking sound in the background ... and that turned out to be a good idea somehow.
Little Child A-
Fun, energetic and spirited! It's not the most inspired song on the planet, and this one is incredibly derivative. Though nobody cares about that since this is a party-song, simple as that. And since this was a party song, Ringo took the lead vocals, because he's rock 'n' roll's best party dude. John's getting a little bit carried away with that harmonica!
Till There Was You A
Have I ever mentioned that my parents used to force me to watch The Music Man over and over? ...Yeah. That's part of my childhood that I can never get back!! (Oh wait... I used to want to watch it.) It's a little bit of a strange idea for The Beatles to cover a show tune, but it turned out to be a quite a nice decision. (Apparently, McCartney didn't realize it was a show tune... he just knew about a cover of it that somebody else did.) The source material was very good to begin with, and Paul performance is incredibly beautiful. The acoustic guitars and Ringo's bongo drumming hits the spot perfectly.
Please Mr. Postman A
Yeah... even these covers have improved substantially since Please Please Me. Such an impressive vocal performance from John! I haven't actually heard the original, but if it's better than this cover version, then it would have to be hellishly good.
Roll Over Beethoven A-
Here, they cover one of the most well-known oldies! And the reason it's well-known, for once, is not because The Beatles cover it! It's a Chuck Berry song, of course! George opens this song with that typical guitar sequence and delivers a surprisingly rollicking vocal performance. (I mean... that vocal performance is a massive improvement over his vocals from that one song in Please Please Me.)
Hold Me Tight B+
Do you know how awesome this would have been if it was the Wings tune? ... (That's right, 10 years later, Paul would write a completely different song with this title. And it's better.) Oh, and this song is pretty good, too! The melody is catchy, and it's played well... of course those two things can go left unmentioned. Its problem seems to be that it doesn't quite leap out at me like so many of these other songs... It's probably a real A-, but I demoted it just for paling a bit.
You Really Got a Hold on Me A-
Just to prove how much “Hold Me Tight” was a relatively pale after hearing this Smokey Robinson cover that comes next. I mean, this song wasn't fantastically great to begin with, but the Beatles give it their usual, wonderful treatment. John gives yet another gorgeous, soaring vocal performance that completely hits home.
I Wanna Be Your Man A
The Beatles originally wrote this tune for The Rolling Stones who recorded a much meaner sounding version of it! ... Of course, that's no surprise considering how they were the mean-boys of rock 'n' roll. Although that's not to say The Beatles' version isn't still rollicking, and still has major drive to it. Plus, the melody is incredibly catchy... and it's even structured interestingly. (That chord they go to when they sing “I wanna be your maaaaaaaaaaaaaan” ... cool.)
Devil in Her Heart B+
Another song that George Harrison sings! This isn't as inspired as his performance on “Roll Over Beethoven,” but he's still proving to be a fine singer after all! Of course this being a cover, it's not as exciting or as fresh as an original. Naturally, The Beatles still give it proper treatment, and they make it as entertaining as it could possibly be!
Not a Second Time A
The more I listen to this, the more bizarre it seems to me. Unfortunately I don't have a music theory background, and it's difficult to point out exactly what makes it so weird. It's sort of a towering, and rather dark-sounding song with an interesting chord progression that John wrote! Ringo comes in with these freakishly pounding drums, which gives the song even more punch. George Martin is also pounding on the dark registers of the piano, which ends up being just about as effective as Ringo was!
It lacks the same punch as the earlier rollicking covers such as “Roll Over Beethoven,” but don't think The Beatles were ever capable of putting out a performance that was anything less than “wholesomely entertaining.” John Lennon brings out those legendary singing chops! It's probably a good thing that he didn't have a cold this time... He started washing his hands after visiting public restrooms.
A Hard Day's Night (1964)
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A Hard Day's Night A+
Just that opening chord is the topic of a million conversations! And the rest of the song is yet another insanely infectious Beatles tune, which somehow manages to leave most of the stuff in their back catalogue seem somehow passe. They harness an incredible amount of energy here with a melody that brims of utter perfection from beginning to end. It's neither too long nor too short. Even that somewhat stilted electric guitar solo in the middle manages to be awesome. They wouldn't accept anything less.
I Should Have Known Better A+
This is one of those slower songs that'll make you fight the urge to bob your head with it most agreeably. I don't know how you'd be able to fight the urge to do that... it's probably scientifically impossible. I'll get back to you after I talked to a medical professional. Even those harmonicas are awesome now! Get a load of that cool wobble effect they do to it.
If I Fell A
Here's a slower ballad with, as Wikipedia calls it, an unusual song structure. It doesn't seem that unusual to me, but that's probably because everybody started writing these sorts of songs after The Beatles! There are a number of great chord sequences in this, though, which probably accounts for that assessment. Certainly this is a far cry from those generic love ballads they used to do in the '50s. That coupled with the melodic hooks makes this yet another genius song. I mean, they could murder me with these hooks!
I'm Happy Just to Dance With You A-
This is a Lennon/McCartney composition that they let George sing. Apparently, the only reason they wanted him to sing it was because it was so formulaic that neither Lennon nor McCartney wanted to sing it! Poor George! Well, he gives a decent vocal performance, but even as a huge George fan myself, I have to concede that his performance is a far cry away from those Lennon-led numbers that preceded this. ......And anyway, for a formulaic song, this thing is fantastic. It's simple yet catchy. Quite cool.
And I Love Her A+
I sat through many-a-love-ballad, and very few of them even approaches this. In fact, most of them suck. But this two-and-a-half minutes is one of the sweetest things that you've probably ever heard. The acoustic guitars are excellent as you'd expect them to be. Ringo pounds away with a bongo... and some clicky instrument. (Oh yeah... these are songs that I probably don't have to bother trying to describe!)
Tell Me Why A-
John Lennon said he wrote this as a simple doo-wop song, which I suppose is also why I can't seem to come up with anything incredibly interesting to say about it! Naturally, the melody is catchy, which means that it automatically earns such a high rating. That little falsetto interlude was a charming idea. A little silly, sure, but this is the early Beatles!
Can't Buy Me Love A+
One of Paul McCartney's greatest love odes of all time, and that's really saying something. (I suppose now's the time to remind you that I'm a fan of those infamous sugary Wings songs. What can I say? I'm a sucker for melodies! And if it's a sugary thing about love, then so freaking be it.) McCartney's melody was so memorable that you probably have it in your head right now. Goes without saying. George comes in with a fantastic guitar solo in the middle. Another thing that comes without saying.
Any Time At All A
How many great melodies did these guys have in them? ... Don't answer that. This unstoppable melodic prowess sure makes it difficult to write these track reviews! That funny middle section with a loudly strummed electric guitar, I guess, was supposed to have a melody attached to it, but they never got around to it!
I'll Cry Instead A-
They're taking a more folksy turn with this song. Obviously, this is too early for the Dylan influence, and the lyrics are still rooted in the subject of “love.” Lennon wrote it specifically for some scene in the film. Not the most memorable song on the album, but this is still too tasty for me to contain myself!
Things We Said Today A
This is one of those pleasant McCartney ditties that'll make you want to bob your head to. He always seemed to be good for that, didn't he? This being McCartney, the melody is wonderful and classic.
When I Get Home B
They're getting uncharacteristically a bit sloppy and repetitive here. The vocal performance is really overblown for a start especially for this album, which prides itself in these simple, happy-go-lucky songs. The guitars are just a tad too loud, and it just doesn't feel as intrinsically wonderful as everything else here. (As much as I hate to point these things out... ah well, I've been saying all along that The Beatles were mortal, after all.) But the good news of course is I'm listening to an album where the worst song, by far, still gets a B.
You Can't Do That A-
Back to those utterly upbeat songs, although the lyrical matter is a little bit downbeat! The melody is catchy, and the chorus is utterly splendid.
I'll Be Back A+
John liked them minor chords! It's hard to call a song like this “upbeat,” but it still has that infectious tendency to make you want to tap your foot! However, behind that catchy melody, there's something dark brooding behind the corner. Some have called this the first hint of those darker Beatles albums to come! That obvious, of course. Everything from this incredibly substantiative chord progression, and those heartbreaking lyrics.
Beatles For Sale (1964)
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No Reply A
The weakest opening in any Beatles album ever, or is that a terrible thing to say? He's John Lennon's excellent song with a very catchy melody and very bold instrumentation. Paul and John duet on this one, and when they scream-sing that mini-chorus with lines like “I NEARLY DIED!” and “NO REPLY!,” it sends a shiver down my spine! This might not be incredibly deviant from the previous Beatles albums' style, but you can't deny that this is darker and a little more emotionally meaningful than most of the stuff beforehand.
I'm a Loser A+
Well, certainly this sort of song title would tell you that The Beatles were getting a little more introspective. These lyrics John wrote were reportedly inspired by his historic meeting with Bob Dylan, which would explain why they're quite a bit more interesting than the average song from the previous works. The melody is utterly infectious, of course, and the instrumentals could hardly be better. The guitars have an almost folky vibe, and Ringo's drumming is similarly organic. Even that harmonica solo in the middle has an interesting, detached off-kilter personality to it. This is different than the previous songs they have done, and The Beatles were much better for it! But why a fade out?? Ah well.
Baby's in Back A
Another song that shows Dylan's influence on Lennon! This song has a bit of swing to it, which gives it a different feel than anything else these guys did before. (I suppose I should be more technical about this: It was written in 6/8 time.) The melody has so many hooks in it that I can hardly believe it. The fact that “I'm a Loser” seemed a bit catchier than this goes to show how great these songs are! George comes in with a very odd guitar solo made to sound a little bit like a slide guitar. There's some more evidence they were going for more of a folky sound!
Rock and Roll Music A
Oh yes! This album has covers in it! This Chuck Berry song was reportedly one of their favorite songs to play in their early days in Hamburg. John gives the most boisterous vocal performance that he could, which is obviously one of the biggest highlights of this piece. The instrumentation is wonderful, as you'd expect. It'll make you tap your foot! That piano is wonderful! It goes all over the place!! The production also somehow makes it seem richer and deeper than their earlier covers. You'll have to discuss more of that with George Martin.
I'll Follow the Sun A-
Ah... I didn't even need to look it up on Wikipedia to tell that this was a Paul McCartney song. (Well, you can tell by the style of songwriting ... not just by who's singing it.) It has that light, airy atmosphere that Paul is well-known for as well as the instantly likable melody. For the most part, this song has a couple of melody lines that repeat. There's nothing special about that other than it's luuuuurvely. It lasts less than two minutes, which is strange considering most artists would drag a hook like that on for five minutes at least!
