Posted in Masterpiece, Music Reviews, The Beatles

The Beatles – Rubber Soul – Review

the-beatles-rubber-soul-300x300

And

When I awoke

I was alone

This bird had flown

So

I lit a fire,

Isn’t it good

Norwegian wood?

-Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flow)

This album is abnormally comfortable. For reasons that elude me, Rubber Soul is the Beatles album I default to for a casual, relaxed listen. Revolver is close contender, but it’s a bit too experimental and masterpiece-ish to fill the same effortless void. Even my favorite Beatles album (Abbey Road) is too intricate and emotional for me to want to pop in more often than this humble LP. I know that makes zero sense, but whenever I listen to the organic instruments, commonplace themes, genre-mashing, and simple-but-sharp lyrics of Rubber Soul, I go into a different state of mind. That’s not to say Rubber Soul is unremarkable or a guilty pleasure; neither could be farther from the truth. Help! was a prototype, this is the finished product.

The fact that this album has less artsy flourishes then most “classic” Beatles albums calls attention to its greatest, most underappreciated attribute: Rubber Soul (in this geek’s opinion) is the greatest Beatles album PURELY in terms of composition. There have been Beatles albums with better playing, better production, better singing, better lyrics, better ideas, and better overall music…but NEVER better melodies. I believe the melody to be the single most important part of a song, making the skeleton of Rubber Soul one of my favorites before we even get to the meat. The meat makes it even better. Yum.

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Posted in Music Reviews, The Beatles

The Beatles – Help! – Review

OLD REVIEW DUMP #3: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO (5/6)

Yeah, my self-indulgent self-reflection is more or less done.

Here it is, in all its helplessness…

help

And now my life has changed in oh so many ways
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
But every now and then I feel so insecure
I know that I just need you like I’ve never done before
Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ‘round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me
-Help!

Help! is a very interesting album historically, though I can’t help but feel like it should be a tad more of an interesting listen. That’s not to say it’s bad, far from it, it’s great. It’s the best Fab Four-era album discounting A Hard Day’s Night (and Rubber Soul if you throw it in that category), but it feels like I’ve heard all this before. As far as maturity goes, it fails to live up to the standards of the best moments on Beatles for Sale, and as pop it fails to live up to most of A Hard Day’s Night, but the two tones provide songs consistent and diverse enough to make it enjoyable.
That’s the music. HISTORICALLY, Help! is one of the most important albums of the Beatle’s career, showcased in its two most famous tracks. The title track was a huge leap forward for John, exemplifying the kind of psychological openness he would revel in for years. “Yesterday” is, of course, one of the most famous songs of all time, and was basically Sergeant Pepper before Sergeant Pepper, EG it made a lot music snobs finally believe that pop and rock music was not just for the lowbrows. Also, the album marks the first of John’s Dylan imitations, paving the way for his snappy psychedelic songs later on, some of which are among the group’s most famous and influential (“Strawberry Fields Forever”, “I Am The Walrus”, even “Come Together”).
But therein lies the rub…Help! is a PROTOTYPE.  A blueprint. An early step a marvelous journey that would redefine music, entertainment and popular art in general, as well as producing some of the best compositions known to man. Gone are the days of shallow pop, but still to come are the days of godlike status and sophistication. Help! is in a weird place artistically, and I can’t help but feel a bit dismissive of it as an overall product. Of course, when I actually sit down and listen to it, that dismissiveness disappears. Help! is absolutely great, and contains some of my favorite Beatles moments.

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Posted in Music Reviews, The Beatles

The Beatles – Beatles for Sale – Review

OLD REVIEW DUMP #3: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO (3/6)

Less vivid description here, but more actual critique. It’s not worded as well as I would like, with a lot of reused words, but the actual thought process is well-conceived. I was impressed with myself for making both a defense of the album and an honest assessment.

