The Best Beatles album?

This means original UK studio albums. Not the compilations and certainly not Live at The Hollywood Bowl.

The release of the Revolver box set has seen the scribes racing to declare it the greatest and most influential Beatle album of all. 

e.g.

In the eyes and ears of many fans, this is the defining Beatles Album.

giles Martin, INtroduction to the ‘Revolver’ de luxe box set

The Beatles’ best album? Very possibly. Ask the next 100 people in the queue and you’re likely to hear only two or three other nominations.

Andrew Morton, ShindIg, #133, november 2022

Is it though? The many ‘Best album of All Time’ polls usually plumped for Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, though a few stood out for Revolver, and a Liverpudlian friend once gave me a long and very convincing argument for Please Please Me.

It set me thinking. I quickly scribbled ten Beatles tracks down as if I were compiling a Desert Island discs personal Beatle Top Ten:

  • Strawberry Fields Forever
  • Hey Jude
  • Rain
  • Baby You’re A Rich Man
  • Penny Lane
  • From Me To You
  • Hello Goodbye
  • All You Need Is Love
  • Day Tripper
  • You Can’t Do That

Gallery: click on image to enlarge: the original UK singles

Hold on just a minute … not one of them is an original studio album track, and three are B-sides. 

Five of them are on Side Two of the original American Magical Mystery Tour LP. That wasn’t released in England until years later … we just got a double EP with side one, the songs from the TV film. Americans got those singles and B-sides. I was pleased to see in a recent Record Collector that Paul Weller was talking about B-sides, and chose both Baby You’re A Rich Man and Rain too.

I’ll explain a couple of unusual ones. I like From Me To You much more than either She Loves You or I Want To Hold Your Hand.

I’ve seen You Can’t Do That fill the floor at parties and weddings. It always works for my generation, who buying singles at a whopping 6/8d, aways played both sides many times. It was the B-side of You Can’t Buy Me Love, the first Beatles record ever that I didn’t like very much. It worked better when the likes of Ella Fitzgerald sang a cover version. I, and my mates, played You Can’t Do That more than the A side. You Can’t Do That was added to A Hard Day’s Night LP, which was not their normal policy with singles (after Love Me Do and Please Please Me). They kept singles separate, which is why Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane didn’t get on Sergeant Pepper, and why Rain didn’t get on Revolver, where it would have the best track.

That’s a reasonable ten, even if it skips Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, A Day In The Life, Girl, In My Life, Blackbird, Let It Be, Lady Madonna, Come Together, Something, Got To Get You Into My Life … there’s another ten I’d be happy with.

My best ever Beatle album would be Side Two of Magical Mystery Tour combined with Side Two of Abbey Road.

This was Dan Cairns rating in The Sunday Times:

Sunday Times Culture 23 October 2022

Ratings may differ with age. Please Please Me and With The Beatles were game changing albums for me. I played Twist and Shout on my Please Please Me LP so often that I wore it out. Fortunately it was not a valuable black and gold Parlophone one. It took me a while to save up for it, but I’d go to my friend’s house and allegedly do homework together while listening to it .

After A Hard Day’s Night, our affections started to change to The Rolling Stones (and as budding teenage front room bands, the R&B of the Rolling Stones was a lot easier to play). At parties in that era, the girls would all want to put The Beatles on the Dansette record player, the boys wanted The Stones. So Help! and Beatles For Sale were never favourites. Rubber Soul won me back, then Revolver cemented the return to affection.

The White Album never did it for me either. It fell flat after Sergeant Pepper, Revolver and Rubber Soul.

You can rank it by sales worldwide. The full sales list goes up to 70 odd albums. I’ve eliminated all the non-studio albums to allow comparison with the Sunday Times list of thirteen. It is skewed strongly where there were variant American releases before 1966, and of course the remasters change the list dramatically- this predates the 2022 remaster of Revolver. Note the first three, plus Let It Be all have had the boost of recent remastered versions. I would expect Revolver to move up to #3 or #4.

studio album salesyearestimate
1 Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band196732 million
2Abbey Road196920 million
3The White Album196813.8 million
4 Rubber Soul19658.5 million
5 Revolver 1966 7.15 million
6 Magical Mystery Tour19677 million
7 Let It Be1970 6 million
8 A Hard Day’s Night19645.4 million
9Help!19654.4 million
10Please Please Me19631.6 million
11Beatles For Sale19641.4 million
12Yellow Submarine19691.25 million
13With The Beatles19631.2 million

I’m going to check other selections. I’m ignoring American LP releases, as we now all agree that the original British albums are the default.