Mr. Moonlight B-
John does have a tendency to overdo things sometimes. His scream-singing here is a little like an overzealous door-to-door religious guy. You want to back away a bit! I also can't say that this was the best source material for them to cover. It's not that catchy, and interesting. I can't say that it was presented that well either. Those Beatles harmonies are too overbearing... and that organ solo is horrible.
Medley: Kansas City / Hey, Hey, Hey A-
Another cover, but much better. Especially after hearing the opening three songs, you start to get the idea that The Beatles might have been sick of doing covers... especially if they're capable of writing much-better originals! Paul McCartney tries to match Lennon's passionate vocal performance and succeeds to a considerable degree! George gets a chance to shine with yet another interesting guitar interlude... Even in these covers, George is frequently able to come up with these original lines that manages to not just fit the material, but enhance it.
Eight Days a Week A
This is easily the most famous track of the album, and the group didn't think it deserved the attention! Well.. I can understand that sentiment. This seemed a little out of place here. It would have found a comfortable home in A Hard Day's Night or With The Beatles. That bouncy guitar and those hand claps surprisingly seem a bit passe! (There you go... proof that this album was a bigger step forward for them despite what some critics would have you think.) But despite that, this song is unbelievably catchy! Since everybody in the world knows this by heart, that goes without saying...
Words of Love A
Here's a Buddy Holly cover, though it could have passed as a Beatles original. (That goes to show how good of a songwriter Buddy Holly was!) That very light clapping The Beatles do through this was a strange idea, but one that happened to work. John and Paul give a strangely droning vocal performance, which produces an interesting contrast to George's very busy and ringing guitar tone. These innovative touches makes this the second best cover on the disc, methinks.
Honey Don't B+
Ringo sings! I guess he has to sing once per album, anyway... It wouldn't be proper without one! I love his vocals, and he sounds as hearty as he always does. Again, this isn't one of the more interesting covers they did, and the Wikipedia entry seems to suggest it was recorded nearly at the last minute. This is very straightforward... though it still makes a good listen.
Every Little Thing A-
This one is a little unusual, and I'm not talking about that timpani! (Although that's unusual, too.) Paul's melody seems a little detached and stilted ... it's primitive in a caveman sort of way (if you know what I mean) ... and yet the song is still catchy and memorable! Ah yes, that's the magic of The Beatles! This doesn't quite seem as fully baked as the others hence the lower rating.
I Don't Want to Spoil the Party A-
Here's another Lennon composition with a strong folky-country sound to it. That connection became more pronounced in 1989 when Rosanne Cash covered it and it made it to #1 on the country music charts. The melody is great, of course! Not one of John's most memorable melodies, but it's a John melody all the same... George comes in with another guitar solo with a country twang.
What You're Doing A+
This is one of those songs that you might not find instantly likable ... you might have to cuddle in it like a blanket, at first. The lyrical matter is uncharacteristically dark for Paul, but it still comes off as fun and playful. This song opens with a funny drum loop, and a cool guitar riff comes in. Then a Paul McCartney melody pipes up. And what can I say other than it's a McCartney melody? It also happens to be one of his better ones ever... There's a hook around every bend. Paul's vocal melody is especially charming here... He's singing his heart out! George's guitar is wonderful... And George Martin comes in with an odd, rumbly piano in the middle. An interesting touch to an interesting song!
Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby B+
And they let George sing lead for the final track, a Carl Perkins cover. Other than the fact The Beatles are playing it, there is nothing particularly special about this one. George does deliver an excellent vocal performance, though... It's true his voice wasn't quite as impressive as Paul's and John's, but it fit this material perfectly. He's not trying to impress us, so it was quite smart too.
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This is the perfect song to have stuck in your head when you're in a panic. It gives you a good tune, so you're not panicking so much anymore! The Beatles are continuing to write more emotionally resonant songs while still retaining the commercial invincibility. This one brilliantly has two melody lines that goes at the same time, during certain parts ... That's a touch they've never done before! Brilliant stuff, man...
The Night Before A-
This really seems weak compared to “Help!” but that goes to show how excellent a song that was! The melody is less infectious and much less memorable. But since it's a Beatles song, it's wonderful of course! There's a little bit more of that vocal layering here, but this is done more in a round-robin style.
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away A+
Undoubtedly one of John Lennon's Dylan inspired ballads. AND IT'S GREAT!! John knew how to write some great hooks, and this song would have sounded great no matter what he did to it. But I especially like that he just decided to whip out some straight acoustic guitars and tambourines ... and some woodwind comes in at the end to give a solo.
I Need You A
George Harrison is really starting to make a dent in the songwriting here. He does this weird, blocky effect with his guitar, which was a strange and innovative idea. George's melodies were never quite as infectious as John's or Paul's (especially at this early stage) and perhaps seemed primitive compared to theirs. Ringo's light drumming is also very strange... at first glance, it doesn't seem to fit. But at second glance, you wouldn't want to accept anything else.
Another Girl A
Here's an upbeat Paul McCartney song with a melody that's catchier than anything! The rhythm is utterly toe-tapping, and you're going to have trouble resisting it... and who knows why you would want to? The one thing that really sets this song apart is that guitar, which is wobbling around like mad. I was going to congratulate George, but I guess it was actually played by Paul...
You're Gonna Lose That Girl A
I thought this might have been a cover since it's structured like a typical early 60s Motown song... It has a typical rhythm and vocal layering. The melody is even typical, and it would have made it one of the better Motown singles. Even the harmonies are pretty typical ...... until they sing “You're gonna lose that girl” the third time. The harmonies get a little strange and magical, and it sorta gives it away that this was an original. And it was. It's one of John's. (It's interesting how you can tell Beatles songs apart from everyone else just listening to the harmonies.)
Ticket to Ride A+
This is also popular proof of The Beatles' evolving songwriting. The rhythms are phenomenally deeper and more menacing than anything they had done before. Ringo's drumming is louder and more thunderous. That droning bass guitar sounds vaguely like heavy metal. John's melody continues to be brilliantly catchy. Of course, the catchiness of the songs are what keeps us addicted to them!
Act Naturally A
There's that unwritten rule that Ringo must sing lead in at least one of the songs... and I guess the Lennon/McCartney duo didn't feel like writing anything for them. So he sings this cute country song. Ringo's vocals are as fun as always... I fight the urge to give the little ol' guy a big hug after listening to him! The instrumentals are similarly playful. That ultra clean acoustic guitar provides most of the instrumental backdrop. And then there's that playful, scaling rhythm guitar that plays another melody. That wooden clicks also give the song a fun rhythm...
It's Only Love A-
Apparently, John thought this was one of the worst Beatles songs... And yet, it's wonderful! (He was probably talking mostly about the lyrics, which I suppose weren't as deep as his other songs.) The melody is a little weaker compared to to the others, and it probably would have fit pretty well on the two early Beatles albums. That watery guitar is very innovative, though, and gives this song extra texture.
You Like Me Too Much B+
Here's another Harrisong! Even as his songwriting is at such a formative stage, he can still write these excellent songs! George Martin has an old honkytonk-style piano introduction playing a tremolo. Certainly one of the inferior songs on Help!, but that's OK. You wouldn't want to like this song too much.
Tell Me What You See A-
According to Wikipedia (where I get most of these tidbit factoids), Paul McCartney apparently had a difficult time remembering if he wrote this. I guess I could see that... The melody isn't nearly as infectious as most of McCartney's songs. The instrumentation is fairly standard for this stage of The Beatles. And yet, it'll give you that urge to bob your head back and forth!
I've Just Seen a Face A+
The previous track might have been somewhat ambiguous, but this is pure McCartney from beginning to end. I recognize this style anywhere... The only thing missing between this and the stuff from his solo career is Linda McCartney's back-up vocals. This is another folky song, but it's completely different than anything John would write. The melody is much sweeter and more airy. You'll like it!
This is also pure Paul from beginning to end. I think the whole world agrees that these lyrics aren't very good... but somehow they seem genuine when they're combined with that incredible melancholy melody. George Martin's idea to have a string quartet playing in the background was legendary! ... Now, who ever thought that rock and classical music would blend together so well?
Dizzy Miss Lizzy A
By this time, the covers are really starting to sound passe. But I'll happily take another opportunity to hear John Lennon sing his freaking lungs out! This was also quite a jolt after listening to “Yesterday” ... and not necessarily a good one! Well, they went out on a rockin' note, which I guess would've been preferable at this stage of rock's history.
Rubber Soul (1965)
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Drive My Car A+
This is the first Beatles album to open with a Macca song since the debut! (Oh, I am so observant!) Paul McCartney admitted these lyrics were about sex. That's why the entire Baby Boom generation turned out to be so corrupt. Way to go, Macca! ... And hey, listen to this song. If it was written by Macca, that would mean that it's about the catchiest tune to ever exist. There's nothing particularly innovative about this tune other than it has a pretty original melody. It's a mid-tempo with the usual drum beat and guitars. Paul's bouncy bass-line is especially wonderful, and George comes in with an excellent, minimal guitar solo. Though I gotta admit, my favorite instruments is that cowbell.
Norwegian Wood (This Car Has Flown) A+
This is another one of John's Dylan-inspired folk songs. But the whole reason this song is famous is because George plays the sitar on it. He apparently picked up the instrument on a whim, and what a whim! It's the only thing people even remember about it! The first western pop song to feature an Indian instrument. Of course, John's melody is entirely wonderful, and it'll stick in your mind for the rest of your life...
You Won't See Me A-
Well, this certainly isn't as good as the first two tracks, that's for sure. Somehow, it seems a little more forced than the others. Even then, the melody continues to seem sparkly. I like Ringo's drumming... It seems a little bit too busy for such a song, but thinking about it you'd hardly want anything else. Those huge piano chords were a little bit much, but they make up for it with that “Oooooooo lah-lah-lah” in the background.
Nowhere Man A+
One of the first Beatles songs to not be about love, which marks another step forward for the band. John Lennon loved these philosophical lyrics, and these are surely some of his better ones. (Of course, he later admitted that the Nowhere Man was him, who couldn't come up with another song.) I wish everyone could come up with excellent, catchy songs like this off-the-cuff. That would make record reviewing so much more fulfilling! ... Oh well, I'll soak it up now while I can...
Think For Yourself A
This is where George's songwriting finally came of-age. This thing holds its own perfectly against all these other songs! The melody is catchy, the song structure is interesting and I like the lyrics. Paul McCartney plays a really loud fuzz bass throughout the track, which gives it extra character... just like George's sitar gave “Norwegian Wood” extra character.
The Word A
In the review of this album I wrote about five years ago, I was under the impression that Paul wrote this! I thought the lyrics sounded very corny and Paul-ish. But no, this was John's attempt at writing a political anthem. John would surely make a greater impact in that arena later on, but this early attempt is a fun one. I like the upbeat, happy rhythm. Those electric guitar stabs with Ringo's drums make me want to very happily tap my foot! I also really like that harmonium solo... played by George Martin.
