Category: The Beatles

The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

ARTIST: The Beatles   Sgt._Pepper's_Lonely_Hearts_Club_Band

TITLE: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: None, really, but it didn’t matter

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: A Day in the Life is probably the most famous song here, but you know most of the others.

LINEUP: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr with George Martin and Geoff Emerick putting together the soundscapes.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: At the time, supposedly revolutionary and the kickstarter to the ‘summer of love’, but in reality it was just a more focused version of psychedelic experiments the Beatles and others had been doing.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There have been books written about this record, and not just fluff pieces. It is probably the most known popular music album in history. Yet, it’s overrated as a whole yet parts of it are woefully underrated and ignored.

There’s fluff and saccharine (“She’s Leaving Home”, “When I’m 64”), and some of the songs aren’t as strong as others since they had constrained themselves to a concept of sorts. The pacing isn’t quite there thanks to those interruptions of treacle. Yet, some tracks are definitely brilliant, and others (“Within You, Without You”, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”) deserve more acclaim than they sometimes get.

While other bands had certainly attempted some of these ideas, themes, and sounds before, only the Beatles, with George Martin and Geoff Emerick, put together something as cohesive as they could. It definitely is a landmark in popular music – just not the best album of that year nor of the Beatles’ career.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It only hit #7 in France…what gives?

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, they have now released a remastered version with some outtakes that are familiar to those who have other Beatles anthology collections. 

GRADE: A: There are a couple songs I loathe, and I think the conceit of the concept doesn’t work as well in terms of flow. Quibbles, I suppose, when all is said and done.

The Beatles – Revolver

ARTIST: The Beatles                       220px-Revolver

TITLE: Revolver

YEAR RELEASED: 1966

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Yellow Submarine (#2 US, #1 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh…Taxman, Eleanor Rigby, Good Day Sunshine, heck, you know almost all of it…

LINEUP: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr. Plenty of people sang and helped out.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A stunning, eclectic masterpiece of studio craft and songwriting.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Beatles had been moving in a more eclectic direction, but even Rubber Soul was still mostly a guitar-band album. Not so Revolver.

Sure, there are rockers (“Taxman”, “And Your Bird Can Sing”, etc.) But there’s a song that’s fully string section, a song fully using sitar and table, a novelty, weird psychedelic rock songs, jubilant vaudeville numbers, low key love songs, low key breakup songs, and whatever the heck “Tomorrow Never Knows” is classified. They stretched out and everything worked. Everything.

Even the weakest songs, showcase the band and their musicianship to the fullest, and the ‘weakest’ song here would probably be a smash for any other band.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They took about eight weeks to record this, an eternity in 1966.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Well, the US version yanked out three songs for a compilation album that was released earlier in 1966 than Revolver, and the tracks destined for this album in the UK stood out from the other tracks.

GRADE: A+:  This is in contention for the best album of all time.

The Beatles – Rubber Soul

ARTIST: The Beatles                   Rubber_Soul

TITLE: Rubber Soul

YEAR RELEASED: 1965

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Nowhere Man (#2)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Drive My Car, Norwegian Wood, Michelle, Girl, In My Life

LINEUP: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr. George Martin and Mal Evans played on a couple of cuts, too.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A bonafide classic – the first truly indispensable Beatles record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: In 1964, the Beatles rushed to complete an album before the Christmas rush, and the result was an album that was flat and tired sounding. In 1965, they felt the same pressure, and came up with a record that by all accounts was their first true masterpiece.

From the opener “Drive My Car”, with its complicated rhythms, to the ending “Run for Your Life”, a sneering John Lennon song that pinched a line from an Elvis song, each cut on the album is a treasure, and each track is distinct and, for the most part, innovative.

It left their previous work behind, and you can tell since “Wait” was from a past session and while fantastic, has their early 1965 tricks. They use a sitar, a lot of Hammond organ, a fuzz bass, very close harmonies, French, sentimentality, hostility, and more. “The Word” is a hippie anthem before hippies really were known. “You Won’t See Me” is a song that was rushed to the process and recorded at the very last minute, is the first Beatles song to go over 3:20 in time, and is one of McCartney’s strongest songs.