Hey Jude: The Beatles, LP, 1970. German version

I do miss the Hey Jude compilation album which I acquired in Germany though – it was never released in the UK. Lady Madonna, Rain, Hey Jude, Paperback Writer, Don’t Let Me Down, Revolution, Ballad of John & Yoko. The dud track was Old Brown Shoe. It would have made the list ahead of a couple of studio albums.

As with all lists of loved albums, we should agree that Beatles fans are more likely to cast votes in such a poll than (say) fans of John Cale’s Paris 1919 … though to my surprise it made Paul Gambacinni’s 1987 list.

Start with a list at the time of Revolver’s 2022 remix. Uncut’ss 500 Greatest Albums of the 60s. That states:

For a long time (Revolver) vanished from favour, replaced by Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, (almost certainly because of its meagre representation on The Beatles 1973’s compilation albums, but in the 1990s Revolver was reassessed by a new generation and is now agreed to be the peak of the Beatles solo careers.

David Quantick, Uncut’s The 500 Greatest Albums of the 60s, november 2033

Perspective. That Uncut list has The Velvet Underground and Nico as #1 album of the 60s. You know it’s not. It’s really not. This is a failed punk rocker’s wet dream. Maybe “almost no one bought it, but every one of those who did formed bands” as they keep saying, but they were mostly inept bands. I didn’t buy it in 1969, but I first heard it in 1970, and bought it in early 1971.

Uncut’s 500 does ring bells for me … Rainbow in Curved Air by Terry Riley, Nancy & Lee by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood, Trouble is A Lonesome Town by Lee Hazelwood, Beau Brummels’ Bradley’s Barn, Spooky Two, the third Velvet Underground Album (so much better than their first), The Rock Machine Turns You On CBS sampler album, 96 Teardrops LP, are all impeccable choices … then there are pretentious ones like Stockhausen’s Kontakte … but, no, The Velvet Underground and Nico, is not as good as any Beatles album (ANY!), any Band album, any pre-1979 Bob Dylan album, any Paul Simon album, ay Leonard Cohen album, any of the better Beach Boys and James Taylor albums. Far too much of the list is hindsight from on high.

So how do UNCUT rate Beatles studio albums in late 2022?

AlbumUncut 500
of the 60s
1 Revolver 2
2 The Beatles (The White Album) 4
3 Abbey Road 8
4 Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 15
5 Rubber Soul 25
6 A Hard day’s Night 46
7 Help! 92
8 With The Beatles 134
9 Magical Mystery Tour 181
10Please Please Me 312
11Beatles For Sale401

Paul Gambacinni got in early with his Top 100 Albums of All Time with an edition in 1977, and another in 1987. In the 1987 edition he also listed the 1977 selections for the Top 30. I’ll sequence them according to the later list.

19871977
1Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band 1Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band 1
2The Beatles (White Album) 10Rubber Soul 5
3 Abbey Road13Revolver 6
4 Revolver 17Abbey Road9
5Rubber Soul 21 The Beatles (White Album)18
6With The Beatles 29
7 Beatles For Sale71

Colin Larkin “The Top 1000 Albums of All Time” (Guinness, 1994). Colin Larkin edited the Guinness Encylopedia of Popular Music and compiled this list with expert consultants. He lists seven Beatles albums in the first seventy of his Top 250, then seems to have decided that’s enough. His seven are all in The Sunday Times first eight.