For the first couple years that I've been listening to Rubber Soul, I didn't realize that Paul was singing French through some of this! And yes, there's a certain French folksy quality to this tune. Certainly, this was more proof that Paul was the king of love ballads, and after hearing this beautiful thing, you'd wonder how anyone else would even want to try writing another love ballad. ...Of course love ballads will probably never die. But it rarely gets better than this.
What Goes On B+
Man... They gave Ringo the worst song to sing! Though I guess the guy had a songwriting credit on it, so I guess that was a good reason to make this his obligatory lead singing credit. Lennon apparently wrote most of this before The Beatles were formed and McCartney came around later and added a little bit to it. Ringo's contribution, as he put it, was about five words to the lyrics! ...Well, the melody is certainly infectious, but it's not nearly as lovable as the others. That bouncy guitar gets a bit annoying... although I guess it's interesting...
The rumor goes that the loud breathing noise symbolized marijuana inhaling, and George sings “tit-tit-tit” in the background, because he was sexually repressed Brit. This is basically a folksy song while John delivers another tuneful melody. Around the two-minute mark, they undergo a goofy instrumental interlude that mimics George's “tit-tit-tit” noises... a little strange, but an interesting idea.
I'm Looking Through You A
This is a hugely enjoyable upbeat song with a classic Paul melody! The lyrics are a little bit angry, though, and the musicality of that gets reflected in that musical interlude featuring that crazy muddy guitar. That was an interesting, innovative touch. Without it, it wouldn't have been that different from earlier Beatles songs...
In My Life A+
Do you realize how hard it is coming up with words to say about such great songs? That's why I have to regurgitate Wikipedia information instead of stating my opinions... And Wikipedia doesn't have much to say about this. Again, John gives us a wonderful melody that'll stick with me for ages. That goofy piano solo in the middle sounds like sped-up classical music. That silly idea is the real bridge between this and Revolver.
And this song is the bridge between the Beatles earlier albums and Rubber Soul. It was originally intended for Help!, and it shows! There's nothing particularly innovative about this song, but it's so extremely catchy that I have a difficult time ever putting it down.
If I Needed Someone A+
Ah yes, here's more proof that George was turning into a wonderful songwriter in his own right... Not just someone who imitated his more talented brethren. That chord progression is very weird, and it's something that neither John nor Paul would write, so it's a wholly original creation. Despite the unusualness, it still manages to be catchy. Those jangly guitars are highly reminiscent of The Byrds, and those vocal layerings aren't too far behind. So, I guess it's true that The Byrds influenced The Beatles! Cool.
Run For Your Life A
John called this one of his least favorite Beatles songs (he wrote it), but George liked it a lot! ... If you're into the whole Beatles legend, that's not much of a stretch to imagine. The lyrics fit in pretty well with George's independent stance on things... The melody is freaking infectious, which automatically escalates it toward the top of my rating system. That's the way it goes.
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George Harrison had progressed so much as a songwriter that his songs are now opening Beatles albums! Granted, this will be the last time this will ever happen, but I'm sure this was a huge event in the world of George Harrison. Just like his contributions from Rubber Soul, this is just as good as the McCartney/Lennon songs! It also fits in pretty well with The Beatles' tendency to open their albums with upbeat songs. Harrison does the lead vocals, of course, and he takes on the role of a very sarcastic tax collector. The lyrics are inventive, and the melody is catchy as hell. The guitars are very crunchy, and occasionally George comes in with a brief though very shredding solo. You can immediately hear that this is more advanced and original than the stuff from the earlier Beatles albums, but it's also not one of the album's most unusual songs.
Eleanor Rigby A+
Paul McCartney must have been so proud about how “Yesterday” turned out, so he did a proper follow-up. This time, the string quartet is much busier and crunchier. The mood of the song is very dark, which was a far cry away from “Yesterday,” which was more nostalgic. I love these string arrangements! Classical snobs aren't impressed with them, but for a pop song, these arrangements are legendary. They constantly evolve throughout, and it gives extra depth to the overall experience. That's not to mention that the freaking melody is ADDICTIVE! ... I'm a little surprised this is only two minutes long. It seems much longer.
I'm Only Sleeping A+
John's love for funny backwards recordings can be heard for the first time in the middle of this track, and it's actually very constructive to the overall piece. It would have been a great song without them, naturally. The melody is catchy, which is the most important thing of them all! The instrumentation is solid... This one favors acoustic guitar sounds, and Paul's excellent bass guitar.
Love To You A+
Another George song! Here, he outdoes his previous Indian experiments and he delivers a terribly interesting song! Apparently neither Lennon nor McCartney contributed anything to this track. It was Harrison and an outside tabla musician doing this whole thing (with Ringo playing the tambourines). The excellent aspect of this track is that it incorporates all these Indian instruments and still sounds accessible to my Western ears. The arrangements are very bracing... they are intricate and have a tremendous drive to them. That tempo-change at the end was a brilliant touch.
Here, There and Everywhere A
Funny, I never noticed that part of this song closely resembles Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1979 song “She's a Diamond.” I never would have picked that up if it wasn't for Wikipedia! Oh, what a wonderful Web site that is... Anyway, this is Paul McCartney's song, and it's tuneful and wonderful of course. It's a very slow ballad with a melody that's so incredibly infectious that you might accidentally lift it for a pop musical about Eva Peron. The instrumentation isn't that notable, but there ought to be normal songs to balance out the weird ones.
Yellow Submarine A
This is the obligatory Ringo-sung song! He's really the only person who could have sung this, since this is nothing more than a kiddie song. I read a review of Revolver allegedly written by Ray Davies who said that “Yellow Submarine” is the sort of silly, off-the-cuff song he'd come up with when he's just messing around. That's probably true... there's nothing amazing about this composition at all, and the melody sounds like a trite, repetitive drinking song. But they have those goofy sound effects inserted throughout! I know... it's not the most revolutionary thing in rock 'n' roll, but they were well programmed, and they make the song even more fun.
She Said She Said A+
This was written by John Lennon and apparently inspired by his first LSD trip, and this baby is weird. The guitar sounds are extremely thick. That atmosphere must also have been inspired by that LSD, because it reminds me of how I feel when I have the flu pretty bad, and I'm trying to sleep. The lyrics make no sense, of course, which is one of its appeal! (I'd rather have cryptic lyrics than having them spelled out for me.)
Good Day Sunshine A+
You know, one of the big appeals to Revolver is all this variety! After that trippy song, Paul comes up with an incredibly happy and warm pop song that, he said, was inspired by The Lovin' Spoonful. You can't get anymore sunny than the Lovin' Spoonful. Again, the melody is as catchy as anything McCartney ever wrote. The lyrics are even pretty good ... they're the opposite of “She Said She Said.” They're not very subtle, but they shouldn't be.
And Your Bird Can Sing A+
Isn't it nutty how many A+ scores I'm giving out? I'm not feeling particularly generous today, actually... And yet, here's another A+. This piece of pure magic was composed by John Lennon, and it's one of his more upbeat ones. The production is quite clean... undoubtedly one of the reasons George Martin is so well-thought-of as a producer. The instrumentations consists only of guitars and drums, but the drums are very thickly layered. George comes in with some excellent, melodic solos. Well, well...
For No One A+
Paul was really on a sad, melancholic song kick at the time, which we saw very little of in his solo career. (I guess he was in love with Linda, or something.) This thing is gorgeous, though. The instrumentation is also in somewhat of a classical vein. He's playing a clavichord, which gives it a Baroque feel, and that matches the melody perfectly. That french horn solo in the middle is a precursor to Sgt. Pepper's methinks...
Doctor Robert A
This is probably the worst song on Revolver, but that's like a contradiction in terms! This is a Lennon rock 'n' roll number. It has a catchy melody, naturally. The guitars are upbeat and crunchy, and that goofy chorus with those light organ chords are dramatic in a tongue-in-cheek way.
I Want to Tell You A
Yay! It's another George-song! This is one of his normal songs that's not Indian-influenced (apart from the way you can hear Paul singing as it fades out). However, this is also a song that neither Paul nor John would ever write. That sort of droning atmosphere of the song is very George, and that's something that we'll hear more of once you get to his solo career! Also note that this is another good song... That unique atmosphere sets it apart from the others, and the melody is still very catchy.
Got to Get You Into My Life A+
Another great Paulsong! This thing is utterly delightful with some of the finest horn arrangements ever to exist in pop music! (How can I say that? ... It's on Revolver, of course.) Again, this melody is so catchy that you'll keep it firmly stuck in your head for life, which I imagine has already happened to you.
Tomorrow Never Knows A+
And they close it with this remarkable masterpiece. This was a major experimentation milestone for the group. This is another good precursor to the whole psychedelic era. Most of the instrumentation, apart from Ringo's thunderous drum beat, is done by playing music sped up and backwards. Naturally, it was a particularly weird experiment, and it still packs enough punch to strike current listeners as weird! Perhaps even weirder, this song is incredibly charming and accessible. I don't know how The Beatles are able to keep doing this... they experiment while keeping their audience in mind. Not too many other artists can claim to have done that with this much success.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
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Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band A+
It begins with audience chatter and what sounds like an orchestra warming up. Soon enough a guitar riff comes in (reminding us that this is rock 'n' roll) and an incredibly boisterous Paul McCartney starts to sing an incredibly catchy melody. Paul is playing the role of an announcer who is introducing this new band ... a sort of alternate reality where The Beatles play different parts. (That was this album's sort of half-baked concept album. I'm not going to talk much about that, but you can read all you want on about a billion Web sites.) The rest of the Beatles come in for the chorus, and they incorporate a number of audience sound effects in here... including some canned laughter and applause. There's a really brilliant horn section in here, too... This really sets up the mood... And then there's a bridge to the next track...
With a Little Help From My Friends A+
Billllllllly Sheeeeeeeears! That's Ringo's alternate ego, who sings lead vocals for this excellently tuneful song. I guess the rest of The Beatles wanted to apologize to Ringo for making him sing “What Goes On,” so they gave him one of the best songs on the album! Holy cow, this melody is excellent. The instrumentation is wonderful, too. It's clear they spent a lot of time in the studio for this whole album, and that shows here. Everything sounds in its place and perfect... and somehow those choppy rhythms still have a rawer feeling to them. Most people in my generation were probably first introduced to Joe Cocker's loud cover of it, which turned out to be The Wonder Years theme song. Anyone who thinks that version is better than this is completely full of crap.
