Thursday, 2 August 2018

The Beatles




"I immediately liked what I heard. They were fresh, and they were honest, and they had what I thought was a sort of presence - a star quality" - Brian Epstein

I have always had a strange relationship with The Beatles. On the one hand, aged about five, I owned a plastic Beatles guitar (pictured), so they were the first musical memory I had, along with a vague knowledge of Elvis.


A lot of their output was easy for a young child to sing - "she loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah" was probably the first I learnt, to the frustration of my parents, who hated me saying "yeah" instead of "yes". In the mid sixties, The Beatles were simply everywhere, even for five-six year old kids. On the other hand, as the years went by and I started to develop a musical taste, I found the edgy, bad boy, rebellious appeal of The Rolling Stones far more attractive. Even at eight or nine, I viewed The Beatles as "goody-goodies" (despite the flower power garb and later beards) and The Stones as the exact opposite. I knew which side my bread was buttered. Musically too, the riffy, bluesy decadence of The Stones' sound was what I wanted, not what I viewed as twee by 1968, as I did The Beatles' early pre-1965 output.


So, you will have gathered by now that The Beatles are not the holy grail for me. Despite owning everything they recorded (including the much-valued "Beatles In Mono" box set), David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Stones, Van Morrison, The Clash and The Jam for starters are far more important to me on a day-to-day basis. There are also parts of their output I do not consider worthy of a supposed "rock group" (mainly McCartney whimsy or "Yellow bloody Submarine"). However, that said, I was lucky enough to develop my musical taste in the sixties and there are some Beatles songs that are indelibly imprinted on my entire consciousness. I could tell you exactly where I was when I first heard them - Hello Goodbye (on the top deck of a bus one evening before Christmas in Leicester with my Mother, and it was played by some teenagers on their transistor radio); Hey Jude (over the Tannoy before the match at Leicester City v West Bromwich Albion in October 1968); Lady Madonna and Let It Be (at home at the kitchen table listening to the radio with my Mother). So, like it or not, The Beatles will forever be a part of my life.

THE EARLY YEARS (1962-1965)



Please Please Me (1963)


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

"I asked them what they had which we could record quickly, and the answer was their stage act"  - George Martin             
                 
This was it, then, The Beatles' very first album, and, while very much of its time, there is still some superb stuff on it. Take I Saw Her Standing There. What and opening to a career, with its rocking McCartney vocal and solid bass line. Then there is the wonderful Please Please Me, with McCartney and Lennon in perfect harmony and that iconic harmonica riff. There are six cover versions alongside the Lennon-McCartney originals but that was pretty par for the course in 1963.

Misery is a lively, rock 'n' roll upbeat ballad, while Anna (Go To Him) has John Lennon on lead for the first time on album, expressing his soon to be familiar relationship problems. Chains has George Harrison on lead vocals on Goffin/King's country-ish rocker. For something from 1963, the sound quality on this is impressive. Even on this first album, there was a "Ringo song" and he takes vocal duties on the quirky rock 'n' roll of Boys. It still has a naive appeal to it. Ask Me Why is a melodic, lovelorn song from the already melancholic Lennon. It has a catchy but sad refrain. He was setting his stall out early on this type of song.

Love Me Do was, of course, the group's big breakthrough hit single. I have actually never been a big fan of it, to be honest, finding it lyrically banal, but I have to give credit to the harmonica intro. McCartney's PS I Love You is very much early sixties fare, similar to the sort of stuff Elvis was putting out at the same time. Their cover of The Shirelles' Baby It's You is very fetching with a convincing Buddy Holly-esque vocal from Lennon. Do You Want To Know A Secret is sung by Harrison and was a hit for Billy J. Kramer & Dakotas. It has a sublime, deep, warm bass line.



A Taste Of Honey, I have to say, sounds extremely dated now. It has an atmosphere to it though. The harmonica introduces the energetic, enthusiastic There's A Place. As appealing as it is, it all sounds so very long ago now. The album ends with Lennon's throaty, suffering from a heavy cold, vocal on the infectious Twist And Shout when The Beatles make The Top Notes/The Isley Brothers' song their own.

As with all the early Beatles albums, the 2009 stereo remasters are great but you simply can't beat the speaker-shaking thump of the mono version. Just check out that bass on I Saw Her Standing There in mono.





Above are Harrison, Lennon and McCartney in Hamburg in 1961 (left) and the statues that now stand on Hamburg's Beatles-Platz (right).

With The Beatles (1963)


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

"Still, the heart of With The Beatles lies not in the covers, but the originals" - Stephen Thomas Erlewine - AllMusic
                                               
Five cover versions in its fourteen tracks, this is an album of covers and short love songs, but its cultural effect was greater than the sum of its parts. For me, like Beatles For Sale it seems very much a Lennon album. He dominates the whole thing, let's be honest.

The first two songs are classic Lennon early sixties rockers - It Won't Be Long is excellent and All I've Got To Do not far behind. The sound is superb on both of them, either in stereo or mono. It is a McCartney song, however, that really gives you that typically Beatles sound, the irresistible, evocative All My Loving.

Don't Bother Me is one of those melancholic Harrison songs that sounds like a Lennon song, both lyrically and vocally. Little Child is rousing and harmonica-driven, with Lennon and McCartney sharing vocals. It has a huge bass sound on it too. Very typical early Beatles energetic, lively rock 'n' roll. Till There Was You is a cover of a country love song, sung by McCartney. Lennon takes vocals on The Marvelettes' Please Mr. Postman. They cope with this early Motown song pretty well. It is one of their more convincing, solid covers.

I still believe the guitar at the beginning of Chuck Berry's Roll Over Beethoven is messed up, although the rest of it rocks, big time, with a resonant bass line and a surprisingly good rock vocal from Harrison. Hold Me Tight is a McCartney sung Buddy Holly-esque number. Smokey Robinson's You Really Got A Hold On Me is given a harmonious vocal treatment from Lennon and McCartney. The song suits them. Lennon is particularly impressive. Neither is Robinson, of course, but it sounds ok. Ringo Starr takes vocals for the first time on I Wanna Be Your Man, famously also covered by the Rolling Stones. As one who always preferred The Stones to The Beatles, I have to give credit to the lively punch of this one, after all it was The Beatles' song, anyway.


The country number, Devil In Her Heart is very much of its time. It sounds pretty dated now, but still has an entrancing, innocent appeal to it. Not A Second Time has a huge bass thud to it, a great sound quality and a similarly impressive Lennon vocal. The cover of Barrett Strong's Money also has Lennon raspingly rocking it up. It is not up to the original, but again, it is more than acceptable. Starr comes into his own on here, though.

The 2009 stereo remaster is one of the best stereo remasters of the early recordings, but the mono's delicious power simply cannot be beaten.

A Hard Day's Night (1964)


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

"I was going home in the car and Dick Lester suggested the title, 'Hard Day's Night' from something Ringo had said. I had used it in 'In His Own Write', but it was an off-the-cuff remark by Ringo. You know, one of those malapropisms. A Ringo-ism, where he said it not to be funny ... just said it. So Dick Lester said, 'We are going to use that title'" - John Lennon         

The Beatles started to leave behind their rock 'n' roll and Motown covers for this soundtrack album to their first appealingly madcap romp of a film. Side one are all songs from the film and the second side were songs written for the film but not used. The emphasis is on pop pretty much all the way. It is an innocent, gently appealing album.
                                          
The first two are corkers - the now iconic A Hard Day's Night named after a throwaway comment from Ringo Starr and the rousing rock of John Lennon's vocal on I Should Have Known Better. I am sure there is a missed note on the harmonica at the beginning though. In fact, looking it up, apparently the stereo version does indeed have a brief "drop out". It doesn't occur at all on the mono.

If I Fell is an enchanting low key love ballad, while I'm Happy Just To Dance With You is very mid-sixties "easy listening" but it has a superb, rich, bassy sound and a captivating rhythm. George Harrison is on vocals on this one.

And I Love Her is beautiful. One of Paul McCartney's best early love songs (Just where did Ringo get those tom-toms? Don't ask :). Tell Me Why sees that soon to be familiar Lennon cynicism about lying within love beginning to make itself known, as it would much more on Beatles For Sale later in 1964. It suffers a bit from a murky, muffled mix, particularly on the stereo version. The mono version is probably the best way to listen this track, although it still has limitations. Can't Buy Me Love, of course, is now a world-famous classic. No need for any further comment from me, is there? Apart from to praise the bass line.


Any Time At All has a jangling guitar sound soon to be adopted by The Byrds. Songs like this are admittedly just pretty innocent love ditties, but the influence of their full-on guitar attack, at the time, was huge.

I'll Cry Instead is an upbeat country-ish rocker from Lennon with yet another throbbing, melodic bass line. McCartney's Things We Said Today has always been, for me, the best song on the album. It is catchy but also melancholic and broody, despite its lively refrain. After each chorus bit, however, the music gets downbeat again, most atmospherically.