ALBUMTOP 250
POP & ROCK
1Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 1
2Revolver 5
3Rubber Soul 9
4The White Album 12
5Abbey Road 38
6With The Beatles 60
7Help! 69

Colin Larkin knew when he was on to a good thing, and when Virgin took over Guinness’s chart books, repeated the exercise in 1998, but this time compiled 100,000 votes from “the fans, experts and critics). This time, The Beatles did even better, getting four of the top five. This list allows compilations, and I approve because they certainly kept the singles separate. Leafing through the 1000 selected (and arguing exact or even approximate position would be daft), it was quite a knowledgeable group- three albums by Family for starters. What interested me is not the position, but the order of Beatles albums.

ALBUMTOP 1000
POSITION
1Revolver1
2Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 2
3The White Album 3
4Abbey Road5
5Rubber Soul20
6A Hard Day’s Night142
7With The Beatles168
8Help!196
9The Beatles 1962-1966 (compilation)311
10Please Please Me333
11The Beatles 1967-70 (compilation)342
12Let It Be561
13Beatles For Sale789
14Magical Mystery Tour926

Here’s one of many efforts by Rolling Stone magazine, this time the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time from 2003. They polled critics and musicians to get the list. There is a strong consistency in the first five over all of these selections.

ALBUMROLLING STONE
500
1Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 1
2Revolver 3
3Rubber Soul 5
4The White Album 10
5Abbey Road 14
6Please Please Me 38
7Meet The Beatles (US) 59
8Let It Be 86
9Help!332
10A Hard Day’s Night388
11With The Beatles420

On to my Beatles selection with notes. My favourite review of the new Revolver remix is Tom Pinnock in Uncut Take 307, December 2022. He points out the joyousness of Revolver, calls it the epicentre, at the point between the touring band and the fractious studio band, but never lets the “best” word slip.

My criterion per album is ‘Are there any dud tracks, below standard, less inspired or frequently skipped? My other and chief criterion is how often I’ve played them.

So I revert to the earlier opinions:

My choices

Of course they’re not yours.
Of course they’re wrong. I have cloth ears.
Of course it’s a Sophie’s Choice moment.
Of course such lists have no meaning.
Of course all the first eleven albums listed are 5 stars in record review terms.

1 Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

SEE ALSO: The Art of Sergeant Pepper (LINKED) on this site.

Is there a dull moment? You might not be into McCartney’s whimsical Wen I’m 64, but try getting the tune out of your head.

Yes, there is a weaker track, and it’s Within You Without You. I never used to skip it though. I listen to Ravi Shankar and have seen him play live. I like sitar, but there are way better examples, as George Harrison would be the first to admit. This was much improved on the remastered box set, but I can never get Big Daddy’s pastiche version out of my head. The story was that Big Daddy were a band captured in Cambodia, freed after 20 years and hadn’t heard any music since the early 60s. (See the BIG DADDY article here) They were then given just the sheet music to record current songs. Listen to it here:

WITHIN YOU, WITHOUT YOU – Big Daddy (YouTube)

The same issue comes up with all the early albums. So …

A • EMI / B • Brian Epstein /C • George Martin / D • The Beatles / E• The Devil (multiple choice)

… hived off two of the best works in progress as a single, in this case Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane. Try replacing Within You Without You with either or both. Strawberry Fields Forever sits perfectly in the place of Within You Without You. You’d have to squeeze in Penny Lane too. (George Martin in the Sergeant Pepper documentary on the box set blames Epstein).

My favourite tracks: Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds / A Day In The Life

The box set has a blu-ray 5.1 mix. The three earlier box sets have a 5.1 mix, but on there are also 96 KHz / 24 bit versions on the blu-ray in stereo. These need a blu-ray player, and in nearly every home this will go into a 5.1 / 7.1 surround system NOT an audiophile hi-fi making a straight quality comparison impossible.

The box set restores Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane with separate sections and videos. That is a major addition.

2 Abbey Road

Side two is my most played Beatles album side ever. Full stop. Not a dud on there, plus it has been segued into a whole.

I was an early (instant?) adopter of CD, and when I first bought a Sony CDP-101 there was little available. I was in Japan just after that where Abbey Road was #1 and the Stones’ Tattoo You was #2 in the CD chart. I bought both.