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds A+
Everybody thinks this song is about LSD (Lizard Sandwich Drinks), but it's actually just based on a drawing that John's son made. Everybody knows that, too. (Geez, it's hard to know what to write when reviewing such a famous album!) If you didn't think that the instrumentation on the previous two tracks couldn't get any better then this song probably just blew your mind! Geez, isn't that transition from the verses to the chorus amazing? No matter how many times I hear it, it gives me a sort of out-of-body experience... No wonder everyone thought this song was about drugs!
Getting Better A+
How the hell are they coming up with all these great melodies? Even those squeaky electric guitar stabs in the chorus are cool! Paul sings the lyrics, and they're pretty optimistic (with John coming in and delivering a few cynical remarks ... and there's a rather evil part featuring a tambura). Interesting songwriting, again, and there's tons of meaning in this.
Fixing a Hole A
Even the album's least interesting melody is interesting. (Get a load of that!) I originally thought this song foreshadowed the Beatles break-up, but I just misheard the lyrics. (I originally heard them as ”See The Beatles standing there who disagree and never win,” but that was completely wrong.) The one thing I can say against this song is that it doesn't completely captivate me. That said, it's bloody brilliant. Next!
She's Leaving Home A+
Holy crud, this thing is gorgeous. It's another one of their songs that feature a prominent use of stringed instrumentals. It's done in a more cinematic way than “Eleanor Rigby” was. This was a truly collaborative effort between John and Paul. Paul wrote the verses and John wrote the chorus. Both are utterly perfect. Their singing is incredibly captivating... especially in the chorus when the two sing together.
Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite! A+
John read a circus flyer and wrote a song based on it. These guys were picking some weird inspirations for songs! They're very clever, too. As you'd expect, there's a circus theme to this whole song, and it's a weird old thing. Like a circus on LSD. I'm never going to get around to taking drugs, but one of the benefits of songs like this existing, I don't have to! Really, this is a lot like “Tomorrow Never Knows” ... there's an abundance of sped-up and distorted instruments. It's more focused, though, and the melody is catchier.
Within You, Without You A+
I used to not care for this song much, but I'm past those days. Here is George's one and only contribution to Sgt. Pepper. I have been missing George, but I guess this was such a pet project for the other two that all he could do was squeeze in another Indian song! I'd also say this doesn't really fit in with the rest of the album that well... but I have this album so ingrained in my mind that I wouldn't be able to imagine the album without this song. Again, George knows how to incorporate these “exotic” sounds into something that's accessible to my Western ears. The melody is of course a little distant, and those wandering chord progressions are one of George's signature. That mystical instrumental interlude is very entertaining! George is awesome. He was easily the coolest Beatle.
When I'm Sixty-Four A+
Paul wrote this when he was 16, and apparently The Beatles sung it a few times during early Hamburg performances. There's nothing particularly amazing about the songwriting although the melody is certainly catchy! The best part of this is those arrangements courtesy of George Martin. Those jazzy woodwind instruments were just the right touch for this. They keep the song bouncy with the tendency to keep a smile on your face, but they also keep this thing from growing too schmaltzy. Nice job!
Lovely Rita A+
Does all this greatness ever end? The studio work, again, is wonderful. That's thanks to technological innovations that had nothing to do with The Beatles, but they sure used them well! Again, the melody is catchy as hell. It gets stuck in my mind for eternity! Should I say anything else about it? ... Well, according to the whole Paul is Dead theory, Paul died in a car crash after getting distracted looking at a fetching meter maid. I don't know why, but reading about that goofy theory while listening to the surreal ending to this song freaks me out...
Good Morning Good Morning A
I like those crunchy horn arrangements, but were they a bit too loud? ... Er, probably not, but I decided to knock it down a point all the same! (Hey, there's no such thing as perfection, is there?) I do adore this song's development, though, particularly how those horns keep on changing textures and sort of half-echo John's melody. There's a very cool electric guitar solo toward the end. The song fades out with a sound collage of animal noises. I always assumed this was a homage to The Beach Boys' landmark Pet Sounds album, but I could just have been smoking something... by accident...
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise) A+
This is a one-minute and much more upbeat version of the title track! It does have that conclusive atmosphere to it. Really, these two songs were the only real concept of the album... the rest were just songs!
A Day in the Life A+
Even though the concept ended, this is allegedly the return to reality! It's also my favorite song of the album even though that obviously comes with some pretty stiff competition! The reason I like this song so much isn't just because the melody is freakingly catchy... This song actually has some really interesting development. It starts out with John's “I read the news today, oh boy” section. Then, there's a really bizarre orchestral build-up. I wouldn't be able to dissect this thing even if I'm tried, though I'm sure many listeners have attempted that! That eventually tuns into a bouncier middle section delivered by Paul. Basically, it's a whole second song. The build-up comes back (though it's a bit less intrusive than the previous one), and there's a return of John's melody. The build-up comes back for the last time, and there's the crazy chord. ... If you stick around, there's a really high pitch and some goofy loop designed to make us think our record player is broken. But I don't have a record player!! (Apparently, as I get older, I'm going to lose the ability to hear that high pitch! Oh well... I'll always remember it at least!!)
Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
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Magical Mystery Tour A+
No Sgt. Pepper-wannabe could be without a psychedelic title track introducing the whole album! ... Actually, it's just the opening track to that strange TV movie they did. It's a very good, upbeat song with those slight psychedelic leanings, which of course was all the rage! It was composed primarily by Paul (the first time he composed the title track to a Beatles movie), and it's a wonderfully catchy tune that sets you in that mood. Those horns are a particular favorite of mine listening to those in addition to the already brilliant vocal melody gives it an extra edge that I like. The song development is varied ... For example, they completely change around the rhythm half-way through. I'm ready to have this magical mystery!
The Fool on the Hill A+
This is a beautiful song! It's another one written by Paul although the lyrics seem like they were written by John. (They weren't, of course, but John had commended these lyrics.) Once again, Paul hits the melodic sweet-spot with another hopelessly wonderful melody that will never be forgotten! The song development keeps the song fresh and exciting. There are all sorts of textures they explore throughout the song... It would take too many words to adequately describe them! The obvious sound that's constant throughout the song is the two flutes. That's another brilliant, classic instrumental idea.
This goofy instrumental marks a few firsts in The Beatles' discography. It's their first instrumental (recorded on their mainstream discography), and it's the first time all four Beatles were given songwriting credits. I'm almost sure this started as an impromptu jam session (hence the credits), and John came in later and added some of his weird, psycho tape loops. Somewhere, they added vocals, which come in the form of goofy, psychedelic “aaaahs.” The funny thing is, even this simple jam instrumental is catchy.
Blue Jay Way A
Probably the least captivating song here, which is unusual for George at this stage. His songs have generally been very captivating, but I find this thing a little bit distant. There's a vague Indian flavor to this, but that's somewhat hidden into that crazy psychedelic mix! Now, this crazy psychedelic mix is what makes this song completely deserving of that A. An incredibly impressive arrangement with more of these tape experiments that they were so fond of! This is one of the weirdest Beatles song, and that's a distinction that didn't come easily!
Your Mother Should Know A+
This is a much better old-timey song from McCartney than “When I'm Sixty-Four” was. The melody is much more interesting, and naturally everything about the instrumentation was nailed. They didn't need to do anything impressive with it. It's mostly just an upbeat piano and Ringo's drumming. There's also some hammond organ piddling around to give it that added depth. This is yet another wonderful song. ...How did they do it?
I Am the Walrus A+
Quite probably the best psychedelic song ever made... If there's a better one, then I don't want to hear about it. It'll shatter the illusion! These classic lyrics make no sense whatsoever, and that's part of its charm. It's really fun to sing along with, too... John manages to come up with one of his more infectious melodies, and he continues to bring in these weird arrangements... He was so fond of these silly tape experiments, and this song is filled to the brim with all these noises. Who would have thought something this unusual could be this enjoyable? If that was even possible, Lennon proved that he had come a long way since “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the first time he tried such experiments.
Hello, Goodbye A
This is McCartney composition is probably the most unremarkable songs from the album. Although, it being a Beatles song, it's catchy as all hell! It sort of gets buried between the monstrous Lennon masterpieces that surrounds it. It is very upbeat, though, and provides a lot of upbeat energy. I always love listening to it, even though I think of it as more of a good buffer between the crazy psychedelic songs...
Strawberry Fields Forever A+
A MASTERPIECE! Do I need to say anything else about it? The whole world knows these songs by heart anyway... Once again, John takes us into his weird psychedelic trips with strange lyrics and yet another utterly catchy melody. The instrumentals are also incredibly impressive. It gets busier and less predictable as it progresses, showing us that we're going down into some sort of weirdo psycho land. There's that famous false ending... it fades out and you think it's over. BUT IT'S NOT! THERE WERE MORE CRAZY INSTRUMENTS THAT HE WANTED YOU TO HEAR!
Penny Lane A+
This is basically the king of every Brit-pop song ever written. No one should even attempt to top this, because it's impossible! Of course, this was one of Paul's songs, and the melody is as great as anything he has ever written. In case you're completely weird and haven't heard this song yet, it's a very upbeat and nostalgic song with some very British sounding horns inserted throughout. Geez, if you haven't heard this, then ... I'm surprised you're even reading this review. Off with you to the record store!
Baby You're a Rich Man A+
On the surface, this seems like one of the weaker songs like “Hello, Goodbye,” but actually it's another brilliant song. That creepy bass-line that keeps on popping up is something that I haven't heard before... and that really strange loop that sounds a bit like a bagpipe on acid is a strange sound effect. Once again, they have come up with a melody that's incredibly catchy. Who am I to say this is a sub-par song? It's not!
All You Need is Love A+
This was probably John Lennon's simplest and grandest statement ever. The melody is simple, but it's the sort of thing that sticks in your mind (and that's not because it's dumb and repetitive). This sticks with the interesting, overextended codas that John seemed particularly fond of. It starts very restrained (even starting with that stodgy British royal horn theme) and some acoustic guitars pound away. But by the end, it's an anarchic love-fest, almost. You can hear John start singing “She loves you, yeah yeah yeah!' ..... I remember that song!
The Beatles (1968)
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Back in the U.S.S.R. A+
Hardly worth denying that this is one of the more memorable of these wholly memorable Beatles classics. The beginning of it is a very upbeat rocker and the last half is a convincing send-up of The Beach Boys. All throughout, there are some completely awesome guitar licks ... and this neat wavy sound effect. It's a rollicking opener! Everybody likes it, even if they say they don't. (There are people who claim they hate the Beatles ... obviously something terrible happened to these people when they were children.)
Dear Prudence A+
That turns into “Dear Prudence,” a John-penned ballad with some of his most incredibly alluring harmonies of all time, which is really saying something. Four minutes seems like a long time for a Beatles song, but I love immersing myself into this, and it's hardly time wasted. (That's Paul playing drums there ... Ringo had previously stormed out of the recording session.)