When I Get Home is a very typical rock-ish Lennon number from the time, similar to his Beatles For Sale material. You Can't Do That sees Lennon in a similar musical groove and some mildly threatening lyrical content, as he gets a bit jealous of his girl's potential wandering. It is one of the album's most muscular rockers. I'll Be Back is a harmonious but once again slightly sad love song.

This is a pleasant, inoffensive album, but beneath the tuneful geniality there are several notes of mournful sadness. These would come to be expressed increasingly over the next few albums, particularly by Lennon.

Although this album was mixed in stereo and remastered thus in 2009, this is one of those where I definitely prefer the mono (which is actually the case for all the early ones). The bassy thump of the mono version is awesome.



Beatles For Sale (1964)


No Reply/I'm A Loser/Baby's In Black/Rock 'n' Roll Music/I'll Follow The Sun/Mr. Moonlight/Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey/Eight Days A Week/Words Of Love/Honey Don't/Every Little Thing/I Don't Want To Spoil The Party/What You're Doing/Everybody Trying To Be My Baby

"They were rather war weary during Beatles for Sale. One must remember that they'd been battered like mad throughout 1964, and much of 1963. Success is a wonderful thing but it is very, very tiring" - George Martin   

The often ignored and underrated album in The Beatles canon makes it all the more interesting to listen to as opposed to listening to Sgt Pepper again. In many ways it is a John Lennon album more than it is that of any of the others, particularly in its three opening tracks. Lennon's cynical approach to love and romance is becoming notably clear. The music has many country-ish rhythms and it is often described as The Beatles' "country album", although it contained a few rock'n'roll covers too. It was also supposed to herald the first signs of Lennon's "Dylan influence", although I think using a harmonica on a song is stretching the point a bit.

Overall, though, it displays some mature pop songs, some lyrical cynicism, some acceptable covers and hints at a clear change in direction, attitude and ambience from the unbridled fun of 1963. It is a far more credible album than those that went before but it has to be said that it is still just a thirty minute collection of two minute 60s pop/country rock/rock n roll songs.

I own both the mono and stereo remasterings and have to say I prefer the stereo. The sound quality in general is excellent. Listen to the drums and acoustic guitar on Every Little Thing - clear, sharp and full simultaneously. Ditto the guitar and percussion on What You're Doing. You can't beat these latest stereo remasters, in my opinion.

 
   
With No Reply, the album begins with Lennon in resentful mood against his girl, against a country style largely acoustic backing and some powerful drums from Ringo Starr. A somewhat low key, downbeat introduction to the album, given that contemporary trends often saw an upbeat toe-tapper opening things. However, for me, it is a highly credible rock song.

In I'm A Loser, Lennon injects a little self-loathing into matters. Pure teenage love songs like She Loves You and I Wanna Hold Your Hand seem a long time ago now. Some critics have suggested that this is a Bob Dylan-influenced song. It maybe so, but personally I don't really see it. It contains some vibrant percussion from Starr and some harmonica too (hence the "Dylan period" claims, I guess), plus some rocking guitar too. For me this is all far too fast-paced and country "poppy" for Dylan. He was still in his slow acoustic poetic protest phase. This is a country-tinged rail about the singer's problems in love. Not really the same thing.

Baby's In Black completes this intriguing opening trilogy - it gets even darker, albeit against a singalong country-ish air, "oh dear what can I do...". The lyrical content is certainly more moribund than it ever had been before. Certainly Dylan had showed that "pop" music need not always be about happy young people in love, although even Frank Sinatra had shown that in his "torch song" period. In many ways Lennon was building on that, and on the somewhat downbeat nature of the second half of the Hard Day's Night album, such as The Things We Said Today,  reflecting the disillusion with relationships that seemed to increase as one matured.

The mood gets lifted with this rollicking, upbeat cover of Chuck Berry's Rock 'n' Roll Music.  Lennon on vocals for the fourth track in a row. It is most enjoyable, possibly more upbeat and attacking than Berry's slightly slow-paced, unusually lazy original. Lennon just sounds as if he is really enjoying himself.


Finally, McCartney appears in I'll Follow The Sun - a short, pleasant ditty with its Buddy Holly-style guitar part. Apparently it dates from the group's 1960 Hamburg period. In many ways it sounds like it too. It sorts of sits uneasily with the more mature approach of the earlier material on the album.

In Mr. Moonlight Lennon is back on throaty vocals for another cover of an old country song. The guitar riff, in one part, was surely used by Blondie on 1978's I'm Only Touched By Your Presence Dear. A thumping bass drum from Harrison, for a change. All seems a bit of studio messing around, to be honest. This and the previous track are the two "fillers" on what is, otherwise, an interesting album.

Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey sees McCartney on vocals for this very credible and enjoyable rock'n'roll double cover. The band are energetic on this one, and sound as if they're having a great time. This cover works and brings the album back on track. Eight Days A Week is probably the only accepted, recognisable Beatles classic on the album. John Lennon on lead vocal in a song that has a great guitar riff and a quintessential 60s guitar pop sound. It is mid-60s Beatles to a tee.

Paul McCartney always loved Buddy Holly's music and this version of Words Of Love is one of The Beatles' finest covers, up there with the original. George Harrison absolutely nails the guitar part. I really like this, just lifts the spirits every time you hear it. Lovely bass from McCartney as well. A similar, cheering effect is achieved by Ringo's vocal take on Honey Don't, a Carl Perkins slice of country rock'n'roll. Starr's vocal delivery is fetching as to are his exhortations to Harrison to "rock on George, one time for Ringo". Some have said this is a rather tired effort, again, personally, I disagree. I think it's great.

Now it is time for a few original Lennon/McCartney songs, and Every Little Thing is a good one, with a convincing Lennon vocal that is clearly far more positive and optimistic about his girl than the first three tracks on the album. I like the booming bass drum punch from Starr too.

I Don't Want To Spoil The Party is a Lennon/McCartney song but it is the obviously country & western-influenced song on the album, so much so that one almost expects to find out that it was a cover. Melodic, jaunty and enjoyable. Pretty light though.

In What You're Doing, Starr's excellent rumbling drum intro brings in this upbeat McCartney vocal with a Byrds/Searchers-style jangly guitar riff. Classic 60s guitar-driven pop in many ways. Nice bass sound and good production all round. A quirky little drum and bass guitar interplay at the end.

The album closes with Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby with George Harrison on lead vocal for this fast-paced rockabilly rush through another Carl Perkins song. This is a pretty credible cover, but by now, other songs on the album have made you think that The Beatles could, and should, have done better than this.

Of course, they were soon to do just that. That Cavern Club early/mid sixties period ended, right now, with just a brief sidestep for Help!.



Help! (1965)


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

"When 'Help!' came out in '65, I was actually crying out for help. Most people think it's just a fast rock-'n'-roll song. I didn't realise it at the time; I just wrote the song because I was commissioned to write it for the movie … It was my fat Elvis period" - John Lennon       

This album largely existed to serve as a "soundtrack" for the film of the same name. It was expanded to include both some new non soundtrack songs and a couple of cover versions thrown in for good measure. After the diversification of the end of the previous year's Beatles For Sale, where John Lennon's questioning, often cynical approach to relationships was given free reign there would have seemed to have been a conscious effort to "lighten things up" a little, mainly to suit the happy-go-lucky ambience of the film. The country rock vibes that were very present on Beatles For Sale are still there. Indeed, it would take until 1966's Revolver to see the demise of those completely.
                            
The lead off huge hit, in Help!, is a great start, Lennon laying himself bare, but in a very singalong, impossibly catchy way, so much so that any real cry for help is lost beneath the appeal of the upbeat tune. Lennon later claimed, expressing personal regret, that the song was changed due to "commercial pressure" from a morose piano ballad to the "fun" song that suited the film.

  

The Night Before is a mid-paced country based rocker with a throaty McCartney vocal, all very nice and steady with good sounding percussion and some nice guitar right at the end. The old "Dylan influence" chestnut rears its head again in Lennon's sensitive You've Got To Hide Your Love Away. Some acoustic guitars, lyrical sharpness and a starkness of delivery do not a Dylan make. Dylan, as it happens, was, around this time, recording his electric stream of consciousness in Subterranean Homesick Blues while The Beatles were going all acoustic in the manner of Dylan's earlier albums, (supposedly).

Harrison's I Need You was an appealing, but by now characteristically downbeat tune,  almost laconic in its vocal delivery. It contains an intriguing guitar sound just behind the vocal refrain. Another Girl is a lively love song largely written and sung by McCartney. It features some good rocking guitar in parts. You're Going To Lose That Girl is a very 1950s rock n roll type ballad featuring Lennon's melodic yet at times vituperative vocal. Ringo Starr's madcap bongos on this track are utterly incongruous and irritating.

The jangly, instantly recognisable strains of the marvellous hit single Ticket To Ride need no introduction. It has been said by several writers over the years that this was recorded around the time The Beatles first dabbled in LSD. If true, the drug did a good job. The song is perfectly created and performed, possibly the high point of their career so far. The guitar sound on here would continue with successful songs like Nowhere Man and Paperback Writer.

