I’ve been sitting here wrestling with my choice for this review. I intend for this to be a series based on my picks for the best albums of all time. I started off with CCR’s Cosmo’s Factory. It would have been pretty hard for me to go on without including a Beatles album, although it isn’t my intention to place these in any order.
Rubber Soul has been my favorite Beatles album since I was able understand who they were. It is a rather close call for me between Rubber Soul and Revolver, but RS wins out just based on a couple of songs. The fact that Rubber Soul contains “In My Life” is a big deciding factor as is the fact that Revolver contains “Tomorrow Never Knows.” I love the former and loathe the latter.
Rubber Soul and Revolver represent to me, and to many, a transitional period for the Beatles. The first period began with Please Please Me and continued through Help!. These albums were fun and very good, but they were very much based in 50’s rock and contained intermittent covers. This was the classic “lovable mop-tops” period when they were still touring.
Then came Ruber Soul and Revolver, where they retained a measure of that same style, but also began to mature in their songwriting. They began to experiment a little with unusual intrumentation and with studio effects, particularly with the sitar. They began using a more layered method of recording, which was a part of their decision to stop performing live; these songs were tough to duplicate with four people in a live setting.
Soon after Revolver came Sgt. Pepper, which was a great album, but not as great as most “real” critics claim. Yes, it was innovative and the fact that it had a narrative running throughout was unique. But the songs themselves just didn’t hit me like Rubber Soul did. I wouldn’t classify any of their original UK recordings as “bad” , but there are degrees of good.
Unfortunately, soon after Pepper came the full-on hippie period where they attempted to expand their horizons- largely through drugs- with mixed results. Who can honestly listen to “Revolution #9” on the White Album and say it is listenable? I’m not sure what the intent was but that album was all over the place.
Abbey Road and Let It Be both had very bright moments and were fantastic albums overall, but the yardstick I always use is whether I ever get tired of listening to them and Rubber Soul, and to a lesser degree Revolver, are the two Beatles albums I can listen to almost daily and continue to love more and more. In fact lately a song on RS has recaptured my attention. “If I Needed Someone” is the second track from the end and is, at first listen, nothing special; but as I listen to this album more I have come to believe it is one of their best songs and one that is very overlooked in their library.
So that’s my take on the Beatles original UK releases (more tracks than the US versions). I hope you find the opinions I have given somewhat helpful and feel free to tell me I’m wrong. That’s the beauty of great music; it’s all in the ear of the beholder.