Glass Onion A+
I could see how some would consider this a throwaway song ... one that John wrote as a joke to his fans and the music press who were trying to read too much into their previous work. (For example, he tries to confuse everyone by stating “The Walrus Was Paul.” But unbeknownst to him, the Paul is Dead conspiracy theorists would use that as a fresh new clue for their theory.) John probably wrote this in 20 minutes, but only The Beatles could do something this utterly catchy. A sudden end was saved by that creepy string section that pops up at the end.
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da A+
This is probably the most derided offering in The Beatles catalogue. It's usually an obligatory addition into “Worst Songs Ever Written” lists, which a lot of music magazines like to produce. But this is a great song of course. The melody is simple though completely catchy and certain “trinkets” they put in the instrumentation add to the fun.
Wild Honey Pie A-
Paul wrote and performed this one-minute ditty all by himself. It just consists of a very odd groove and him singing “Honey Pie” in many silly vocal overdubs. McCartney would refer to this as an experimentation ... which was a practice he would very unfortunately never totally give up! (He's not too innovative in the experimentation department ... but this is easily one of his better ones.)
The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill A
For some reason, this was the first song I took to when I was listening to this album for the first time. It might have been because the only previous rock music I had ever been listening and liking to were goofy novelty songs (I would occasionally catch Dr. Demento on the radio in my early teens). And this thing is very goofy! The chord progressions are rather bizarre, but they combine with a very catchy, unforgettable melody.
While My Guitar Gently Weeps A+
The first time that George Harrison actually outshines his fellow band mates in an album! You might say he was cheating since everyone else was writing silly novelty songs and George came in with a relatively lengthy and very serious rocker. But this thing is incredibly catchy and famously features Eric Clapton on lead guitar who comes in with some incredibly cool guitar licks! It does provide some interesting contrast to the songs that surround it.
Happiness is a Warm Gun A+
This might also be considered “serious,” but I always considered this to be fairly tongue in cheek. It starts out as a fairly typical Lennon ballad with the usual great chords. The middle is more of a drugged-up quasi psychedelic anthem, and the last part is a take-off on early '60s doo-wop. The amazing thing, I guess, is he was able to fit all that in less than three minutes!
Martha My Dear A+
This is one of Paul McCartney's songs about one of his dogs. He would have several of these throughout his career! This was also apparently derived from a song in a 19th Century opera, and it does have that feeling to it. The instrumentation consists predominantly of music-hall sounding horn arrangements. Though the melody is verrrrrrry McCartney.
I'm So Tired A
This is the song I usually have running in my mind when I get insomnia! And John apparently wrote it when he had one of those episodes. It has a very dreary, on-edge quality to it, so it's very appropriate. (And if you play that mumbling part backwards, you can hear John say Paul is dead, man, miss him, miss him, miss him.” Although I guess we only hear that through the power of suggestion!)
A very simple and very brief two-minute ballad that was written by Paul. It's an amazingly pretty and tuneful ditty that manages to leave quite a solid impression for its brief time. What else can be sweeter than just McCartney singing along with his acoustic guitar? NOTHING. Oh ... and I guess it gets better with all the bird sound effects we hear.
Another somewhat derided tune in this album... this is another George Harrison ditty after the others finally gave him the memo that this was a novelty-pop album! This sort of follows the old, music-hall style music that Paul had been writing, and even uses some piggie sound effects.
Rocky Raccoon A+
The third animal song in a row! This is a sort of Dylan-inspired folk rocker with another one of McCartney's classically catchy melodies. The middle section contains a little bit of old school honky-tonk music hall playing! (He did like that old type of music...)
Don't Pass Me By A
This is also one of the more derided songs from the album because it's *gasp* an original Ringo composition! As you'd probably guess, neither the melodies nor the harmonies are nearly as good as most of the other songs, but this thing has plenty of charm. Ringo's vocals are fun as usual... and that heavily distorted organ is very awesome ... along with that hoe-down style violin that's piddling around most agreeably.
Why Don't We Do it In the Road? A
This is another one of Paul's very brief ditties, this time, it's a sort of blues parody. He really belts this one out. The lyrics were said to be inspired after witnessing a couple of monkeys in India getting freaky in the middle of the road.
I Will A
Here is another very pleasant ballad. There were too many good melodic ideas coming out of Paul! This probably could have been expanded into a great three-minute song, but he was ready to move on with another melodic idea.
After Paul's goofy, bouncy folk ballad, John delivers a more thoughtful, harmonically alluring ballad. They're both ballads but they're very different ones. Indeed The White Album seemed like four solo albums going on at once... but the sheer diversity while still keeping good overall flow is very pleasant. ...Well, onto Disc 2.
Sort of by default, this is a popular song for birthday festivities, although it's not perhaps as widespread as I might have thought. (Hasn't yet replaced that popular birthday song ...) It also marks the only occasion where John and Paul shared lead vocals and, as much as I'm aware, equally shared songwriting duties. People like to deride this for being a relatively trite composition, but that doesn't matter if the melody is catchy, and it rocks. The instrumentation is a little bit childish, but that's the point ... and this is a sort of novelty album to begin with.
Yer Blues A
I am now even starting to like the slow-blues, which means The Beatles were capable of anything! (OK, I like the blues ... uh ... uh.) Of course, Lennon had those vocals, which were so fitting to that genre that he does it complete justice and then some. Naturally, the chord progressions are the typical things for the genre, but he brings in a few nice surprises here and there. The melody is catchy, the instrumentation is remarkably convincing, and it doesn't seem like I've heard this sort of thing a billion times elsewhere. (Other than the simple fact I've heard this song a billion times, but ... well ... you know.)
Mother Nature's Son A+
Another song with just Paul and his guitar. It's funny how John is writing these hard-hitting tunes while Paul seems very content with these pretty folk ballads. I wonder why so many can snub Paul's solo career, especially Ram, while counting The White Album among their favorite albums? The melody is so rich, and you get the feeling that he didn't shed much sweat writing it. (I'm telling you... this is exactly like his solo career.)
Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Monkey A+
Oh man! They strike gold once again! You know how hard it is to write track reviews of all great songs? ......Especially considering anyone who's going to read this knows the song by heart already. Well, as you know, this is a rabble-rousing classic with John throwing out a massive storm! And of course John wrote great melodies, too... Whoah...
Sexy Sadie A+
Absolutely no blemishes on this one, either, although it's perhaps not as distinctive as the songs that surround it. But all I hear is more pure pop gold. It's a moderately-paced tune with a sort of wobbly piano and back-up wah-wahs that give it a sort of drunken feel to it. Once again, the melody contains a remarkable number of hooks.
Helter Skelter A+
I remember distinctly the first time I heard this album (2001), and being a little shocked to find it. Why? Only because this is exactly what a lot of '90s bands sounded like. A lot of fast-paced and heavily distorted guitars and slightly obnoxious scream singing. Yup... the '90s. I hated rock music because of stuff like that. But I like it now, of course. Though I still find it surprising that this is actually a McCartney jingle. It's ugly! And yet, it's so good. It even has a strange atmosphere. What if Wings was a metal band? ... *shudder* What's with that guitar that sounds like a sitar?
Long, Long, Long A
Here's another George Harrison composition. Although it's certainly not as impressive as the two other ones that appeared earlier on this album ... or the one that follows for that matter. However, there's a very subtle beauty to this one that really has a tendency to grow on you. This is a rather slow and long-drawn-out and perhaps not so distinctive. It consists of a seemingly half-there vocal performance from George... though we're certain that George believed what he was singing with all his heart. (This is a love song about God. The first of many from George.)
Revolution 1 A+
This is possibly the most well-known track from the album. It was released as a single previously to this album version. The single has more heavily distorted guitar, and this one is sans that and a little bit slower. I can't say I know which version I like better! Certainly, this thing deserves that A+ for that completely catchy melody. Do we expect anything less from them?
Honey Pie A
Yet another one of McCartney's old-timey ditties! I have to wonder what compelled McCartney to these, especially since he was in the coolest rock band of all time that was mostly popular with teenagers and stuff. Ah well. This is a good song, though, with its jazzy horn section and McCartney's amusing vocal performance (he does his finest Rudy Vallee impersonation). I don't have trouble picturing John letting out snarky laughs very quietly as Paul was recording this.
Savoy Truffle A+
This song (especially the horn section) always reminded me of old striptease music. That's sort of hilariously appropriate considering this is a tribute to various culinary treats. That makes this a sort of quasi-erotic treatment of the matter, which is certainly what some people think about desserts... and apparently his friend Eric Clapton whom George wrote this for. This is a funny song that's very unpretentious. In the end, it's one of the album's more memorable tunes.
Cry Baby Cry A+
...Yeah, I guess they were leaving it to John to write all the serious-sounding songs! Although, lyrically this is just based on some children's story. It's not a very big composition, but it manages to still be larger-than-life. Paul McCartney comes in at the very end to deliver a sort of folksy, one-hook sequence that could very well have been developed into an excellent song of its own. ...Why didn't he?
Revolution 9 A-
Here's that (infamous?) eight-minute sound-collage. There's really not a whole lot to say about it other than the rumor that if you play it backwards you can hear “Turn me on, dead man.” (I guess that when '60s music fans ran out of money, and they were finally tired of listening to the same old records, they just played them backwards.) This is probably the most well-known tape-collage ever, and it will probably stay that way for awhile. Though the idea wasn't exactly revolutionary considering Zappa preceded this by at least a year... and there might have been people before him.
Good Night A
Good night? I suppose after an album that takes almost all day to play, it's only appropriate that they end it with a heavily-orchestrated ballad sung by Ringo that sounds like it belongs in a children's Broadway show. Though apparently John wrote this for Julian ... (and as Wikipedia sort of sardonically points out, John got someone else to sing to his son....). Yeah, so good night!
Yellow Submarine (1969)
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Yellow Submarine A
This album already is a semi-rip off because everybody already had this song in their collection. As ya know, this is the cute novelty song that we previously heard in Revolver. But I suppose that's why Yellow Submarine isn't really a Beatles album, but a soundtrack to that freaky cartoon. And I don't really mind having another chance at hearing it again.
Only a Northern Song A-
So, this song was originally recorded for Sgt. Pepper, and it didn't manage to make it on the Sgt. Pepper leftover album, Magical Mystery Tour. You would expect a double leftover to be a little burnt and chewy, but this is actually rather good. (Ah, it's the Beatles! Everything they released is good, right?) It's George Harrison composition, though, and he wasn't quite ready to peak as a songwriter at the point, and and the melody also bears a striking resemblance to “If I Needed Someone.” But the instrumentation is nothing like that song... The only thing normal about it is the vocal melody and the drum beat. There is an almost avant-garde sound wave of random sound-effects and noises. Well, you can't say that isn't interesting!