The rockabilly style cover of Act Naturally, an old country and western hit, suited Ringo Starr's deadpan vocal delivery and his ordinary but loveable persona perfectly, particularly as shown in the films. Indeed, it almost could have been written for him (obviously it was not).

It's Only Love was lyrically shallow but melodically catchy, Lennon apparently hated it. Harrison's You Like Me Too Much sounds like something from the She Loves You days. Very early 60s pop, innocent and twee but featuring a nice piano break. Tell Me What You See is another disposable, early 60s style pop number featuring McCartney on vocal. McCartney had not really contributed much to Help!. It had largely been Lennon and, to a lesser extent, Harrison. The country-ish, jolly, folky romp that was I've Just Seen A Face betrayed a few "problems in love" lyrics, but it was not a very convincing attempt to get back "with the project", to be honest.


Then, of course, however, there is McCartney's seismic redemption with his solo recording (with orchestration) of the most covered song in history - Yesterday. It featured classical music instrumentation for the first real time, something that would be utilised considerably by George Martin and McCartney on songs like Eleanor Rigby and She's Leaving Home.

The album ends of a lazy, irrelevant low point in a muffled cover of Larry Williams' Dizzy Miss Lizzy which seems to suffer from awful sound problems. No need for this to have featured at all. It would be their last cover version.

Live At The Hollywood Bowl (1965)


Twist And Shout/She's A Woman/Dizzy Miss Lizzy/Ticket To Ride/Can't Buy Me Love/The Things We Said Today/Roll Over Beethoven/Boys/A Hard Day's Night/Help!/All My Loving/She Loves You/Long Tall Sally/You Can't Do That/I Want To Hold Your Hand/Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby/Baby's In Black    

This material has been knocking around for many a year, but this releases it "cleaned up" and remastered to what is probably the best it is ever going to sound. Yes the incessant screaming is omnipresent and something of an irritation but one just learns to listen beneath it, so to speak, and concentrate on the music. Anyway, that's what The Beatles live in concert was like in 1964-1965. The Rolling Stones live material from that period is similarly blighted.

 
                                 
The "set list" compromises two minute rock n roll standard covers and some of The Beatles somewhat twee "pop" songs like She Loves You and I Wanna Hold Your Hand. To think that Bob Dylan was on the way to performing material like Subterranean Homesick BluesDesolation Row and Like A Rolling Stone by 1965 is a reality check. That said, this is an extremely interesting and enjoyable listen. It is great to hear The Beatles functioning as a gigging band and interacting with the audience. Why, John Lennon even sounds quite nervous when he announces, haltingly, "this is off our latest album...err..LP...". It is as if he is hoping a few more people will go out and buy a few more. Maybe he actually was. Several "intro" mistakes can be picked up on too which makes one think "if only they carried on gigging, how good they may have become".

The collection begins with an abridged Twist And Shout (I wish it had been a bit longer). Great to hear the lesser-known She's A Woman given an outing and also one of my favourites, the wonderful The Things We Said Today. The vocal interplay is superb on this and as for Ringo, well, I will talk in more depth about him later. Lennon's attack on Dizzy Miss Lizzy is invigorating and Ticket To Ride and Can't Buy Me Love are reproduced in energetic, almost perfect fashion. It is good to hear Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby and Baby's In Black too. Love those not so popular tracks.

For me, and I think for many others, the standout performance on this album is that of the often unfairly-maligned Ringo Starr. His water tight, innovative drum work carries the whole collection. Why, at times it feels as if it is HIS band. His is the dominant sound that hits you when you hear this. I had forgotten just how good he was on this until I listened to it again recently. Fashionable to say he was a bad drummer. I'm no drum expert but he sure sounds good to me. Listen to him drive Roll Over Beethoven like a steam hammer. Ditto Long Tall Sally. Of course, he also sings Boys while drumming superbly too. A highlight for me. He sounds as if he is completely loving it. Yes, I'll admit it, Ringo has always been my favourite Beatle.

McCartney's bass sounds wonderful too, particularly on Boys.

The Beatles would never sound like this again. They certainly didn't want to do stuff like this anymore. Never would they romp through a batch of two minute "fun" songs. Weirdness and experimentation was just around the corner. Just as with The Beach Boys, the earlier stuff was just such fun. Despite its minor faults, this is an enjoyable 40 minute or so's listen.

Finally, does John Lennon try to introduce A Hard Day's Night in A Scottish accent?

LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED (1965-1970)



Rubber Soul (1965)


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

"The Beatles have lost the typists in The Cavern" - Philip Larkin                                   

After 1964’s Beatles For Sale had seen The Beatles move from rock n roll covers and lyrically twee pop songs to a more cynical, worldly-wise (particularly in the case of John Lennon’s lyrics) approach to songwriting, this 1965 was very much the transitional album in their career. The one that saw them complete the move from lovable teen pop group to a “serious” band. Bob Dylan was already 100% more serious and credible, so they had some work to do. Rubber Soul was said to be a “folk rock” album, an impression possibly nourished by the fact that the US release of the album contained tracks like I've Just Seen A Face and It's Only Love on it at the expense of Drive My Car, Nowhere Man, If I Needed Someone and What Goes On. I am not sure about that with regard to the better-known UK version. Yes, there was the acoustic Norwegian Wood, but that’s really as far as it went, in my opinion. It is still very recognisably The Beatles. They still ploughed their own unique furrow although it can't be denied that they were “borrowing” from other artists quite considerably on here.

Firstly, the sound is fantastic in this album. Forget all that “mono sounds best” stuff. Just listen to the stereo (use Norwegian Wood as an example) - it will blow you away. No matter how many times I try listening to the mono, I always come back to the stereo, which is much better, surprisingly, than the clumsy stereo of some of Revolver

The "Dylan influence" is supposed to be present on songs like Norwegian Wood and, for some reason, Think For Yourself. I have never really bought that, to be honest. The former is just a great song in its own right, and sounds like pure Lennon to me, not anyone else. All this guff about Dylan hearing Rubber Soul and feeling he had to outdo it with Blonde On Blonde is mythologised, apocryphal nonsense - he had already released tracks like Subterranean Homesick Blues, Like A Rolling Stone and Desolation Row. If anything, it was the other way round as The Beatles, desperate to cast off their "boys next door" goody-goody image, tried marijuana (at the suggestion of Dylan) and by the own admittance, produced their "pot album". The music under this narcotic influence showed certain amounts of reflection and depth, Nowhere Man, Norwegian Wood and Think For Yourself being examples. Attached to this reflective "maturity" they made a definite attempt to get into the burgeoning "rock" and "album" thing as opposed to "pop" and "singles" and, in that respect, the album is a huge cultural bridging point for both The Beatles themselves and subsequent influenced artists. Yes, it undoubtedly marked something of a change for The Beatles - for example, Lennon's Nowhere Man was the first ever Beatles song not to be about boy/girl relationships - but it was still nowhere near as mature a piece of work as those that an artist like Dylan had been releasing.

It has to be said that the album still retains an upbeat poppy appeal although the “pop” is well-crafted mature pop, such as the jangly but melodic Byrds-influenced Nowhere Man, the slightly lyrically sombre but nevertheless singalong You Won't See Me, with its wonderful harmony vocals and the country-ish Ringo Starr co-credited What Goes On. It on songs like the first two mentioned and ones like Norwegian Wood that the change can really be detected. It is often forgotten that the latter song was the first to feature George Harrison's soon-to-be beloved sitar.

It is interesting that poet Philip Larkin said at the time that The Beatles had "lost the typists in The Cavern" from their fanbase with the release of this album. They moved from being a "act" or "combo" that impresarios would employ to entertain the Saturday night crowd to a serious "band", courted by the cognoscenti. 


The influence of contemporary soul groups cannot be under-estimated either. The rocking cowbell, piano and guitar riffing of the opener, Drive My Car is incredibly catchy, and underneath its pop facade has some great guitar parts. On all these tracks. McCartney's bass sounds wonderful, particularly on Nowhere Man - warm, melodious and throbbing nice and loud, just as I like it. You can clearly hear the inspiration of Motown's James Jamerson and the Memphis/Stax bass players in McCartney's playing, something he freely admits. The same applies on You Won't See Me

Just as on 1964's transitional Beatles For Sale, however, miserable old Lennon and his love life problems are never far away by now, in introspective retrospections such as the plaintive Girl, a track I have never particularly liked, with its slightly off-putting hissing vocal part; the confessional and majestic In My Life and the slightly unnerving, malevolent Run For Your Life. The lyrics to the latter can even sound a little creepy at times. However, Lennon baring his cynical soul is essential to The Beatles' development into something highly credible after the pure pop of the early material. In My Life has a reasonable case for being his finest song to date, although I have never been convinced by the harpsichord-sounding piano solo that George Martin put on to the song after the main parts had been recorded. It sounds totally incongruous to me and breaks the ambience of the song's narrative. Instrumental experimentations such as this were starting to appear more often in the group's output, though. The Rolling Stones, of course, had been using such instrumentation for a while by now, it is wise to remember. A definite change in the band’s output an approach was taking place, but do not ever discount the other musical influences that helped to create this transitional work - The ByrdsBob Dylan, The Beach BoysThe Rolling Stones, even The Who and British blues bands like The Yardirds, The Kinks and Them. The Beatles were certainly not the only trail-blazers in some of this musical diversity.