Japanese withdrawn Abbey Road CD

Then it turned out that Toshiba, who produced them, didn’t have permission from EMI in the UK, who were holding back on CD and especially on Beatles material. They were swiftly withdrawn, leading to it becoming an early highly collectible CD. I saw copies at £200 … but knowing nothing about Japanese Obi-strips, I had thrown them away. They are essential to get value. However, for a least two years it was the best CD I owned which promoted more playing. (If you’re interested, it sounded very good, but the eventual EMI UK version sounds better).

The issue is Side One. Come Together is fantastic, and Ike & Tina Turner’s cover version emphasized that. Then George has really come of age with Something, easily his best song so far.

Then it starts to go wrong. Paul McCartney delivers Maxwell’s Silver Hammer one of his far too whimsical novelties, but being Paul it’s a serious mistake to listen to it, because it’ll be playing in your head for the next week.

Then we go into a send-up (?) of an impassioned late 50s rock ballad with Oh, Darling. It would have fitted Let It Be better. While I was writing this I saw The Empty Pockets supporting Al Stewart, and they did such a stunning version of Oh, Darling live that I went home and Listened to the original again right away. It is very good.

Ringo gets to write Octopus’s Garden, with help from George. We’re laying the novelty on somewhat thick, with the effort to emulate Yellow Submarine. Obviously, they’re all brilliantly performed and recorded.

I’d lift the stylus a minute or so into I Want You (She’s So Heavy) for some years. John has his eye on what’s happening with the likes of Spooky Tooth, Led Zeppelin et al and trying to show that The Beatles can knock this sort of stuff out with one hand tied behind their backs. It’s eight minutes long too, or too long. Billy Preston adds the Hammond organ. A few years earlier, The Shadows looked at the R&B groups taking their business, and had a similar impetus to record Rhythm & Greens.

Move to the film Across The Universe which uses Beatle songs to tell the story. They are cover versions, and work, apart from a tuneless Eddie Izzard on Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite. The producers liked Abbey Road … Come Together, Something, Oh, Darling, Because, She Came In Through The Bathroom Window and I Want You. The last plays to a dance scene of soldiers being recruited for Vietnam.

See it here: I WANT YOU (Across The Universe film)

They improved it for me, and since then I’ve grown to like the original far more.

In the End … or in the end, side two is so good that it compensates. At least the weaker songs are all together.

3 Magical Mystery Tour

This would be excluded from some lists, because it was originally an American only release. It would be excluded from the UNCUT 60s list because it wasn’t released until 1976 in the UK. In 1987 EMI and Capitol decide to standardise Beatles releases worldwide in just one version of each album. Magical Mystery Tour is the only America-first release among them.

The film was shown on British TV at Christmas (to the perplexed horror of my relatives who I made switch over to it on Boxing Day 1967) but it was not shown on TV in the USA. The music was released on a double 7″ EP. Then the US label took the six tracks and filled the other side with singles to create an LP, to the dismay of The Beatles. The stereo versions of the singles were not done by them or George Martin but were in Capitol’s reprocessed stereo … that was corrected in 1971, so the 1971 German LP is the first one to be as intended.

We had to be content with the double EP. I bought a US import copy of the LP around 1971, then bought the UK issue LP in 1976 with proper stereo.

JOHN: It’s not an album, you see. It turned into an album over here, but it was just [meant to be] the music from the film.
QUESTION: Has anybody bought the film over here?
JOHN: I haven’t a clue, you know. We don’t care.

john Lennon, Apple Press Conference, 11 May 1968

By a happy accident, the result is a favourite LP. It’s a good candidate for a box set, because they can put a blu-ray of the film in with it.

I’ve already put the whole of Side Two in my list all-time Beatles favourites. So how does Side One fare in the dud tracks test?

The Fool On The Hill is one of the most covered Beatles tracks. Magical Mystery Tour is a cracking starter. Your Mother Should Know is cheery catchy Paul at his best. I Am The Walrus is John Lennon psych at its best.

Unfortunately, both minor duds are George Harrison (Blue Jay Way), or George Harrison’s idea played by all (Flying) but that’s also true of Sergeant Pepper and Revolver.

(On Revolver) Love You To and I Want To Tell You mark George’s steady advance in songwriting which would later lead to some of his great classics.