All Together Now A-
Well, this a bit trite though that was the point of it. It's a children's song that was meant to mimic the sort of songs they sing on the playground jumping rope. (At least that's what it says on the Wikipedia entry!) It's pretty good for that. The melody is simple, but it still seems fresh enough to keep it from becoming too cheesy.
Hey Bulldog A+
If you're in the business of purchasing albums just because you want to have access to one really great song, then here's the reason that you'll purchase Yellow Submarine. One of John Lennon's songs, and it's just about as good as anything he wrote. It features a quick and catchy piano riff that would surely stick in your mind for years to come. Oh yes, this is prime Beatles!
It's All Too Much A
Another George Harrisong already? This is quite a bit better than “Only a Northern Song” although this doesn't have that unusual soundscape to keep things interesting... Though the song production is a little weird. That highly clomping rhythm sounds like they were pounding together whatever they could find. The sort of stiff guitar riff is catchy, though, and George provides a very thick guitar atmosphere that's sort of tucked away in the background. The instrumentation is highly creative!The only possible flaw with it is that it's six and a half minutes long. But the last few minutes of it when they keep repeating the riff and chanting “too much” amidst an evolving backdrop are undoubtedly the coolest moments, so that's not really a flaw.
All You Need is Love A+
Oh yes... this is one of their most famous tunes! But it's left unchanged from the version that we already heard on Magical Mystery Tour. So...... yah.
Alright, this marks the beginning of the cinematic movements written by George Martin. From what I recall watching the film, I did wish that this piece of incidental music was a little less schmaltzy and more original. But ah, what can you expect? But honestly, this isn't bad. We have some crunchy strings and the theme is generally good. It's very British sounding, too.
Sea of Time B+
A little bit moodier than the last song as it obviously takes a hint from George Harrison's “Within You, Without You.” A sitar can be heard quietly in the background as a string section sounds like it's having a conversation. Something a little more conventional pops up after that. But again, it's not bad, and it does a nice job establishing a quiet mood. Again, you'll have to have a thing for cinematic music to like it.
Sea of Holes A-
This could probably pass as a classical song. It kind of reminds me of a Delius composition. Not so intricate, but some of his works have a similar mood. At any rate, this is pretty effective mood music. It stands alone from the film rather well.
Sea of Monsters B+
Not as interesting as the previous composition, though it is also meant to establish a mood. There's a modern classical music flavor to this, and Martin comes off quite a bit better than an amateur. Maybe I wasn't expecting that he would be able to do that... Well. This one's even a tad avant-garde. (And you can hear a very brief Bach quotation!)
March of the Meanies B
Again, this isn't bad. It's a little tenser than the other songs (which fit the scene pretty well), though for some reason it doesn't hold my attention as well. It's a nice composition, though. Again, you sort of already have to be into this stuff.
Pepperland Laid Waste B-
I don't really like listening to this one, but at the same time, this really wasn't designed to closely listen to. It's mood music, of course, and it's very quiet and dark. The chord progressions are nice, though, and I do enjoy the atmosphere. It's just not that fun to hear! It's got a cool coda though.
Yellow Submarine in Pepperland B+
This starts out as an instrumental fanfare version of “Yellow Submarine” and then in the middle, it transforms into another bit of somewhat interesting cinematic/classical music. A nice variation of “Yellow Submarine” pops up in the middle to close the soundtrack. Cool.
Abbey Road (1969)
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Come Together A+
There was a point in time when I was deathly sick of this song. Abbey Road was among the first albums in my collection, so I was listening to this all time time ..... plus I was listening to classic rock radio stations all the time, and they seemed to play this song about once every two hours. But anyway, it's a great song, of course! That menacing groove they play is really awesome, and John's quasi-nonsense lyrics are always very cool to listen to. It's not such a pleasant song, though, which is why I will never be able to get around to calling this my favorite song here. (But it's clearly bad-ass enough to deserve that A+ rating, and then some.)
This is why George Harrison got the nickname as “Dark Horse.” Well it was this, “Here Comes the Sun” and his first solo album. But notice how awesome this song is, and how vastly superior it is to the John Lennon song that preceded this. This has an incredibly melody with lyrics and instrumentation that strike me as incredibly moving no matter how many times I listen to it. This is just about the greatest thing ever.
Maxwell's Silver Hammer A+
First was John Lennon's hard-hitting anthem, second was George Harrison's spiritually uplifting masterpiece... But as great as those songs were, nobody could write pop hooks quite like Paul McCartney. It's much quirkier and irrelevant than the previous two, but I don't hold that against it. It's a perfect toe-tapper, and it's very fun to sing along with these lyrics. You can also hear them use a synthesizer, which wasn't common at all pop song in 1969. (But the Monkees did that in one of their own songs in 1968... Therefore, The Monkees influenced The Beatles.)
Oh! Darling A
This was written by Paul McCartney, but the style is certainly closer to Lennon's. It's a sort of do-wop style songwriting, which was never something I had a thing for ... but since The Beatles always make everything better, I like this song. Paul's vocals were always strong, though he overdoes it with that scream-singing toward the end. Though that maniacal passion is sort of fun, isn't it?
Octopus's Garden A+
Wow... Abbey Road is such a magical album that even Ringo can write a great song. I remember singing this in my school choir when I was in third grade. Yup, this is a fun song for the kiddies, too! Ringo always had that kiddie appeal, didn't he? Anyway, this is an incredibly catchy tune. The guitars and rhythms are upbeat. Those bubble sound effects and those back-up singers that sound like they were underwater are charming as ever!
I Want You (She's So Heavy) A+
I always seemed to have difficulty liking this song... and really John Lennon as a whole in this stage of his career. But for some reason I always just preferred the silly novelty tunes like “Maxwell's Silver Hammer” and “Octopus's Garden” over this! But where it scores points is the fact that this thing is just about as psychologically menacing as it gets... That is, psychologically menacing without really sacrificing The Beatles' commercial appeal. A lot of critics and listeners seem to look down upon them for trying to remain accessible, but I admire them for that. It's probably much harder to express such dark emotions in music while, at the same time, appealing to the masses. Lennon does this remarkably well! The eight-minute running length used to be a problem for me, especially the end when they repeat the same riff over and over, and then it suddenly stops. But now I think that's one of the coolest things they did. Just more of that dark, dark, psycho stuff! (Nobody ever see the 2007 film Across the Universe, because it's crap ...... with the exception of the army recruiting scene in that dealt with this song. That was creepy and kind of awesome.)
Here Comes the Sun A+
This is really a startling contrast to the previous song! In the LP era, this was on the second side, so the effect is a little different than you get in the digital era when this song immediately comes after. But it's still a cool effect. After that dark, dark song, we get a song with such incredible optimism that only Stevie Wonder in his prime could ever hope to beat it. Among everything on this monumental classic, this song is one of my favorites. And yes, it's George Harrison, who is completely awesome.
The story is that this song is “Moonlight Sonata” played backwards. But it's not really... It's just sort of based on “Moonlight Sonata” played backwards! It's a very slow song and it's not very long (for a slow song), but it's very haunting. The most notable thing about this is the vocal layerings. Lennon, McCartney and Harrison sing three-part harmonies much similar to The Beach Boys. It's probably one of the least notable songs of Abbey Road, but it's completely mesmerizing!
You Never Give Me Your Money A+
This is an interesting tune. It starts off as a piano ballad, turns into a sort of blues-rocker in the middle, and it fades out with a sort of nursery rhyme at the end. All the mean time, you don't really notice that these transitions are happening. They're very smooth. They clearly worked to death on this instrumentation, and the efforts really paid off. This is such a beauty to hear! And that's not to mention that we get another Paul McCartney tune when he was at the height of his powers! Very awesome.
Sun King A+
This marks the beginning of the eight-song medley that closes out Abbey Road. Some have called this medley an early example of progressive rock, and I guess that's not such an inappropriate description. “Sun King” sounds a lot like Dark Side of the Moon, after all. It starts with some quiet, contemplative guitar noodling, and then some very long-drawn out and heavily layered vocals come in and add to this atmosphere.
Mean Mr. Mustard A
Just a minute long, and this thing is so memorable! It's bouncy, poppy and the melody is catchy. Those guitar rhythms even have a tendency to change around a bit (at one point nearly turning into a waltz). This is really cool.
Polythene Pam A
I think Ringo's drumming is the star of this show. Those rapidly pounding clops sound a bit tribal to me, and they are so neat to hear. Also, that guitar solo that closes the song is just about the coolest thing ever. That guitar continues to rule mercilessly on the next track...
She Came in Through the Bathroom Window A+
This is a more traditional rock tune than the previous three, and I guess it makes sense that this marks the moment when McCartney took over the songwriting duties. But how beautifully catchy it is! And, again, that ultra-clean guitar that pops up and responds to the vocal melody is just perfect. There's a rumor going around that Paul was playing that guitar and not George... dude...
Golden Slumbers A+
The flow of the medley is interrupted a bit with this composition. It doesn't immediately bleed out of the previous track. But this is a gorgeous piano ballad with a melody that has a tendency to melt your heart! This is so beautiful!
Carry That Weight A+
This does bleed perfectly from the previous song (so well that I usually think that this is part of the same track). This one features a sort of “rowdy” chorus that manages to be incredibly uplifting. At the very end, there's a revisit of the end from “You Never Give Me Your Money.”
The End A+
The end?? Do The Beatles really have to be over? They really pick an epic way to go out. This is a really upbeat, rollicking sort of rock jam, with Ringo taking on a few short solos here and there. The second half is a lot more angelic and Broadway-esque. Sort of good, theatric exit music for a band who managed to have the good sense to stage their departure (instead of fizzling out or departing unexpectedly like other groups). It's such a nice ending fanfare! "The love you take is equal to the love you make ..."
Except there's 23-seconds of a very brief, folksy ditty. I almost like to think of it as the beginning of Paul's solo career (since it's Paul singing, and he loved writing songs like that ... except a bit longer). Anyway... The Beatles are over, and we had a nice time. .......OK, except for the archival releases. There's still three more of those.
Let it Be (1970)
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Two of Us A
This was written by McCartney though sung as duet with Lennon. It's nice to hear them seeming to cooperate once again, although I think we all knew how that eventually turned out! Right away, you can feel the rawness of this sound, and pretty obvious that George Martin had nothing to do with the post-production. Though the rawness actually suits it pretty well... It's a very sweet folk-like melody, and the rawness contributes an extra edge to it that I like.