Think For Yourself, with its excellent Harrison vocal and slightly distorted but thrilling guitar solo is a revelation. A great track. Lennon is back on the rhythmic, bass-driven rocker that is The Word, although his lyrics concerning the global use of the word "love" borders on the embarrassingly hippy and preachy at times - "spread the word and be like me...hve you heard the word is love..". Musically, it is impressive - McCartney's rumbling bass is almost funky and there is another distorted guitar part in the middle instrumental bridge. 

McCartney's Michelle was basically a solo song on his part, typically tuneful and catchy with again a lovely bass line near the end. Granted, it is a bit throwaway, but it is an enjoyable diversion. Starr's love of mid-pace "country rock" is reflected in his collaboration with Lennon and McCartney and vocal on the appealing, but lightweight What Goes On. The steady drum sound on this is beautiful, though, as are the guitar interjections. The sound on this one is amongst some of the best sound reproduction on the album. McCartney's rousing I'm Looking Through You has many country-ish airs too, but there is also a killer high-pitched guitar interjection and a throaty, rasping vocal that almost apes Lennon at times.


Lennon's Wait sounds like a bit of a throwback to a few months before, as if it should have appeared on Help!. Most supposed Lennon/McCartney compositions by now were no longer the half-and-half collaborations they were in the early to mid sixties. By Beatles For Sale they were clearly either "Lennon songs" or "McCartney songs". This one, though, has signs of being back to the old double-act thing. Maybe that is why, on this album, it sounds just a little dated and out of place. Whenever I listen to the album, it always seems to come and go, unnoticed by me until it has gone.

Harrison's If I Needed Someone is his second impressive song on the album but for whatever reason they always seem to be overshadowed by the catchy instant appeal of McCartney's songs or the lyrical "in your face" attack of Lennon. This is perfectly exemplified by the next track up, the closing, afore-mentioned Run For Your Life from Lennon. Bit of a shame for Harrison, but it was just the way it was. That said, though, it is on this album that Harrison became a much more noticeable contributor. If I Need Someone and Think For Yourself were both excellent songs and the se of the sitar on Norwegian Wood gave that oh-so important first sign of the group's new-found desire to embrace musical diversity and colour. Three months from the release of this album the group recorded Tomorrow Never Knows, where Lennon took on board a whole kitchen sink full of Harrison's musical influences. This would see the move from pot to acid (LSD) as being the group's drug of inspirational choice.

Back to this album, briefly - listening to Rubber Soul always give repeated pleasure. I have to say that in many respects this is my favourite Beatles album - no longer twee and musically/sonically really vibrant, containing an almost perfect "serious pop" sensibility. 

Finally, an interesting piece of trivia (or maybe not so trivial) is that the now iconic distorted, "stretched" cover image was obtained as a result of the photographer accidentally dropped the card the photo was projected onto. The group liked it (weird, man) and the rest is history, inspiring years of similarly trippy cover artwork.

The non-album single from the period was the group's first "double A side" - Lennon's excellent Byrds-influenced rock of Day Tripper and McCartney's powerful, soul-influenced We Can Work It Out. Take out Wait and Girl from the UK album and an even better album you would have, for me. 

Included on the Anthology 2 compilation are a superb alternative, stronger, percussion-driven version of Norwegian Wood, featuring Eastern strings; a handclappy, appealingly rhythmic and beautifully bassy I'm Looking Through You and the previously unreleased 12 Bar Original, one of the few songs on which The Beatles showed that they could play the blues.



Revolver (1966)


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

"Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I'll be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first – rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me" - John Lennon          

After three albums in Beatles For SaleHelp! and, to a slightly lesser extent, Rubber Soul that heavily featured "country rock", mid-paced laid back tunes, The Beatles produced their first really credible rock album. Bob Dylan had led the way, joined by The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Pink Floyd among others in finding weird and wonderful ways of producing electrified music. The Beatles, by now wanting to experiment more and more after being somewhat conventional, let their creativity fly free, influenced now by LSD (acid) as opposed to the more mellow marijuana (pot) and they came up with music that was, in so many ways, totally unique.

The previous three albums had also been notable for quite clearly being divided into Lennon songs, McCartney songs, a couple of Harrison songs and usually one or two "Ringo songs". This was now incredibly apparent on Revolver as each track was instantly recognisable by its vocalist/main contributor. The album's ambience literally changes from track to track. Rolling Stones albums contained obvious Jagger or Richards songs, but it was nowhere near as defined as this. The Beatles were almost unique in this regard, only Queen, in the 70s and 80s, with songs by Mercury, May, Deacon and Taylor have come close to releasing albums full of such diverse material.

This is also my favourite period for The Beatles' image - all those Byrds-esque sunglasses and Paisley shirts, together with the deliberately monochromic photography that accompanied the album's publicity and, of course, the album cover's black and white artwork. None of that Sgt. Pepper garish nonsense here or those post-Pepper shaggy beards. This was The Beatles at their coolest, for me.
              
I will separate the songs accordingly into the individuals that dominate the song:-

Lennon

Lennon first leads proceedings on the somewhat dreamy, I'm Only Sleeping ("seeping" as he enunciates at times). It is laid-back and there are hints of drugginess, also of Lennon's perceived "laziness". There is also a fuzzy Harrison guitar solo. She Said She Said has a very psychedelic feel (it really was Lennon who led the way in Beatles psychedelia). McCartney, apparently, walked out on the session. It feels like the first of many typical latter period Beatles Lennon numbers. The non-album track, the excellent Rain, had a similar feel. All very LSD it has to be said. All the better for it too, it would seem. The upbeat, rocky And Your Bird Can Sing  has a superb guitar riff intro and a totally different ambience to She Said She Said. Lennon is much livelier, vocally and lyrically too, although McCartney always claimed about 20% of the lyrics were down to him. Compared to the previous two, I can see that. Doctor Robert is also a fast-paced rock song, about a drug peddler. Some nice harmonies on the "well well well" vocal part.


Then, of course, there is Tomorrow Never Knows, the LSD-driven tour de force which saw Lennon fully launch into the experimental style which would so dominate his work for The Beatles over the next four years. All sorts of instruments, tape loops, feedback, Harrison's huge Eastern influence, weird lyrics - they are all in there. In many ways it a more intriguing track than A Day In The Life. A perfect example of Lennon's drugged-up latter-era Beatles genius. It began here. The cynical love songs of the previous three albums had gone by now. This was a new direction for Lennon, and it was markedly different to that of McCartney.

Funnily enough, I have always thought of Revolver as a "Lennon" album, but there are only five direct songs from him, which just goes to show how strong and dominating they are. Also, Harrison's songs were far close in feel to Lennon's than they were to McCartney's, in my opinion.

McCartney

Eleanor Rigby is always thought of as a Beatles song, and credited accordingly. Of course, it is not. It is, like Yesterday, Paul McCartney and various instrumentalists. No Beatle actually played any instruments on the recording. It is one of McCartney's "character" songs, at which he so excelled. Pictured left is the gravestone which inspired the song. The beautiful, gentle ballad Here There And Everywhere was said to be inspired by McCartney's favourite song, The Beach BoysGod Only KnowsGood Day Sunshine was one of those optimistic, joyful McCartney songs that Lennon was not too keen on. It just sums up the mid 60s with its piano melody and catchy lyric.

For No One is possibly his finest song on the album. A tender, harmonious love song with a fetching ad hoc French horn solo. Both Lennon and Harrison were not required to supply guitar parts on this or Sunshine, something that showed the first musical cracks beginning to appear.

Got To Get You Into My Life was a vibrantly commercial, Motown-influnced horn riff dominated song that sat somewhat uneasily within the general feel of the album, particularly as Tomorrow Never Knows was next up, and Harrison's melodically challenging I Want To Tell You preceded it.

I have never been comfortable with equating Got To Get You Into My Life with McCartney vacillating about whether to take drugs or not. Apparently it was, according to McCartney himself, but it doesn’t convince me, particularly with its good-time, stomping, brassy Motown beat. Indeed, as I said, it positively sticks out on the album as sounding pretty much incongruous and out of place, especially compared with Lennon’s edgy, noir contributions and Harrison’s hippy Indian instrumentation. It has a great vocal, however, and an irresistible chorus that makes it always a pleasure to hear, whatever its lyrical genesis. It was also harmless or ambiguous enough to allow "safe" group Cliff Bennett And The Rebel Rousers to take it to number six in the charts. Good old McCartney eh, even when writing a song he said was blatantly about drug taking, he managed to avoid any scandal and remained a national treasure - the "well-behaved, nice Beatle".