Paul McCartney, Forward to Revolver SUPER DE LUXE Box sEt, 2022

I expect Paul thought he was saying with subtlety that George was not yet as good as he was going to be, or, not as good as him and John.

So Side One is better than its reputation. Side two is sublime.

Favourite tracks: all of side two

4 Revolver

I ordered the vinyl box set of Revolver, read about the vast amount of A.I. applied in remixing it, and realised there was no analogue magic left. I cancelled, switched to the CD box set instead, then bought just the re-mix vinyl album on its own. Together, it works out cheaper than the all vinyl set, and the two CDs of demos are fine on the digital medium – I’m not going to listen to them that often. So you get a CD EP of Paperback Writer / Rain. It’s brilliant.

Why do I need a Mono copy of the original album, I’ve already got two dating from 1966 – I had one, my wife had one when we met. (One is framed on the wall). I have the 2009 stereo remaster (which enthusiasts declare to be the best stereo version). Until The White Album the mono version is the default. That’s what the initial CDs were post 1987. Stereo mixes dating from the 60s were done by engineers after The Beatles had left the studio.

I’m glad I bought the vinyl LP too- it does feel somehow warmer. The detailed sleeve notes with the box set are definitive.

One the very first things that leaps out is that the two longest tracks are just 3 minutes long. A couple (And Your Bird Can Sing, For No One) come in at 2 minutes and 2 minutes 01 seconds. They really did work on being concise … a lesson to bands for the next fifty plus years.

As with Sgt Pepper, two key tracks were separated to be singles … Paperback Writer and Rain.

Paperback Writer would have been a better first track than Taxman. The thrashy chords on Taxman may pre-date punk, but it doesn’t have the immediate “Wow!” of Paperback Writer, nor the melody. Nor the singing. 95% tax was ridiculous, and all credit to George and Paul especially for staying and paying, but it still potentially comes across as a plaintive bleat of the extremely wealthy. I sympathize, because at that time some Americans wanted to refuse tax payment because it was funding the Vietnam war. The USA has had a way round it … the super rich can choose where their potential taxes end up by diverting it to “tax deductible charity organizations” (Ballad of A Thin Man, Bob Dylan). Then they can name them after themselves. It happens here too (Saatchi Galleries, Sainsbury Gallery) but not to the same degree.

Then one track has to go to make room for Rain, the very best track from the entire sessions. I’ve already singled out George, who must have been thrilled to finally get three songs on an album, and his love with his new sitar is all over the album, but try replacing Love You Too with Rain. It really would have worked. In retrospect, Love You Too beats Within You Without You as well. Others would pinpoint Yellow Submarine, but as with When I’m 64, The Beatles needed that sort of thing.

I looked at my car track list (still on an ancient iPod), and I hadn’t put Tomorrow Never Knows on there. Mojo magazine even devoted a cover disc to Mojo’s Guide to The Fab Avant-Garde and explored its influences and what it influenced it. I tended to skip it when listening to Revolver in the car or doing the washing-up, but it really does shine on the 2022 on the remix. It is improved.

My favourite tracks: Got To Get You Into My Life, I’m Only Sleeping, Eleanor Rigby, Good Day Sunshine.

A major surprise about the box set. Why no enhanced format? No blu-ray with 96 KHz / 24 bit mastering? Why not a CD / SACD compatible disc? It would have cost very little. We have to assume that the master tapes, even allowing for the A.I. technology, don’t lend themselves to 5.1 / 7.1 mixes, but an enhanced format blu ray / CD / SACD would have been easy. The book states that the mono CD is a direct 96 KHz / 24 bit digital transfer from the analogue Master Tape … but SACD does have greater range.

Listening to the 2022 remix has been great. I’m almost convinced that it should be my number two.

5 Rubber Soul

At the time of writing, widely tipped as the 2023 remix and remaster. As with Revolver, probably more so, there will be issues extracting a new stereo mix from the mono analogue masters.

George Harrison said that Revolver and Rubber Soul are parts one and two of a single endeavour .

The Beatles sixth album was a game changer: the first pop art LP.