George’s two songs are excellent, and even the song for Ringo is fun and well made. It’s just good tunes and everyone from Brian Wilson to the Byrds were now trying to catch up.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Paul’s relationship with Jane Asher was troubled, as noted by his album tracks, while John was already stepping around his wife (as told in “Norwegian Wood”).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Well, the US version takes two of the weaker songs from Help that were lopped off, and starts each side with them. Meanwhile, four tracks are expundged, including “Drive My Car” and “Nowhere Man”, crucial tracks that really cement the record. Thanks, Capitol!

GRADE: A+:  One for the collection. Any collection.

The Beatles – Help

ARTIST: The Beatles                                 Help

TITLE:  Help

YEAR RELEASED: 1965

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Help (#1 US, #1 UK), Yesterday (#1 US), Ticket to Ride (#1 US, #1 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Night Before, Act Naturally, You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, You’re Going to Lose that Girl

LINEUP: John, Paul, George, Ringo

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Soundtrack to their second film has some all-time hits, but there is a few filler tracks.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Rebounding after their lackluster (for them) Beatles for Sale period, the filming of the movie Help and the recording of the soundtrack gave the Liverpool lads some life. The movie soundtrack side has some great sides, such as the title track, Paul’s “The Night Before” and the excellent “Ticket to Ride”, which shows Ringo at his best.

The non-soundtrack side (the UK version, of course), had the Beatles best known ballad in “Yesterday”, and some other fine cuts. But there’s some less than stellar (again, it’s all relative) tracks for both John and Paul, and a cover of “Dizzy Miss Lizzie” that was probably exciting live but seems strained here.

Still, this is a rebound, and adds some sonic flavor in George’s tone pedal guitar, strings, and an electric piano. It’s not the best Beatles album, but you won’t skip any cuts.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The semaphore signal the Beatles give out doesn’t spell help but instead “NUJV”.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Well…the US version took Side 1 of the UK album and interspersed it with orchestral soundtrack recordings. The ‘extra’ songs were on three other Capitol Records, including the US Rubber Soul (sigh…)

GRADE: A-:  Many bands would kill for the songs I call ‘filler’ here.

The Beatles – Beatles for Sale

ARTIST: The Beatles                       220px-beatlesforsale

TITLE:  Beatles for Sale

YEAR RELEASED: 1964

CHART ACTION: #1 UK

SINGLES: Eight Days a Week (#1 US), Kansas City / Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey (#75 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No Reply, I’m a Loser, Rock and Roll Music, I’ll Follow the Sun

LINEUP: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr. George Martin on piano (and producer).

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A year-end Beatles album has some outstanding tracks, but a couple of covers weigh it down.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The pressure on the Beatles in late 1964 was immense. Not only had they broken through the US in a huge way, but they need to make sure their UK and European fans were taken care of as well.

They needed another new album for the Christmas season, so the group trudged back into the studio with about a half of an album of new songs. Cobbling together covers from their stage show (for the most part), they completed an album.

Unlike their first two albums, the covers weren’t that strong. “Mr. Moonlight” is just bad, and there’s some interesting echo (too much) on “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby”. There was some musical progress, though, and the originals here are pretty outstanding and complicated, like “Baby’s in Black” and “Eight Days a Week”.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They recorded “Leave My Kitten Alone”, but chose “Mr. Moonlight” instead, because John loved that song.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B:  A few mediocre covers weigh this down, but the originals should be sought out.

The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night

ARTIST: The Beatles                                 HardDayUK

TITLE:  A Hard Day’s Night

YEAR RELEASED: 1964

CHART ACTION: #1 UK (A US version hit #1 as well, but it was chopped up to heck)

SINGLES: Can’t Buy Me Love (#1 US, #1 UK), A Hard Day’s Night (#1 US, #1 UK), I’ll Cry Instead (#25 US), And I Love Her (#12 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If I Fell (#53 US as a B-side), Things We Said Today, I’ll Be Back, You Can’t Do That (#48 as a B-side), maybe all of it?

LINEUP: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Beatles’ machine cranks out an album for their movie, and in doing so move forward in songwriting and instrumentation.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Beatlemania is going strong in the UK and had just started in the US when news came that they were going to star in their own movie. With the movie, of course, there had to be an album.

What the Beatles delivered were 13 tracks of stellar rock-and-roll, showing sophistication, an expanded musical palette, and starring George Harrison’s 12-string electric guitar. That last feature got all of the US musician’s head spinning with possibilities. It may be one of the most important musical instrument choices in rock history.