Harrison

The clumsy stereo of Taxman (one of the few tracks that I, a stereo man, prefer in mono) is probably Harrison's highlight on the album. Some rare political lyrics and some brutal guitar attack. The riff was recycled by The Jam on their hit single, Start! in 1980. Love You To was Harrison's first experiment with Indian music, his by now typical fuzzy guitar merged successfully with many percussion and string instruments from various Hindi instrumentalists. Lennon liked this, I am sure. Not sure about the other two. I Want To Tell You has a chorus that sticks in your head, although the rest of it is a little muddled, some clunky piano parts from McCartney and a staccato guitar riff make it still a memorable track.

Starr

Yellow Submarine.

I think it is prudent to refrain from commenting, only to say it does not appear on my self-editable digital version of the album.

Along with Rubber Soul, Revolver is my favourite Beatles album. Although I love the 2009 stereo version, I also enjoy listening to it at a good volume pumping out of my speakers in true mono.

The non-album single from May 1966 was McCartney's superbly catchy, jangly and harmonious Paperback Writer backed with Lennon's beautifully dense and trippy Rain.

Interesting alternative versions to be found on the Anthology 2 compilation are of Taxman, with slightly different lyrics but still featuring the same clumsy stereo (albeit with a sharper guitar interjection); a funkier, soulful Got To Get You Into My Life without the brass; a more powerful Tommorow Never Knows with a full-on drum attack and fewer Eastern instrumentation and a giggle-laden ramshackle version of And Your Bird Can Sing, which is redeemed by a superbly rubbery bass line, one that surely influenced The Jam's Bruce Foxton (they covered the song too).



Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band/With A Little Help From My Friends/Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds/Getting Better/Fixing A Hole/She's Leaving Home/Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!/Within You Without You/When I'm Sixty-Four/Lovely Rita/Good Morning Good Morning/Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)/A Day In The Life 

"They could send out four waxworks ... and that would satisfy the crowds. Beatles concerts are nothing to do with music anymore. They're just bloody tribal rites" - John Lennon   

What do you say about an album that is regularly said to be the “greatest album of all time”? Not too much one can say, I guess, other than offer my probably irrelevant opinions.

This album is certainly not a “rock” album, just as The Beatles were often not a rock band. This album is a collection of songs - some monumental, some silly, some pleasant, some average. It is a veritable chocolate box of styles too - rock, ballad, music hall, Indian, whimsy and ground-breaking sonic experimentation, the like of which had never been heard before. Like David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, its effect culturally, on the music industry and, in this case, the world, was far, far greater than the sum of its parts. Indeed, it may not even be the best album by The Beatles, but it is, undoubtedly, the most important.


Regarding the many re-issues of the album, my personal preference is for the 2017 remix/remaster. It allowed me to rediscover Pepper and find it exciting again after many years of over-familiarity. Oh and yes, I do own the mono edition too. I have to admit, also, that it sounds incredible played loud on a good system in mono. I enjoy listening to both.

The outtakes on the 2017 remaster are a most interesting listen, particularly the instrumental Penny Lane and the Strawberry Fields takes. It is great to hear these iconic tracks take shape and start wondering if they could have been improved upon. Probably not is the answer, but it is fun wondering and debating it.

                                         
The introduction is memorable, from the "fade in" background noise, we get the album’s purest two minutes of “rock”. Proper guitar riff, great drum sound, excellent rasping vocals. An iconic introductory track. Then it segues into With A Little Help From My Friends - yes, Joe Cocker’s 1968 version took the song to new heights, but there is just something so comforting about Ringo Starr’s homely, touching vocal. Just a thoroughly appealing song. Great instrumentation too. Perfect. Oh and I forgot the beautiful, throbbing bass line. The wonderful bass is also present in Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,  Lennon's wonderful, atmospheric drugged-up fantasia. Was it written while on something? Was it about LSD? Who really cares. It sounds dreamy, trippy and from another world. Of course he was on something.

Getting Better, McCartney's optimistic song written, apparently, while walking his dog on Hampstead Heath in London. It begins with a sharp, stabbing guitar riff and is another of the album's genuine rock moments. George Harrison inserts some Indian percussion instrumentation at 1.45-ish. An often ignored track from this album. I like it. Fixing A Hole was another under-mentioned track that sees McCartney taking lead vocal again. It is pleasant few minutes, but in a way it seems to finish before it had started. An impressive Harrison guitar solo near the end.

She's Leaving Home was McCartney's sad tale of a young girl leaving home, orchestrated and sung in the same mournful style as Eleanor Rigby. Not too many Beatles songs were sensitive human tales, or pertinent social comment, but this one certainly is, centring on the post-war, emerging lack of understanding between the younger and older generations. It was one of McCartney's "character" songs that Lennon so despised, apparently. I have always felt its honest, real-life-ness sits somewhat uncomfortably within the album’s context, though.



Talking of Lennon, Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! was his marvellously evocative piece of loveable nonsense derived from an old circus poster. You can't help but enjoy the sheer silliness of it and the odd noises, rare instruments and studio trickery involved in some of the sounds and the bizarre circus imagery of the lyrics. It is certainly a very odd track indeed, but nobody really dislikes it. Apart from, it is said, Lennon himself.

In typical style-changing from song to song, now we are treated to the tabla-drenched glory that was Within You Without You. I love this. George Harrison's bold effort in introducing "world" music to the pop music market. Anyone other than The Beatles would have been condemned in intolerant 1960s Britain for recording such "foreign rubbish". Harrison got away with it, though and interest in music from further afield than Britain and the USA started to develop, largely because of the inclusion of tracks like this on Beatles albums. In many ways, it is musically the most interesting cut on the album.

Lovely Rita was another McCartney offering of those afore-mentioned "character" songs written about someone in the third person. It is a credible enough rock song, actually, albeit with a slightly silly subject matter. Lennon’s Good Morning Good Morning was a bit of a mish-mash, to be honest. The kitchen sink being thrown in to this rather confused semi-song. A few animal noises at the end too. No real work of genius, this one, unfortunately, whatever way you choose to look at it.

After the short, possibly pointless, reprise of Sgt Pepper comes A Day In The Life. After two great contributions in Lucy and Kite and a bit of a throwaway in Good Morning Good Morning Lennon saved the best until last. A track that belies analysis, yet has garnered probably millions of words written in trying to do just that. What was it about? Who knows? I certainly don't. Lennon probably didn't either. Alienation? Disillusion? Yeah yeah yeah. It was John Lennon's finest moment. It was as if a detached, semi-interested Lennon had roused himself and arrived after the party had finished and McCartney had done with his whimsy fun, wanting to show them what he could do. The song sits brilliantly incongruously with the rest of the album. It emphasises perfectly the schizophrenic nature of the group on the album - at times lovable lads your parents liked, at times hippy peaceniks and at others dangerous, demi-monde druggies. Pepper never knew what it was, despite McCartney’s irritating self-satisfaction about it. As Lennon said - “it worked because we said it worked”.

There are lots of alternative versions of the album's tracks around, and the ones I like the best are the rockier, bassier ones that exist of Good Morning, Good Morning (minus the animal noises and silly sound effects), Lovely Rita and Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite. If these had been the ones used on the album it would have come over as a far more powerful creation, less indulgent whimsy and more full-on attack.There is a robust, rocking instrumental of Getting Better too.



Magical Mystery Tour (1967)


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

"They half knew what they wanted and half didn't know, not until they'd tried everything. The only specific thought they seemed to have in their mind was to be different" - Ken Scott    

After the world-conquering glory of Sgt. Pepper, The Beatles "went weird"  in the eyes of many (including The Queen, rumoured to have said they were "turning awfully funny") and released a perplexing, much-heralded and frankly odd and pretentious mini-film and accompanying EP of six tracks that was released as an album in the USA containing other single releases. This was eventually released as a UK album and has been available as such for many years now. So, it sort of is an album, but it isn't.
                 
The tracks from the EP are variable in quality.  Magical Mystery Tour is rousing and goofily appealing, with some excellent drums and Paul McCartney's The Fool On the Hill one of the group's most hauntingly beautiful songs.

 

Flying is a thoroughly unremarkable instrumental, while George Harrison's Lennon-esque, psychedelic Blue Jay Way has never really worked for me, hanging as it does on the coattails of Revolver's much better material. Having said that it is far more credible from a "rock band" than the pretty awful piece of jaunty McCartney whimsy of Your Mother Should Know. Yes, it is all very nostalgically sensitive (especially considering it was written by one still comparatively young), but I would always rather hear The Beatles doing "weird" than this, any day. Did I say "weird"? It must be time for some classic Lennon and it duly arrives in the yellow matter custard eggman magnificence of I Am The Walrus. I remember my mother, who although in her forties at the time, loved and knew her pop music, being completely nonplussed by this upon its release. Its effect, together with the film, was massive at the time. This bonkers song has been analysed and re-analysed endlessly over the years, so I won't start, but its cultural effect and the consequent public perception of The Beatles changed dramatically with this one song. They now became bearded oddballs - why, even that loveable Ringo has gone a bit funny.