Here it is, in all its money grubbiness…

beatlesforsale

Although I laugh and I act like a clown
Beneath this mask I am wearing a frown
My tears are falling like rain from the sky
Is it for her or myself that I cry
I’m a loser
And I lost someone who’s near to me
I’m a loser
And I’m not what I appear to be
-I’m a Loser

…annnnnd we’re back to square one. Six covers, six originals, the whole shebang. Beatles for Sale is thrown under the bus more than anything else they put out (except probably Please Please Me) as an album that lives up to its cash-in sounding name. “Mr. Moonlight” is listed as the worst Beatles song more than any other in my experience. I haven’t seen a lot of people who hate this album, but there’s a great many who either dislike it or are dismissive of it.
I disagree. No, it’s not great, in fact, it’s only slightly better then Please Please Me, but that’s mostly because of an overabundance of dreary covers. The original material is not only enjoyable, but representative of an extremely mature step forward in the writing of both lyrics and melodies. Even the covers are more bland then horrific atrocities. Beatles for Sale is, by any measure, a disappointment, but it’s a necessary one. The growth shown here is an essential piece of the history of the Beatles, and, by extension, the history of music.

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Posted in Music Reviews, The Beatles

The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night

OLD REVIEW DUMP #2: THE SQEAKUAL (7/7)

Another enthusiastic review with actual critique. I’m getting better, ain’t I? It’s in the same vein as the Revolver review, IE it’s less of a critique and more of a gushing platform, but I find it completely enjoyable on its own terms…kind of like the album itself.

I hope this tides you over, because my speakers are broken. No music review tomorrow, sorry.

Here it is, in all its hardness:

harddayuk

I’ll buy you a diamond ring my friend if it makes you feel alright
I’ll get you anything my friend if it makes you feel alright
Cos I don’t care too much for money
Money can’t buy me love
I’ll give you all I got to give if you say you’ll love me too
I may not have a lot to give but what I got I’ll give to you
I don’t care too much for money
Money can’t buy me love
-Can’t Buy Me Love

Their first masterpiece. Yup. Not Revolver, Rubber Soul or even Help!, this thirty minute Fab Four album. I haven’t seen a lot of people who dislike this album (and why WOULD you dislike this album unless you’re trying to hurt my feelings?) but I don’t see enough people who label it as anything other than “a really great pop album.” The implication here is that all pop is somehow automatically “inferior” to the “true rock” The Beatles would pioneer, which is not only unfair to pop in general, but also The Beatles. Their biggest contribution to not only the music world but the world in general was breaking down the barrier between “high” and “low” music (and, by extension, high and low art in general). This is why The Beatles are so great: they never saw their format as a restriction. As someone who believes there are no bad genres, only bad output, this is a big part of the reason why The Beatles are so important to me.
Okay, that’s touching and all, but what about the album itself? Well, on its own terms, it’s pretty much perfect. It doesn’t actually get straight fives in the categorical ratings, but it still gets (spoilers) a 10/10, because as a pure pop album, it deserves it.
Oh yeah, and one more thing before we get into the song-by-song breakdown: this is the first Beatles album to feature nothing but Lennon-McCartney originals, but you probably already knew that. So how about this bombshell: John penned TEN of the thirteen songs! I feel like I was a bit too harsh to John on Please Please Me, because it really didn’t take that long for him to come into his own. I’m torn between whether John or Paul is technically the better writer, but I personally prefer Paul because we’re both saccharine-feeling-type guys.

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Posted in Music Reviews, The Beatles

The Beatles – With the Beatles

OLD REVIEW DUMP #2: THE SQEAKUAL (5/7)

Hey, another mediocre slog of a review! It must be my birthday.

So yeah, take a shot every time I compliment the vocals or use a synonym for “great.” Bleh, bleh bleh. If I have a writing personality, this review doesn’t show it.

Here it is. I don’t even care.

withthebeatlescover

I’ll pretend that I’m kissing
The lips I am missing
And hope that my dreams will come true
And then while I’m away
I’ll write home every day
And I’ll send all my loving to you
-All My Loving

So, Please Please Me was perfectly enjoyable, but hampered by the circumstances under which it was made. Now the Fab Four were able to play around in the studio all they wanted, and the growth shows. With The Beatles is already a huge leap up from Please Please Me, and an absolutely fantastic piece of 60s pop. The melodies are richer, the vocals even more exuberant, the playing ability impressive, and even the covers have improved! With The Beatles is a really good album, and a testimony to the Beatles dedication to self-improvement. Continue reading “The Beatles – With the Beatles”

Posted in Essential Albums, Music Reviews, The Beatles

The Beatles – Please Please Me

RIP George Martin. Possibly the best producer in music history. We are all poorer now.