Dig a Pony A-
John Lennon would later comment that this song was garbage... That's being a little bit rough, but I do think this thing is a little bit bland. Though I don't have much of a problem with the melody... It just seems a bit clunky to me, and it's a bit long. Obviously, this would have been something they would have worked on if they continued to work on this album! Though it's really hard to deny, sitting through this, that it reeks of Beatles greatness. Still entertaining... though perhaps not up to their standards.
Across the Universe A+
Gorgeous! This is nothing but pure Lennony goodness. It's hard to know what would have happened if this was given the same sort of treatment as on The Beatles, but the whole concept of just Lennon with his guitar is so simple that it astounds! (Of course, there's Phil Spector's post-production vocal “aahs” ... but somehow those don't keep the song from sounding raw and untouched.) Everyone knows this by heart, of course, and only the soulless don't get tugged by it ... at least a little bit.
I Me Mine A
Of course, it was the quiet Beatle who was always caught in the middle of these family squabbles. Papa Lennon and Mama McCartney were always having screaming matches while George was left huddling and shivering in the corner... And then he worked a bit more on this song he had floating in his head... a sort of Italian folk tune with a rock 'n' roll chorus going at it with “I Me Mine!” It would have been cool if Lennon and McCartney sang the chorus together... I'm betting they would, but I don't think one of them was actually present at the session. Well, this is a good song of course. It's well-written, and fun to hear. Do you need anything else?
This is just a forty-five second song that was extracted from a 12-minute jam. This is just a load of silliness featuring the guys grooving away while John listing off whatever random thing was coming in his mind.
Let it Be A+
Only a few months ago, I became aware that this song is semi-based on “Pachelbel's Canon.” Considering that's one of the few pieces I know on the piano, I tried it out, and ....... whattaya know! Though surely of all the songs based on that old Baroque classic, it can't get much better than this beautiful, sentimental classic. It has a really nice symbolic end to them, as well. (Also note that there's nothing they needed to do to this to make the production better ... nothing.)
This is another one of those studio jam things. It's just something they recorded while they were warming up. They give purposefully goofy performances, and it sort of falls apart by the end.
I've Got a Feeling A
McCartney and Lennon both had unfinished songs that they just decided to string together. Surprisingly, it's a pretty natural fit... even to the point where they actually sing the two songs on top of each other. (I had no idea that they were separate songs until I read it on Wikipedia... strange.) Once again, this song has an incredibly raw feeling to it. It was apparently recorded on that iconic rooftop concert event, but it still somehow manages to make an entirely wonderful experience.
One After 909 A
They had to brush the mothballs off this one. John Lennon wrote it in 1963, they recorded a take of it, they didn't like it and forgot about it. But of course they brought it out again seeing that it fit well with the original “back to basics” theme of the album. I get the feeling that this would have been performed much more vigorously by the 1963 versions of the Fab Four, but now they're old and tired. (Guess what time it is right now? 9:09 p.m. They were so off...)
The Long and Winding Road A
This is by far the most controversial production decision that Phil Spector made, by packing on such thick instrumentation, much of which consisted of those fakey vocal 'aahs.' Paul was so angry about it that, rumor has it, he got in a fist fight with Spector. (I don't think that's true, but there was a lawsuit involved.) I understand where McCartney was coming from certainly... that instrumentation actually drowns out McCartney's voice a bit. Though none of that can ever undermine the fact that this is a true Beatles masterpiece. An incredibly sentimental song that also manages to tug at you, no matter who you are.
For You Blue A+
George continues to be awesome. It's interesting to note that George's two original contributions to the album are sort of retro. The first one being an old-style folk song and this one being a sort of blues tune. The other two didn't really completely fit in with that theme! This song is characterized by very short high-pitched stabs of an electric guitar while John played the slide guitar quietly in the background. It's a very fun, lighthearted piece.
Get Back A+
The legend goes that all the writing behind this song developed “out of thin air” while they were jamming. (Not while they were in the process of recording this album, but it wasn't long before that.) This song is characterized by a sort of galloping rhythm section, and an incredibly catchy melody. (How was Paul able to do this 'out of thin air?' Was he some kind of Martian?) This was originally meant to be the title track, and I believe even the opening track. I suppose Spector was trying to express the irony of it?
Past Masters Volume 1 (1988)
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Love Me Do A
Oh yeah, The Beatles. Remember them? This is an ancient old song that McCartney claims to have written while playing hookie from school. McCartney was a bad, bad boy, but a fantastic songwriter! If you have Please Please Me, then you know you already have a copy of the album. They sound exactly the same to me, but I'm sure some music geek would tell you what the difference is. (I might be insane, but I'm not insane enough to analyze every intricate detail of a song!)
From Me To You A+
I never cease to be surprised at how short these early Beatles songs are. Less than two minutes? Geez! This was The Beatles' first big hit on the UK charts, and it's so impossibly catchy. These guys were on fire right from the beginning.
Thank You Girl A-
This isn't a very famous Beatles song, which I guess is the reason this didn't catch on like the ones that surround it. They apparently wrote it in hopes that it would be a hit single, but they rightly decided that it wasn't just that good enough... so it ended up as a B-side to “From Me To You.” But this mid-tempo tune still catchy as all heck. This would have been a masterpiece for any other pop band at the time.
She Loves You A+
Here is a massive classic and one that the early Beatles is possibly most famous for. This thing catches fire so quickly that I get burnt! That melody couldn't possibly be catchier, and I also like that incredibly furious instrumentation! Geez, everybody in the world knows this song, so there's no real reason to discuss anything about it. Everybody knows it's a dang fine piece of pop-rock, and you know you should be glad (wooooooo!).
I'll Get You A-
This is also not too well-known, but it's a good treat for any Beatles fan who might not have heard it. Though it's not as immediately memorable as the songs that surround it! The melody is fairly catchy, though perhaps it's not as well-known because it doesn't totally reach out and grab me. For some reason, I'm not a massive fan of the chugging instrumentation sometimes. Maybe they might have tried something a little different... Not that I really have any suggestions...
I Want to Hold Your Hand A+
As you probably know already, this was their first major worldwide smash. It's a very simple song, but the melody of course is what makes it, and the harmonies are gorgeous. (Especially that middle eight section.) A lot of Beatles skeptics seemed to think this song would be forgotten after just a few short years. It's been 45 years on, and it's stronger than ever. These guys had to take their extreme wrongness to their graves!
This Boy A
A few listeners consider it something of a lost gem, and it really is. Most casual fans haven't heard this before... have you? I'm probably not as much of a fan of it as some other listeners are, though. Overall, I feel that it didn't quite catch fire the way I would have wanted. But this ballad remains very pretty. The melody might not be entirely *catchy* though it's remarkably well-written, and Lennon delivers a lovable vocal performance.
Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand
It's the German version of “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” They probably didn't need to include this, but I guess getting it here was better than having to bootleg it.
Sie Liebt Dich
The German version of “She Loves You.” These guys were real sports for figuring out how to sing these songs in German. Though I suppose they already knew some of it...
Long Tall Sally A
When these guys really wanted to (which was most of the time), they could really play these old-time rock 'n' roll songs! Paul McCartney gives an absolutely furious vocal performance while the rest of the band plays their hearts out. This is nothing but a complete blast.
I Call Your Name A-
Obviously, this also wasn't one of The Beatles' more popular songs, and it also doesn't compel me greatly. This is fairly second-rate for The Beatles, which is to say that it is still pretty much first-class. Sometimes, I think they could have done a bit more with the instrumentation. I like the texture changes, but some moments feel a bit complacent to me.
Slow Down A-
This was another early rock 'n' roll cover that The Beatles covered often in their live career in Germany. And they're doing it here! It takes about forty seconds for them to finally get into the vocal melody, which seems like an eternity for these early Beatles records. But once they start singing, it turns into one of the more engaging covers. Did I ever mention that they really had voices that suited this stuff? Major kudos to that scream they belt out in the middle of this, and also George comes in with one of his signature, reserved guitar solos.
Apparently even the Past Masters discs apparently had the one-Ringo-vocal-per-album rule. He's not even close to out-singing his fellow band-mates (except for George, arguably), but his fun voice really does this old blues song justice. He's just fun to hear. Need I say more? NO!
I Feel Fine A+
This is a really fun piece of riff rock written by John Lennon. The Beatles weren't always known for riff-rock, but that clean, crisp riff he came up is fantastic. Pure early '60s greatness. It was written in 1964 when that guy really, really, really, really flourished as a songwriter, and this is one of the guy's main centerpieces. Once again, the melody couldn't possibly be catchier. It also has interesting status as the first ever rock song that used feedback as a purposeful musical device.
She's a Woman A-
Paul McCartney is singing awfully funny... According to Wikipedia, McCartney was doing a Little Richard impersonation! I guess they were getting to the stage of their careers when they could do whatever they wanted! McCartney surely had written much better stuff than this... and it was probably a good idea they kept this as a B-side.
Bad Boy A
This is an old R&B cover and John Lennon once again proves his magnificent chops performing this material. George comes in with some really awesome guitar lines that responds to the melody line. Technically, I want to call this one of the better covers they did... and of course, this stuff provides endless hours of entertainment!
Yes it Is A-
This is probably the most unusual addition to this compilation, but it's certainly one of the least compelling. It's a very slow ballad with John, George and Paul singing three-part harmonies in a Beach-Boys-esque fashion. George is experimenting a bit with a volume petal guitar. ...Ringo's pounding away at the drums very regularly. It almost seems like he shouldn't be playing at all... I think the melody is still pretty good, though. I know John hated it.
I'm Down A
At first glance, this seems like it's another R&B cover, but Paul McCartney actually wrote it as a tribute to those old guys. He's really trying hard to out-Lennon's performance of “Twist and Shout,” but that just wasn't going to happen! But still that guy had some powerful chops, and they're on full display here. I like those vocal harmonies, which also remind me very strongly of the Beach Boys. (This and the previous track were released at about the same time. Maybe the Beach Boys connection was actually real!)
Past Masters Volume 2 (1988)
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Day Tripper A+
This is another one of the few examples of riff-rock that the Beatles ever did, and once again they come up with a memorable one! I really like that ultra-clean guitar they use... That's something for the ages. True, The Beatles were not the best riff-rockers out there because they weren't too interested in being furious with it ... at least at this point of their career. The Stones had them beat by a mile in that department. The Beatles specialized in writing catchy melodies, and this is yet another example of their power.
We Can Work it Out A+
They break out the accordion for this hopelessly catchy tune! I especially like how expertly in the chorus they briefly switch to a 3/4 time signature. This would have been a perfectly good pop song otherwise, but that extra addition just gives it an extra edge. Classic!