As for the other tracks, there is some great stuff. I remember being on a bus in late 1967 going to the pictures with my parents on a dark November night and some teenagers were playing Hello Goodbye at the back on their tinny transistor radio. That was the first time I had heard it. Every time I hear it I can't help but recall that night. It is so evocative. As, of course, is Lennon's masterpiece of hippy psychedelia, Strawberry Fields ForeverPenny Lane is an excellent McCartney song, wonderfully nostalgic for the post war years in which he grew up. Of course, these two track pre-dated Sgt. Pepper by five months.

Baby You're A Rich Man is an often-forgotten John Lennon song with Eastern influences, a great bass line, infectious drums and some cynical lyrics about money from the increasingly wealthy Lennon. It was the 'b' side to the hippy anthem, but strangely melancholic All You Need Is Love. Lennon seemed to be almost mocking their past as he sang brief snatches of Yesterday and She Loves You in the fade out.

The sound on the 2009 stereo remaster is superb, but the original mono recording included in The Beatles In Mono box set packs one hell of a punch. I enjoy listening to both.

With regard to Strawberry Fields Forever, there are many alternative versions knocking around now, on Anthology 2 and the 2017 Super Deluxe Edition of Sgt. Pepper and it is the minimalist, more gently plaintive ones that appeal to me more, there is one of these on each of the compilations mentioned. I have to say that the quieter and more reflective Strawberry Fields is played, the better, for me. Also worthy of a mention is a truly knock-out rock version of Only A Northern Song, from the Yellow Submarine album, that can be found on Anthology 2.

 

The Beatles (The White Album) (1968)


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

"'Sgt Pepper' was shaped by LSD,  but the Beatles took no drugs with them to India aside from marijuana, and their clear minds helped the group with their songwriting" - Ian MacDonald

Firstly, before proceeding to talk about this album, I will put forth my own opinions on the sound.

The latest 2009 stereo remaster is the best I have ever heard it* (see "2018 remix" below for an updated view). I know there are many out there who love their mono, but as someone who owns both, I listened to both versions one after the other and, to me, the stereo is so superior there is simply no comparison. It is rich, warm, bassy and has great true stereo separation. A true joy, even stuff like Honey Pie sounds immeasurably better. Savoy Truffle too, remarkably. Just listen to the bass on Dear Prudence and the full, stereo separation on Glass Onion and Back In The USSR.  Recordings techniques were moving forward at a considerable pace in 1968, and, for sure, there are many Beatles albums that sound better in mono. This is not one of them. The same applies to The Rolling Stones' 1968 Beggars' Banquet.

 

So, on to the music on this bloated offering. Sure, there is some serious tosh on here - the waste of time that is Wild Honey Pie; the awful cod-Country and Western (with McCartney's embarrassing "country" accent) of Rocky Racoon; the obvious candidate in the utterly indulgent "proving a point" of Revolution 9 and the ones that almost qualify - Harrison's at times puerile Piggies; McCartney's irritatingly jaunty Martha My Dear and possibly also McCartney's effort to be Lennon in Why Don't We Do It In The Road. It seemed that in 1967-68 any light-hearted relatively unfinished studio doodlings could find their way on to an album and be hailed as a work of genius. I am sure Lennon said as much, didn't he? The Beach Boys' execrable Smiley Smile is a perfect example. Had these bands become too big for their boots and taking their assured market for granted? For every piece of gushing retrospective praise the album has garnered it must not be forgotten that at time memories were fresh of the band’s execrable Boxing Day movie disaster and a popularly held view was that the previously unassailable quartet had “got too big for their boots”. There was considerable evidence here. 

The rest of the album, though, is of an exceptionally high standard and The Beatles actually become something approaching a rock band for once - McCartney's Beach Boys pastiche Back In The USSR; Lennon's witty Glass Onion; McCartney's "heavy" Cream/Hendrix -influenced Helter Skelter; Lennon's marvellously gritty and authentic Yer Blues; his magnificent, relevant, rebellious yet cynical Revolution 1 (although I prefer the version on the Blue Album); Harrison's classic melodic rock of While My Guitar Gently Weeps (a track I have always felt would have better suited Abbey Road than this one); McCartney's energetic, rocking Birthday; and Lennon's mysterious Dear Prudence are some of The Beatles’ most “rock” material. I guess Harrison's beguiling Long Long Long creeps into this category as well, with its powerful drum parts. (Harrison's contributions to this album were somewhat schizophrenic - the excellent While My Guitar..., the acceptable Long..., the questionable Piggies and the throwaway Savoy Truffle, a song about choosing chocolates from a box that has a bizarre appeal, but is certainly no work of genius).












Then there are the credible and convincing slower-paced, less "rock" songs in Lennon's beautiful Julia and the precursor to his solo work in the cynical I'm So Tired and the very 70s Lennon feel of his anti-Maharishi Sexy SadieCry Cry Cry is slightly unnerving, though, as Lennon's childhood memory songs often were. In this category also fall McCartney's lovely, haunting Blackbird and his gentle, tuneful, Buddy Holly-influenced I Will. All good tracks.

Now a mention must be given to two Lennon tracks that have always frustrated me - the half genius and half-seemingly unfinished nature of Happiness Is A Warm Gun. I have always found that just as I start enjoying this track, it either changes to another section or it ends. Most frustrating. The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill is just nonsense, however genuine the song’s anti-animal hunting genesis, I just can't get into this, no matter how many times I listen to it.

The other tracks I have failed to mention so far are Ringo Starr's country violin and drum stomp of Don't Pass Me By, which is ok, I suppose, but it is still a "Ringo song", bless him.

McCartney's Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da reggae/calypso/ska is a bit dispensable but one can't help singing along to it and it provides some levity to the proceedings. Incidentally, as someone who was ten when this album came out I went several years thinking that Marmalade's hit version of the song was the only one. It took years before I realised it was a Beatles song. That was the way it was back then - one could take years to get round to listening to stuff. The radio was all I had, along with the few singles/albums that I could afford, which weren't many. Nothing was instant as is it today. The same applied to films, it could be years after a release that you actually got to see it.

Paul's bucolic "back to the country" number in Mother Nature's Son is perfectly pleasant but there is nothing particularly memorable about it. Similarly, Lennon's Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey is an upbeat rock number with some nonsensical lyrics and some good guitar, but, again, it isn't a track that you remember this album for. Indeed, in writing this review I had forgotten about it.

McCartney's Honey Pie was treated with contempt by Lennon. It is typical McCartney "whimsy" and I, personally, don't have much time for that style of his songwriting, just as Lennon clearly didn't. It doesn't sit well on this album, coming, as it did, after Revolution 1. Then there is Lennon’s dreadful Good Night. Eminently dispensable.

The album, in many ways, is a collection of solo numbers from each of the band members, with the others sitting in almost as session musicians. Quite why many of the songs are still credited to the songwriting “team” of Lennon/McCartney is becoming increasingly mystifying, (despite their honourable pre-fame agreement to always split the credits) as they are clearly the product of one or the other. What is notable, however, is that at times the songwriters came up with songs that were diametrically opposite to their perceived personae - Lennon writing a cloying lullaby in Good Night, (imagine the stick McCartney would have got for submitting a song like that), McCartney a Lennon-esque searing rocker in Helter Skelter and Harrison contributing a song with no Indian influence in the classic AOR of While My Guitar Gently Weeps. It was an album that constantly gave out varying signals, perplexing at every turn. Maybe this was the result of the fragmented and genuinely tense sessions.

In conclusion, like one of its worst tracks in Savoy Truffle, this album is like a box of chocolates. Some you prefer more than others. Some you avoid like the plague. For what it's worth, here are my strawberry creams (the review will have told you which are my coffee creams!):-

Back In The USSR/Dear Prudence/Glass Onion/Ob La Di Ob La Da/While My Guitar Gently Weeps/Happiness Is A Warm Gun/Blackbird/Julia/I Will/Mother Nature's Son/Birthday/Yer Blues/Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And Monkey/Sexy Sadie/Helter Skelter/Long, Long, Long/Revolution 1

That's not a bad album is it?

The non-album material from the period included McCartney's piano-driven rocker Lady Madonna, backed with Harrison's Indian transcendental workout The Inner Light, the now iconic, extended singalong Hey Jude and a faster, fuzzy rockier version of Revolution (this is the one that was included on the Blue Album). As I said earlier, I prefer this one. 

*2018 Remix

We all know the songs, so I will just speak about the sound. It is truly superb and a most enjoyable listen. I can't stress that enough. Now, I love the 2009 stereo remaster as well, but listening to this (especially through headphones) I find all sorts of little nuances that seem new to my ears. Whether they are there or whether I just think they are there - either way it sounds wonderful. I am not one for studying waveforms and the like and I am certainly no audiophile, but to my ears it sounds revelatory. I am loving it. The stripped-down "Esher" demos are interesting, but they are not something I will return to very often, whereas the remixed album will be played a lot. That is what I am most interested in. Personal highlights are the sheer resounding thump of Birthday and USSR, the percussion on Dear Prudence, the bass, drums and searing guitar solo on Yer Blues and the brass on a song I usually hate, Martha My Dear.