OLD REVIEW DUMP #2: THE SQEAKUAL (3/7)

For the longest time I thought this review was a slog. I still liked the album fine, but the monotonous sound bleed into my now much-less-colorful descriptions, as well as taking up the fair-but-restrictive “don’t criticize the writing in a cover” mantle.

Okay, fair enough. The review is pretty vague, as I wasn’t used to talking about sound in terms of pure playing ability…you can blame Floyd for that one. Still, this review was an essential step in that direction, and it’s simplicity means the filler is minimal. I continue relentlessly stereotyping each of the Beatles according to their one-note public images, and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon because A. it’s a useful organization tool and B. it’s fun. I understand why some people might see it as lazy, and that’s…because it is. Sorry.

Here it is, in all its miiisssery…

pleasepleaseme

Well, my heart went boom
When I crossed that room
And I held her hand in mine
Whoa, we danced through the night
And we held each other tight
And before too long I fell in love with her
Now I’ll never dance with another
Since I saw her standing there
-I Saw Her Standing There

Let me tell you a story about some guys from Liverpool.
They played constantly in the place they were employed, wrote simple songs for the purpose of memorization, got picked up by one George Martin (sadly not the Song of Ice and Fire guy), and made their own album, which consisted of six covers and a staggering EIGHT original compositions! It’s hard to understand now, but for 1962, and especially for a new and unestablished band, that’s an impressive amount of artist-produced material. So what did these guys have to offer? More than most people will tell you, it turns out.
Please Please Me is usually ranked as the “worst” Beatles album, or at least as low as being a Beatles album will allow. This is understandable, but I think it gives off the impression that it isn’t worth exploring today, which is completely untrue, for at least two reasons:
REASON ONE: This is one of the most important albums of all time. Not only does the legacy of the Beatles begin here (which is of an epic scope in and of itself) but also the driving force of album-based music. It also revitalized rock in a way that almost every musician of today owes some debt to. Even if it didn’t hold up very well, Please Please Me would still be an album worth owning for historical importance alone.
REASON TWO: The album is still fun bubblegum today, with tons of catchy pop melodies and entertaining musicianship. It’s not a huge, self-conscious deal like Sergeant Pepper or Abbey Road, but the album as a whole still holds up very well. This isn’t in spite of its lightness and exuberance, but because of it.

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Posted in Cosmic Masterpiece, Essential Albums, Music Reviews, The Beatles

The Beatles – Revolver

It’s #ThrowbackThursday, which means there’s no better time for…
OLD REVIEW DUMP #1 (4/5)
Unequivocally, this fifth review was the one I had the most fun writing. I worked off the basic assumption that everyone already knows and loves this album, and used it as a platform to sound off about how much I love it too. So yeah, this isn’t the most insightful, critical, or detailed of reviews, probably a step down from The Wall review in terms of the actual reviewing. In terms of WRITING, however, I find it hard to not get caught up in my own giddiness, as well as some of my first actual jokes (John “Life is terrible God is dead and where’s my LSD” Lennon is something I don’t see myself topping any time soon). It’s not nuanced in its approach, but I still enjoy reading it for that very enthusiastic simplicity. It’s basically “Good Day Sunshine”: The Review.
Here it is, in all its shininess:

revolver

And ignorance and hate mourn the dead
It is believing, it is believing
But listen to the color of your dreams
It is not leaving, it is not leaving
So play the game “Existence” to the end
Of the beginning, of the beginning
-Tomorrow Never Dies

So this is where it all happened. “All” in this case meaning The Beatles producing their first album that almost everyone worships and no one dislikes (not on planet earth anyway). By all accounts this is where the Fab Four suddenly ceased to be the Fab Four and became some crazy psychedelic guys who were also musical genius. I can’t vouch for that, as I’m still getting aquatinted with The Beatle’s discography, but I’m sure when I get around to immersing myself in the Fab Four era I’ll be a contrarian who kills everyone’s fun.
But we’re not talking about those stupid lovey-dovey guys from Liverpool, these are the freaking BEATLES now, at least according to common knowledge. And guess what, it’s really good. Great, actually. Like, pretty much perfect. Yeah. Spoilers.

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