Max Bell, Record Collector Presents The Beatles: Vol. 2

At this point, American readers have to skip to the original British releases … nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

All of the top five are serious contenders for best album. This one has not a single dud track, though when asked to list the tracks from memory, I always forget Wait. Both the George Harrison tracks, Think for Yourself and If I Needed Someone stand up as the same quality as the rest of the album. Ringo gets his first co-writing credit on the country-ish What Goes On. As mentioned above, if you thought you were cool and into R&B, the two film albums and Beatles For Sale were less popular than The Rolling Stones Rubber Soul won the lads back to The Beatles.

A major critics poll voted Lennon’s In My Life as the greatest Beatle song. You could argue that this album is Lennon’s peak pop songwriting. Michelle is gorgeously melodic McCartney.

Favourite tracks: Norwegian Wood, In My Life, Girl, Nowhere Man.

6 Please Please Me

Back to mono. Would it be worth the effort of Giles Martin doing this one as a stereo remix (the 2009 stereo is in every vinyl shop currently), if he got there? I betray my age in choosing this, and my Liverpudlian friend’s persuasion was effective. You probably had to be a teenager in 1963 to realize the full impact of this.

Is there a better album opener than I Saw Her Standing There? Is there a more raucous album closer than John blasting his tonsils out on Twist and Shout? Then you get the first two hits, Love Me Do and Please Please Me. The first was an astonishing TV moment for me.

Misery was offered to Helen Shapiro as a single, and she rejected it. After her string of hits, The Beatles weren’t daft. Kenny Lynch, on the same tour, snapped it up winning the accolade of being the first to cover a Lennon-McCartney song. Do You want To Know A Secret? went to Epstein’s favoured Billy J. Kramer as a single. Not The Beatles finest hour though.

There’s A Place is terrific, P.S. I Love You was a solid B-side.

The covers? Twist and Shout beats The Isley Brothers original. The Beatles had failed auditions with A Taste of Honey, but they did it well. What is interesting is they chose three recent girl group songs, and sang them straight without worrying about the gender in the lyrics … which is what folk singers did with lyrics. The Shirelles had done two of them, Baby It’s You plus Boys, the B-side of Will You Love Me Tomorrow. Ringo sang that. Then they recorded The Cookies recent song, Chains, written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. George took lead vocal. Then they covered Arthur Alexander’s Anna (Go To Him), another late1962 hit, recorded a few months later, and a John Lennon favourite. The Rolling Stones also went to Arthur Alexander’s catalogue for You Better Move On.

Favourite tracks: Twist and Shout, I Saw Her Standing There, Love Me Do

7 With The Beatles

Let’s illustrate with a CD this time. I’m not an analogue snob and putting CDs here shows the track list efficiently. Anyway, the original is framed on my wall with The Times They Are A-Changing and Bookends … three classic B&W portrait sleeves.

I’m sticking with early. The cover photo was done at the Palace Court Hotel, Westover Road, Bournemouth. They were playing at The Gaumont less than 100 yards away for a week, twice nightly. Yes, I was there. It was one of the three times I saw The Beatles in 1963-1964. The Gaumont was different … you could hear them. The next two at Bournemouth Winter Gardens you couldn’t distinguish much through the screams. I spent my 40th birthday at the Palace Court Restaurant … we were filming in Bournemouth. I got food poisoning. The Beatles were luckier.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So we get again three covers of American R&B groups … The Miracles You Really Got A Hold On Me, The Donays Devil In Her Heart, The Marvelettes Please Mr Postman. Then Barratt Strong’s Money took the Twist and Shout slot. Til There Was You took the show tunes slot from Taste of Honey.

I’d guess Roll Over Beethoven did more to spread Chuck Berry’s second wind of popularity than anyone else, but I always felt The Rolling Stones did Chuck Berry better than The Beatles did. Ringo sang I Wanna Be YourMan which they donated to The Rolling Stones to create their second hit after their first, a cover of Berry’s Come On.

The originals … All My Loving as an EP was a ‘virtual single’ in its airplay and popularity. I still have the sheet music which I puzzled over somewhere. George got Don’t Bother Me on there. Then classic early Beatles … It Won’t Be Long, All I’ve Got To Do, Little Child,, Hold Me Tight, Not A Second Time.