The other alternative versions are often short and incomplete, frustrating if listened to as a whole, but in amongst these are seriously stonking versions of Helter SkelterGlass OnionRevolutionHappiness Is A Warm Gun and a semi-instrumental (with guide vocals in the background) Yer Blues. As with many of The Beatles' alternatives, it is the bassier, straight up rock versions that float my boat. For me, they are much better than the versions that everyone knows. Also included amongst all the incomplete experimentation is the previously unreleased chunky rock of Not Guilty (which should easily have replaced at least one of the "dross" tracks on the eventual album) and the Indian instrumental Within You Without You cousin, The Inner Light.

The best thing I can say to back up my point is that it makes the "rubbish" on the album sound better! That can only be a good thing for this appropriately chocolate box of an album. No amount of remixing can change my mind about Rocky Racoon, however....



Abbey Road (1969)


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

"The group get should together and make an album 'the way we used to do it'"  - Paul McCartney 

Firstly, let me make a comment about the sound. Thankfully, with this album, the seemingly endless debate with regard to the sound does not exist. It was only released in stereo, so there is no stereo versus mono comparison. As it happens, the stereo sound is excellent.

Now to the album. After the tense, fractious recording sessions that resulted in the rejection of the material subsequently used on the Let It Be album that would be released the following year, The Beatles decided to give it one more try and “get back to recording like they used to do” i.e. having a modicum of fun while doing it, as opposed to sniping, griping and often engaging in full-on confrontation. To a certain extent it worked, to another extent it didn’t.



For example, John Lennon was said to have had no time for the “side two” pastiche of short, unfinished tracks running together that is now revered as a work of genius. He felt the songs were too short and incomplete and the whole effect was somewhat half baked. I have to say I agree with him. The reason it works in retrospect is because we are all used to those songs and how they run into each other and we know it back to front, therefore we like it. However, I have always been frustrated by the fact that the songs finish just as I am starting to enjoy them. I have to say that I would have preferred to have listened to all the songs in a much fuller longer version. Just imagine Mean Mr MustardPolythene Pam or, particularly, Sun King as fuller, lengthier songs. Why, they may have had a different bridge in the middle of them, or different verses, or guitar solos. An intriguing thought.

 

Lennon also, apparently, wanted one side to be comprised of his own songs, and another side of McCartney’s songs. This is not surprising as so many of their albums had songs which were clearly being from one or other of the song writers, as opposed to dual efforts. The writing credit of “Lennon/McCartney” had long since ceased to be relevant, let’s be honest. On the other hand, though, he had also said he wanted the songs to be mixed around, “chocolate box” style, as they always had been, so he was a bit mixed up as to what he wanted. Then, of course, there was the constant presence of Yoko Ono in the studio....

So, what songs did these sessions result in?
                                                  
Lennon’s Come Together with its "here come old flat top" lyric borrowed from Chuck Berry’s You Can’t Catch Me and his own I Am The Walrus “ju ju eyeball” stuff was a shuffling, rhythmic, Southern States bluesy number that perfectly summed up the weirdness of the times and also the sexual freedoms hinted at, saucily, in the title “come together, right now, over me”, like something from a hippy orgy.

George Harrison’s Something was arguably his finest song, ironically originally written for Joe Cocker. With beautiful lyrics and melody, it was a stunning love song, covered by many, many artists, including Frank Sinatra, who erroneously credited it to Lennon and McCartney.

The same plaudits cannot be given to McCartney’s Maxwell's Silver Hammer, a bizarre song that supposedly fitted his penchant for writing “songs for grannies” in its delivery and twee melody, yet it had dark lyrics about a man murdering a woman by bludgeoning her with his silver hammer. Just very odd indeed. McCartney’s Oh Darling was a 50s style rock n roll ballad, a song that Lennon would have appreciated, albeit seven years or so earlier. It sits a little uncomfortably on the album, to be honest.

The less said about Ringo Starr’s Octopus's Garden the better, so I won’t.

Lennon’s I Want You (She's So Heavy) was possibly the most credible “rock” number The Beatles ever did. A mix of “progressive rock” progressions and changes and blues chords, it was a lengthy pleasure to those of us who wanted The Beatles to actually sound like a proper rock band for once. It was the last ever track the group would record in the stdio with all of them playing together. Harrison’s Here Comes The Sun is impossibly catchy and summery. Everybody loves it and rightly so.

Lennon’s Because is a convincing love song to Yoko and is the last full song on the album before the “medley”.






The “medley” starts with the most fully realised track, McCartney’s You Never Give Me Your Money, almost a full track, to be honest. Then we get three Lennon “songs” - the melodic, appealing Sun KingMean Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam, all of which would benefit from being longer.

The next four are all McCartney’s - the Lennon-esque She Came In Through The Bathroom Window; the beautiful candidate for lengthening in Golden SlumbersCarry That Weight and The End, which incorporated Ringo’s powerful, rhythmic drum solo. They all run perfectly well in to each other, I have to admit. So, to want them in longer versions is a bit churlish, because we all pretty much love them the way they were presented, but it is something that has always given me food for thought - "what if Abbey Road's "Medley songs" had been longer? A bit like what if Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska songs had been full band versions? What if Another Side Of Bob Dylan had been electric? Music always throws up plenty of "what ifs".

So, "and in the end", that was it, in effect the final Beatles album. As I said, the medley side worked because everybody became familiar with it. It is what it is. It is unique and most appealing for it. It makes Abbey Road a different and special album. Considering the circumstances and prevalent feelings from the time it was recorded it is remarkable that it was so good. For that we should be grateful but it is still, for me, a bit of an odd album of bits and pieces from disparate composers. Despite what many, many people have said over many, many years I don't believe it to be a work of genius, just a happy string of coincidences, a time and a place.

It also has to be mentioned that the album ended on a throwaway piece of "wittiness" in Her Majesty, the sort of thing The Beatles could never resist doing and something that always damaged their credibility, for me. Cut the "funny" asides and just rock, for God's sake.

2019 Remix

The 2019 Remix, overseen, as with Sgt Pepper and The White Album, by George Martin's son, Giles Martin is, like the previous two, an improvement but not something that makes the album sound outstandingly different from its original. This is a good thing. What it does give you, however, is a fuller, warmer sound, particularly on Paul McCartney's bass lines and Ringo Starr's impressive drums. It is just a more substantial sound, for me. I do not want to hear a familiar album changed out of hand, but a bulking out of the sound is fine by me but I accept that others may not agree, and I understand why.

The Super Deluxe Edition also contains some nice, bassy, rocking alternative versions of non-album tracks like The Ballad Of John And Yoko and Old Brown Shoe, a storming I Want You (She's So Heavy), (once they get going) and some of the tracks from the medley are considerably beefed-up too. As I have said many times, I much prefer The Beatles when they showed that they could actually rock. You Never Give Me Your Money is given extended sonic gravitas here too. Something is nice to hear in stripped back acoustic style but I do prefer the lushness of the eventual version.

Anthology 3 also contains an excellent, almost funky version of She Came In Through The Bathroom Window featuring some fine wah-wah guitar. I wish they had included this on the final album.

There are also impressive alternative versions of Oh Darling and Here Comes The Sun and the later to be Badfinger hit Come And Get It as well as The Long One, which was the first version of the medley. It puts Her Majesty, incongruously, in the middle. I prefer the eventual version, which was far more cohesive.



Let It Be (1970)


Two Of Us/Dig A Pony/Across The Universe/I Me Mine/Dig It/Let It Be/Maggie Mae/I've Got A Feeling/One After 909/The Long And Winding Road/For You Blue/Get Back    

"There was no punch-up. We just fell out" - George Harrison
                                     
Recorded in some fractious sessions in 1969 before (some of the tracks), and alongside the Abbey Road album sessions, this was actually, in all but its chronological release date, The Beatles' penultimate album and it is generally accepted by most as being a patchy one, nowhere near as good as its predecessors, The Beatles (The White Album) or Abbey Road. The negative feelings towards it do it a tiny bit of a disservice, however painful and chaotic its genesis. Most of the tracks were recorded for the album to be known as Get Back. That project got shelved and the better tracks that ensued subsequently became Abbey Road. Therefore the impression that these tracks were a bunch of rejected ones recorded by a group in its final, painful throes has followed it around for evermore. The opinion that you could almost feel the group breaking up while listening to this album is therefore a bit of a misnomer, because after recording and rejecting this batch of songs, they came up with the inspired Abbey Road material.

The holy thump of Two Of Us is lively and pleasant enough and the muscular, bluesy rock of Dig A Pony is, for me, as good as the rock stuff on the first side of Abbey Road. I have never quite understood the opprobrium often thrown at Across The Universe. I find it atmospheric and haunting. Give me that over Rocky Raccoon or Martha My Dear any day.

George Harrison's I Me Mine has some searing guitar on it and a catchy vocal from him too. A lot was made of the post-recording influence of Phil Spector, who put some strings on a few of the songs after The Beatles had recorded them. It was only really The Long And Winding RoadI Me Mine and Across The Universe and, personally, I don't mind their presence. I feel his supposed negative effect has been over-exaggerated.