Paperback Writer A+
Of all the examples of riff-rock in The Beatles' discography (again, there weren't many), this is usually hailed as the best. It's a surprisingly mean riff that wouldn't have sounded out-of-place on a Who album. This is also notable for being among the first Beatles songs to not be about love! (“Nowhere Man” had that beat.)
This was the B-side of “Paperback Writer,” and it's also insanely good. John Lennon said it was about people who moan about the weather, though I always imagined that it had more of a cosmic meaning. Well... I guess that goes to show what effect the Beatles have on me! It also marks an early instance when The Beatles were really starting to experiment.
Lady Madonna A+
There was a huuuuuuuge temporal jump between “Rain” and “Lady Madonna” or 22 months. I know that doesn't seem like *that* long, but in the Beatles universe, it was LOOOOOOOOOONG! I'm betting the reason there's nothing in here from their Sgt. Pepper era is because all the extra stuff landed on Magical Mystery Tour. I always thought this song was another one of Paul's music hall numbers, but I'm reading on Wikipedia that he intended it to be a boogie-woogie. I'm having trouble picturing that. But that piano riff, whatever it is, is incredibly catchy! I also really like that sax solo in the middle...
The Inner Light A
George and his fruity Indian fixations! I can understand why some listeners might not enjoy this because it's non-Western, but I like the atmosphere and the instrumentation is really thick and engaging. Besides, he manages to come out with an actual, good melody, and that's cool.
Hey Jude A+
Oh man.... is there anyone in the world who doesn't know this song by heart? Yeah, people who died before 1968 probably, but surely this song gets some airplay in heaven! As everybody knows, McCartney wrote this for the benefit of Lennon's son who was broken up by his father's and mother's divorce. It's insanely long for a Beatles single (seven minutes). The first half contains the bulk of the melody, which is as sweet, tuneful and sentimental as ever, and the last half contains all those nah-nah-nahs and judey-judey-judeys.
Yes, this song was also on the The Beatles, but this is a much more hard rocking version. The story is that John wanted to release the The Beatles version of this song as a single, but the other guys thought it was too slow and didn't rock enough. John was irritated by that, so he put in some of the most heavily distorted guitar that he could possibly come up with. The result of that is an incredibly rocking track, and possibly the best heavy rocker they've ever done. (I guess good things come out of Lennon getting irritated.)
Get Back A+
This is a less raw version of the song that we already got out of Let it Be. It's really not a whole lot different, though... At least not the same incredible difference between the two versions of “Revolution.” Naturally, I welcome every chance I have to hear this song, which is insanely hooky, and McCartney's vocal performance is very playful and fun!
Don't Let Me Down A
Pure Lennon! It's heavy hitting and fragile at the same time, and the melody is really memorable. This was thought of as a plea to Yoko to ... not let him down. ... Yeah, I guess if she did let him down, everybody would hate her even more than they already do! This was apparently slated to be released with the Get Back project, but Phil Spector didn't include it though Paul McCartney put it back in when he released Let it Be... Naked.
The Ballad of John and Yoko A
John had the idea for this funny rocker and decided to record it with Paul even though his other band-mates were elsewhere. Paul comes up with a catchy bass-line, and John's melody is pretty snappy although hardly as rich as most of his other songs and it seems to repeat too much (an extremely rare complaint I ever have of their music). And yet, it still gets an A because it is so much fun to listen to! Ah yes... that's the magic of The Beatles.
Old Brown Shoe A
This has got to be one of the weirdest songs the Beatles have ever done. Yeah, it's a George Harrison song! It's also the closest thing that he wrote for the Beatles that resembles the stuff he would put on his first solo album All Things Must Pass. It doesn't have the usual style of Beatles hooks, but it has a really cool drum beat, and some incredibly good guitar licks! This is something of a lost classic!
Across the Universe A+
Yup, this was also featured on Let it Be already, but this one is more intricately produced. The guitars seem a little cleaner, and there's a small child choir that comes in for the chorus. A little bit of wobbly electric guitar plays very quietly in the background. Also, I should mention that the track starts out with some bird noises. ...So, this is a pretty dang welcome addition. I like both versions!!!
Let it Be A+
Although this isn't that different from the version that we already have. But this thing is such a masterpiece that I didn't mind having had paid for it twice! This is probably one of the most overplayed songs of all rock 'n' roll, but it's also one of the few songs that I don't mind hearing once a week.
You Know My Name (Look Up the Number) A
I believe there was a chance this was going to appear as a Plastic Ono single even though Paul McCartney sings on it. This track originated back in 1966 when John had a crazy idea to write record a whole song using just the words “You Know My Name, Look Up the Number” while wildly shifting musical styles. Over the years, they sort of casually worked on it. It starts as a sort of demented pop-rock song, morphing to Paul giving a hilarious lounge parody, to John giving an incredibly silly music hall rendition of it. (And, at the very end, there's someone just burbling. Perhaps imitating a bad Vaudeville performer who's too drunk to talk.) It's very funny, and Monty-Python-esque. It wasn't meant to be a serious song, so there's no way to treat it as such. There's some resentment toward it because many considered the *last* Beatles song ever released. But for some reason I like thinking about the greatest rock 'n' roll band ever going out with something this silly and irrelevant.
Let it Be... Naked (2003)
Read the full review:
Get Back A+
Wow, it's a Beatles song. I loooove this Beatles song! Hey, wait a second, isn't this supposed to be the closing track? Why did Sir McCartney give us this album backwards to mess with my mind? Is he punishing everyone for listening to Beatles albums backwards hoping to get messages that he was dead? We seriously didn't want you to be dead... we were just bored. How many times have I written a track review of this song? Answer: Three. Frankly, I don't care what the production sounds like... I'm not an audiophile. All I care is that it's a good song with a good melody. I like the shuffly rhythm. Um. McCartney's got a good voice. What else do you want me to write?
Dig a Pony A-
OK, I'm going to try to be relatively useful in this review, even though I still don't know what was wrong with the Spector version. McCartney just took out the false start that was in Spector's version. If the false start offends you or something, then... well... you're pretty weird. Otherwise these versions are basically the same thing. Again, I'm not an audiophile and I'm listening to this out of some small computer speakers I've had since 2001, so maybe there are these little differences that Superman could point out...
For You Blue A+
So, I just did this thing with iTunes and Rhapsody where I'm trying to play both versions at the exact same time. Yeah, I couldn't quite get it to line up perfectly, and there's this really cool echo to it! That's something Paul could have done to make it even more naked, if you want my opinion. There... I only wanted to help. Yeah so there's absolutely no difference between the two versions that I can pick up. I mean, George didn't come back from the dead and redo his vocals or anything. That would have been freaky.
The Long and Winding Road A
Yeah, this was what the controversy was about and I assume really the only reason Paul wanted to go back and re-do Let it Be. Yeah, all of Spector's strings and choir noises are completely gone, and all we hear is Paul's lounge-like piano work. To be honest, I think McCartney should have still left some of that orchestration in there, because I kinda liked it. My only real beef with the original version was that the strings were so loud that they drowned out Paul's voice, and that seemed a little tacky. Then again, it might just be the fact that I've listened to and loved the Spector version a billion times, and it's a little bit unnerving to hear it without the strings..... Paul, I must say you're making me feel uncomfortable.................... Oh, according to Wikipedia, this was actually a different take, and the lyrics are slightly different. God, you've got to be nuts over the Beatles to really care about that...
Two of Us A
Don't you hear the problem with this? It doesn't start out with John Lennon saying “I dig a Pygmy by Charles Hawtrey and the Deaf Aids... Phase One in which Doris gets her oats.” ...Come on, John. Can't you just say it once again, for old times sake? Instead, they just start it by playing the song! Now, what good is that? ... Well, it's still a good song, so... there you go. Hearing these two guys duetting is always great. I also thought this was supposed to start the album. That was so much better...
I've Got a Feeling A
Oh, a breakthrough! I can actually detect a difference between the two versions! Lennon's back-up vocals in this version are definitely louder in the mix, and it overall doesn't sound as “raw” as Spector's version. ...OK, so I guess when Paul to go “naked” on us, he used a little bit of body oil! Now, which one's worse?
One After 909 A-
This was that raucous old song they brought back from 1963... Again, I don't notice any significant differences between the two versions. Except Paul takes out that part at the end when we hear goofy old John coming in to sing “Danny Boy.” Given that this wasn't one of the finer songs on Let it Be, Paul removed the one thing that I had looked forward to the most... Booooooo...
Don't Let Me Down A
Hey! This isn't supposed to be on here! ...But hey, here's a good reason for this album to exist. Sure, we have a better version of this song on Past Masters Vol. 2, so it's not like this is a rarity or anything. But this is a rawer version of that song... And Paul only put it on here, because he didn't like that one song about the F.B.I. and the B.B. King, and he didn't care much for the Maggie Mae, either. John's vocals go a little bit overboard here, but I suppose I'd rather listen to those things go overboard than ... um ... Dennis DeYoung's vocals. (Sorry, I just reviewed the Styx discography.)
I Me Mine A
I guess there was a little bit of Spectorization in the 1970 version, but I almost didn't notice. It's still the same song and I like both versions equally as much. It's just that this one just sounds slightly different. Spector's stuff sounded perfectly nice in the original version. It wasn't drowning out the vocals... it gave the song body when it could have used some body. This version ends a little faster, when I think Spector's longer drawn out chord was just the ticket. Really, you anti-Spector guys are nuts.
Across the Universe A+
This sounds like it was a different cut of the song, too... And of course Spector's wall-of-sound is completely not here. John also appears to be singing this a little faster and with a higher pitched voice. I still like Spector's version better, but this one has its own charms such that I'm glad that it still exists. You get to hear John sing with this just with a guitar and himself. Although there's this funny feedback noise I'm hearing in the background. ...A tampura? ... OK, just give me the Spector version. He sounds weird playing this so fast...
Let it Be A+
Ha! I did a pretty good number this time, playing both versions at exactly the same time. I've got to say, this version still has a little bit of that fake-choir in the background. It's just missing that awesome horn mellotron thing that Spector put in his version. Also that guitar solo is different... Gosh, he really wanted to go in there and mess with the guitar solo? The original was much better. Also I thought Spector's horn mellotrons were pretty cool...
Fly on the Wall
I guess to all you peeps out there like me who was upset that McCartney took out all that memorable studio chatter that Spector threaded throughout his version have this thing to marvel over. ...It's 21 freaking minutes of studio chatter and warm-up noise. Included is a version of “Maggie May,” except this one is completely different. You can also pick up some of the weird things John said that Spector had extracted. You can also hear hear some of their solo songs, notably a bit of Lennon's “Jealous Guy” and George Harrison's “All Things Must Past.” So, yeah, this could be a real treat for the Beatles-phile. For myself, I can't say this actually made my life any sweeter...
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