8 Let It Be

SEE THE FULL ‘LET IT BE’ ARTICLE on this site under ‘Reviled! The Albums Critics Loved to Hate.’

Revisionism time. Before the three Get Back films and the Giles Martin remixed box set, this would have been right near the bottom, though above Beatles For Sale and Yellow Submarine. Via the Peter Jackson films and the box set, I grew to love this far more than I did originally. See the full article for why. you get a lot of it.

Favourite tracks: Let It Be, The Long & Winding Road, Get Back. Any album with three songs that good deserves a high rating.

9 = Help!

The CD images still give the track list most efficiently.

SEE: REVIEW OF HELP! (THE MOVIE) on my other website. This has more on the album.

Lists generally rate A Hard Day’s Night ahead of Help! I disagree, They’re judging the FILM not the ALBUM. A Hard Day’s Night is a superior film, but taken in isolation, Help! is at least an equally good record.

This album has the title track, Help! one of John’s finest. It has Yesterday one of Paul’s finest. It has the single Ticket To Ride. Then it has I’ve Just Seen A Face (The Dillards did a brilliant later cover) and You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away. Then You’re Going To Lose That Girl, Another Girl, The Night Before. George’s I Need You is great. Ringo does lovable C&W / rockabilly on Act Naturally.

Duds? Larry Williams’ Dizzy Miss Lizzy does not adequately fill the Twist & Shout / Money end slot.

The film is daft. The album isn’t.

9 = A Hard Day’s Night

There is very little to choose between the two film albums.

SEE REVIEW OF A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (THE MOVIE) on my other website. This has more on the album and its EPs.

This was like one of the American albums – first the songs from the film, then the rest … both sides of Can’t Buy Me Love / You Can’t Do That. It was also their first all originals album

As well as You Can’t Do That, there are several great songs … A Hard Day’s Night, I Should Have Known Better, And I Love Her, Any Time At All, If I Fell, Tell Me Why. For me the weakest track is Can’t Buy Me Love, but then I never liked it.

11 The Beatles (The White Album)

The controversial choice here. Some people chose this as the best. Am I being deliberately provocative? Yes, a tad. When the White album box set came out, the default mildly critical comment was that it would have been a great single album.

I was living in Hull. The corner shop near the university started stocking the top few albums. I was in there with the owner who was looking disconsolately at The White Album and Beggars Banquet. ‘I bought a wooden display for the window to sell LPs,’ he complained, ‘Then I get these two pieces of shit design.’

The Beatles weren’t working together, and there’s a lot of John in a nasty mood and angst-ridden while Paul is going way over the top on the twee material. Some things are impressive and powerful, but is it enjoyable hearing how badly strung out John was (I’m So Tired)? There are tracks I actively dislike (Piggies, Helter Skelter, Goodnight, Savoy Truffle, Revolution No 9, Yer Blues). Piggies is an awful hippier than thou lyric. Yes there are brilliant things on there, for me Blackbird (One of McCartney’s greatest songs), Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, Dear Prudence While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Happiness Is A Warm Gun, Birthday, Sexy Sadie, Back In The USSR. In particular, the Across The Universe film makes great use of Dear Prudence in a memorable sequence. While My Guitar Gently Weeps is one of George’s (and Eric Clapton’s) finest moments.

I’ll go with the opinion that there is a truly great single Beatles album in there struggling to get out.

12 Beatles For Sale

There’s a long and detailed article in the Reviled! The albums critics love to hate series on this site.

The first three songs on side one, plus I’ll Follow The Sun and Eight Days A Week wrap it up for me.

LINK TO ARTICLE HERE

13 Yellow Submarine

It doesn’t count, does it? They slipped All You Need Is Love and Yellow Submarine on it, then four leftovers. I listened writing this. They were left over because they’re not very good.

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2 thoughts on “The Best Beatles album?

  1. Twice there’s reference to a new Beatles’ song “I can’t do that” … no, Peter, you can’t do that. I used the punchline of this song as the sound that Windows would make when an error occurred.

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