I have always enjoyed the more raw, edgy cut of Let It Be used on this album, with its muscular guitar solo and infectious percussion. It is far more of a rock song on here as opposed to a maudlin hands in the air anthem.

Dig It and Maggie Mae are both throwaway wastes of time, really. Paul McCartney's I've Got A Feeling, from the legendary "rooftop concert" was another highly credible hard rocker with some serious guitar, excellent electric piano from Billy Preston and a convincing McCartney vocal, with Lennon chipping in with some vocals too.



One After 909 is another enjoyable country-blues/rock 'n' roll style rocker. Yes, it is nothing special but in some ways, when one assesses The Beatles' credibility as a "rock band", something I have always had a problem with, this and most of the other material on this album is as rocking as they ever did. For me, I love the plaintiveness of The Long And Winding Road and, as I said earlier, I have no problem with the strings. They are beautiful, as is the song. I don't get the criticism of this song. It is a great one. McCartney still plays it in concert and everyone loves it. It would be in my top ten Beatles songs, so there you go. I like the brass orchestration it too.

Harrison's country blues For You Blue is another good one, worthy of more than curt dismissal. Nobody can really argue with Get Back as a copper-bottomed rocker either, particularly the version that appears on this album. There is a perfectly valid case for this album being The Beatles best "rock" album. There is no McCartney "whimsy" present either, no twee "music hall" style "ditties", thank goodness. Add Don't Let Me Down, Old Brown Shoe and The Ballad Of John & Yoko and you would have a pretty credible rock album. The wonders of digital technology allow you to do that and yes, it makes for a convincing album.



Let It Be... Naked


Get Back/Dig A Pony/For You Blue/The Long And Winding Road/Two Of Us/I've Got A Feeling/One After 909/Don't Let Me Down/I Me Mine/Across The Universe/Let It Be                      
This release takes the original recordings from the fractious 1969 sessions that spawned the Beatles' swan song album and removes the Phil Spector-added lush string and brass instrumentation, stripping the songs down to their original, raw, rock roots. The two pointless fillers, Dig It and Maggie Mae are not included, and instead the powerful Don't Let Me Down quite rightly makes a deserved appearance.
                
Get Back is a good rocking start, although it is cut considerably shorter that either the album or single version. Dig A Pony is ok, but I actually prefer the version that appeared on the eventual album. The sound of the guitar near the end is brought to the fore, however. For You Blue sounds very similar, to me.

Now, I like the Spector-produced The Long And Winding Road as it happens, but I have to admit that here it sounds wonderful - evocative and simply beautiful. McCartney's voice seems to have more resonance than on the original album version. Listening to it, one concentrates more on his vocal, as opposed to the massive, dramatic orchestration.

 

Two Of Us doesn't seem to change much, but I've Got A Feeling was a composite edit from two takes from the legendary "rooftop concert". One After 909 is remixed from the same concert. It sounds a bit bassier to me, but maybe I am just imagining it.

Don't Let Me Down is another composite from the rooftop takes, not the version that appeared as a single. I Me Mine removes some of Spector's orchestration and sounds more bluesy and guitar-driven. Lennon's Across The Universe has no backing vocals, maracas or Spector's sound effects in it. It is a far starker, more atmospheric track as a result. Let It Be is different from both the single and album version. I like it. The cymbals on this are crystal clear, as are Starr's drums overall and McCartney's vocals are emotive and melodic. There is, I think, a different, more rhythmic bass line on it too.

In conclusion, this is an interesting, enjoyable listen that throws a different light on this often-maligned album.



The Beatles: Love (2006)


To be honest, I am not sure of the point of this album. It was a compilation of snippets of various Beatles songs brought together by Giles Martin, the son of Beatles producer George. It is a brave, adventurous effort from Giles, the tracks all link into each other and have been remastered fantastically. However, for me, there is no real continuity or connection between them all. They flit willy-nilly from one to another with no coherence and often there is nowhere near enough of the songs that we are so familiar with. Many of them end far too soon and the next snippet comes along. As I said, I don't quite see the point in it. I own it, but it is not for me. If I want The Beatles all mixed up, I just play all their tracks on random.




Ludicrously overpriced, of course. However, this box set is still highly recommended to those who love the sound of MONO recordings. Fans of true mono will absolutely love this, and the many reviews show that indeed to be the case. The sound is clear and punchy and the box set is well presented with replica original sleeves and a good booklet too.

The music is all but the last two albums (which were recorded in stereo) of The Beatles’ literally world-changing output.


Do I prefer the mono to the stereo, however? I would seem to be in a minority of one but I just can't find a way of completely doing so, despite mono winning me over for many of the tracks. For me, it is the stereo versions that generally have more appeal. Not all though. As with The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, Cream, The Kinks and the early Motown material there is a very strong case for the mono recordings being more satisfying, more “pure”. I get that and accept it. However, from 1965 onwards it is mostly the stereo versions for me. I fully accept all the points about transistor radios and “Dansette” record players of the time only giving out a mono sound and that stereo was, at the time, a nerd’s oddity. I get all that, I really do, and fully understand why, for so many, these mono recordings are the holy grail and have no problem heartily recommending them. For me, on a subjective, personal level, they are just not totally for me. I am more happy for the mono and the stereo to co-exist and I enjoy listening to both of them, depending on my mood. It is, for some albums, like owning two very different versions of the same abum.

I listened to Lovely Rita consecutively, the mono version and then the “2017 remaster”. Again, for me, the difference was pretty seismic. The stereo 2017 one was an absolute revelation. The whole Sgt. Pepper album is just wonderful in its 2017 form. Yes, I know what Lennon said about hearing it in mono being best, and I know what he meant, for sure, but personally I just much prefer the stereo. Similarly, I always tend to plump for all of The White AlbumRubber Soul and most of Revolver in stereo, (save Taxman with its infamously clumsy attempts at stereo separation). Ditto Strawberry Fields, both of these sound much better in mono. Further back, however, The Beatles also suffered from poor early attempts at stereo that the American Motown groups just did not - US recording techniques were much more advanced when it came to stereo. Just listen to some of those late 50s jazz recordings, and many Frank Sinatra and Elvis albums. Their stereo was stunning, whereas even as late as 1966, The Beatles and their producers were not getting it right (see Taxman). So, up to and including Beatles For Sale, mono is best, after that, despite a few Taxmans, it is stereo for me. 

Actually, as it happens, though, I am listening to Revolver again as I write and, to be honest, it sounds really full and punchy in mono. Lovely centred bass reproduction, pounding out of the speakers. I have to say it is on the bass that the mono really excels, whereas it is on the mixture of all the other instruments, at times, like on Love You Too and Tomorrow Never Knows that can suit the stereo. Oh heck, the latter just sounds revelatory played through either medium. Admittedly, Pepper sounds truly marvellous in mono, it is just that, for me, the latest 2017 stereo mastering is like growing young. It is just something I did not expect to experience. Rubber Soul is also an enjoyable, potent mono listen, but on that album, particularly, I think the stereo lifts it higher. There is, therefore, a case for a mono Revolver more than any of the others but remember this is just how I see it. 



I also find that the tracks with minimal instrumental backing, such as I WillJulia and Eleanor Rigby sound better in mono, just as Bob Dylan’s early acoustic songs do. I also have a weakness for the whole Beatles For Sale album in mono. It is superior to the stereo version - fuller, more punchy, more balanced. So, even for me, there are many, many benefits to owning this box set - I guess that has been the point of this review. I am very glad I own it. Overall, I feel that in mono, The Beatles sound like a great 60s group with mind-blowingly good 60s mono, but in stereo they sound like the same group, from the same era but with ground-breaking, way ahead of its time, incredible stereo sound. It makes them almost into a different group.I guess that I enjoy listening to both. Its great to be able to enjoy the music in different ways. Like enjoying different pizza toppings.

Shop around, though, some prices are ridiculous and beware, because there are many fakes out there, mainly originating in China. If the price seems too good to be true, it undoubtedly is.








                              GEORGE HARRISON

                                      1943-2001



                              JOHN LENNON

                                  1940-1980

3 comments:

  1. I'm glad somebody finally agrees with me about The White Album. I'm a Beatles fan and I pretty much agree with whatever great thing anyone says about their other hugely praised albums. But definitely not this one. I can't even make a great single album out of this that measures up to the great albums before and after it. I can come up with about 7 or 8 great ones and maybe 4 or 5 okay ones. And that really sucks for a Beatles album. To be the problem is a lack of great songs. Most of these songs just aren't all that hot. At least not for the Beatles. And every one of the good ones comes on the first half of the album. Except Birthday and Helter Skelter. What the rest of the album is like is kind of what their early solo stuff was like. I mean, it was kind of good but not as good as the Beatles. I like a lot of the early solo stuff but at best it was kind of like second-tier Beatles. And that's what the White album is like to me. kind of like second-tier mostly. Except for the 7 or 8 great ones.

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  2. As I said right the top - I have/had a strange relationship with The Beatles and this will come across in my reviews. Certainly we both agree that The White Album is not the holy grail.

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  3. Yer Blues, Monkey and Revolution are other good ones from the second half, for me.

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