All thirteen songs could have been singles, hits, smashes, you name it. The first side of the UK release were the ones featured in the movie. The second side, though had outstanding cuts like “I’ll Cry Instead”, “You Can’t Do That”, “I’ll Be Back” and “Things We Said Today”. It’s hard to fathom an act with the depth of songs that those four were just ‘leftovers’ as it were, since they weren’t in the movie.

This is the first Beatles’ album without covers, and every song is a Lennon / McCartney song. It’s John’s album in reality. Nine of the thirteen cuts have him singing or co-singing lead, with Paul netting three and George one. Because of that, there wasn’t a lot of fluff, mostly rock-and-roll.us hard days night

NOTES & MINUTIAE: In the US, we got half of the album and the other tracks were filled up with the orchestral pieces conducted by George Martin. Kind of a rip-off, really. But the cover was neat.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A: It’s a short album with no filler and fantastic rock songs.

The Beatles – With the Beatles

ARTIST: The Beatles  220px-Withthebeatlescover
TITLE: With the Beatles
YEAR RELEASED: 1963
CHART ACTION: #1 UK – US Equivalent Meet the Beatles (#1). The Beatles Second Album (#1) had the cover versions of this record with other recordings for the US market as well.
SINGLES: Roll Over Beethoven (#68 US), All My Loving (#45 US)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Um….the rest.
LINEUP: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album shows an increase in songwriting and musical knowledge over their first album, augmented with more covers of early R&B and rock. However, there are a couple of clunkers here – but they’re allowed.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: With all of the traveling and appearances in the UK and Europe that they had done, the Beatles somehow found the time to record a bunch of tracks for their next album and single releases. Of course, they augmented their album with some covers, this time more well known to Americans (not that they really cared at the time).

The first three tracks show how far the Beatles had come since their first sessions. “It Won’t Be Long” seemed like a typical rocker but the modulation in the middle eight was impressive, “All I’ve Got to Do” also showed more finesse and musicality than their debut, and “All My Loving” was just a joyous pop song and probably the highlight of the album.

It was “Not a Second Time” that had even the classical music critics bowled over. Some heard an Aeolian cadence at the end of the song and how that it was similar to Mahler.

The downer? “Hold Me Tight” is rubbish (as they say) and “I Wanna Be Your Man”, originally given to the Stones, sounds like a song you’d give away instead of keep. However, this is a winner of a record in the whole.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The recording stretched out over seven dates from July through October, and was released almost a month to the day after the last session was done.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but again you can get the mono and stereo versions. Mono is still better.

GRADE: A-: If “Hold Me Tight” could be just removed from the history of their world….

The Beatles – Please Please Me

ARTIST: The Beatles  220px-PleasePleaseMe
TITLE: Please Please Me
YEAR RELEASED: 1963

CHART ACTION: #1 UK, US equivalent Introducing the Beatles #2 (more on that later).
SINGLES: Love Me Do (#17 UK, #1 US), Please Please Me (#2 UK, #3 US), I Saw Her Standing There (#14 US), Twist and Shout (#1 US), Do You Want to Know a Secret (#2 US)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Damn, if you don’t know this record…
LINEUP: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After a modest hit and a smash, the Fab Four records 10 more songs in a day and releases a triumphant debut.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: In 585 minutes, the Beatles recorded 10 (actually 11 but one was un-used) songs from their stage show to supplement the A’s and B’s of their two singles. Of those 10, six were covers of American R&B and a show tune (Oh, that Paul). The other four, and the four single tracks, were originals.

It was pretty much an instant classic. Oh, you can quibble about “A Taste of Honey” (recorded first by Billy Dee Williams, yes that’s right). You can talk about George’s guitar solos not being the most creative in the world. You can nit-pick some of the vocal hiccups (it was pretty much live to two-track with only a few overdubs). And you can wonder why “Anna”, “Chains” and “Boys” were their picks when you’ve never really heard them on oldies radio.

This is rock-and-roll exuberance and rock-and-roll versatility. Not every band can go from “Ask Me Why” to “Please Please Me”, not even today, and pull it off.

It’s not their best album – not even their best early album. But damn, it’s good. You should have it – and play it so you understand.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: I used Introducing the Beatles (a Vee Jay record release) as the American comp because it contained 12 of the 14 songs on the album, and Meet the Beatles had only one. The Early Beatles by Capitol has 11 of them but that was released after the Vee Jay contract expired.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, except that they released a stereo and mono version of the record on CD. I think mono is better – that’s what George Martin was concentrating on when he mixed the songs.

GRADE: A: Let’s rock and roll!