The Beatles are one of my favourite bands so I thought I’d have a go at ranking their studio albums. There were eleven in total, not including Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine which aren’t considered “proper” albums or the US only releases that many of you reading this will know. The eleven albums that follow are their major albums, and the ranking is my opinion only. I go from “worst” to best. Let me know your thoughts.
11. With The Beatles
The album that lands at the bottom of my list is With The Beatles. I can’t say I’m beginning with the “worst” album because it’s one I very much enjoy listening to and I don’t dislike ANY Beatles albums, but this is the one I probably listen to the least.
One of the highlights from me is Roll Over Beethoven which sees the band play a great rendition of the Chuck Berry classic with George Harrison taking lead vocal duties. It’s an exceptional version and maybe my favourite version of the song. But for me this album just contains too many covers and not enough classic Lennon/McCartney originals, especially compared to other albums.
10. Beatles For Sale
Next up comes Beatles For Sale which suffers from the same problem as With The Beatles. There are too many covers and not enough classic Lennon/McCartney numbers, aside from the great I’ll Follow The Sun and Eight Days A Week. The covers however are fantastic with Rock And Roll Music and Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey! being my favourites but it’s not enough to warrant the album being any higher on my list.
One thing I do really enjoy about the album though is the cover. The Beatles released a number of albums which have since become legendary for their album art and Beatles For Sale is certainly no exception.
9. Let It Be
Part of me really wanted to put this higher, as did my fiancé, but I just couldn’t do it. The songs themselves are fantastic and some of my favourite ever Beatles songs feature on this album but the way it was put together alongside the Phil Spector production just doesn’t warrant the album going any higher. And I really hate saying that. That being said though, it’s still a highly enjoyable album to listen to but I have to admit that I probably prefer McCartney’s …Naked version with the stripped down sound. The way Spector included string arrangements on Let It Be and The Long And Winding Road really tainted those songs and McCartney himself hated them as a result.
The inclusion of one or two studio jams like Maggie Mae and Dig It, while enjoyable to listen to, make this album more of a insight into an album session and not really a proper album. Perhaps Spector would have done better to release a live album with songs recorded on the rooftop at Savile Row, something that still really needs to be released to this day.
8. Please Please Me
As far as debut albums go Please Please Me is exceptional and an album I thoroughly enjoy listening to. It’s particularly good listening to this from a historical point of view in terms of how much their sound changed over such a short period of time. There was after all only seven years between the release of this album and Abbey Road and in that time the Beatles changed music like never before.
The album is brimming with so much energy and electricity each song being as catchy as the one before it. I Saw Her Standing There is an incredible album opener which certainly sets the tone for what comes next with Please Please Me, Love Me Do and Twist And Shout being some of my favourite songs on the album. Superb.
7. A Hard Day’s Night
This is where it starts getting really tough, but I ended up going for A Hard Day’s Night in 7th place. There are a number of Beatles albums that have superb album openers and A Hard Day’s Night is certainly one of the best. That opening chord is one of the most recognisable musical moments in a song by any artist ever.
To me, this album began a continuous stream of faultless albums by The Beatles, apart from Beatles For Sale perhaps. There was no other band that could touch them and this album sounds as fresh and as relevant musically as it did when it was released. My favourite song on the album is When I Get Home which contains some incredible moments.
This is where it starts to get interesting, and where, music aside, the album covers really start to become legendary. The Help! album cover is one everyone must know even if they haven’t actually heard the music the album contains. It’s a classic photo and one of the most recognisable of all time when it comes to album art. But when you slip the record out of the sleeve and put it on you’re treated to some of the best music the Beatles ever recorded.
Starting with the title track, it’s yet another incredible album opener that instantly makes a statement. But it’s songs like You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, Ticket To Ride, I’ve Just Seen A Face and Yesterday which, for me, really make the album as good as it is. The songwriting is as superb in ever sense of the word but ending the album with the monstrous cover of Dizzy Miss Lizzy shows everyone that they were still the same band that covered so many great 50’s rock and roll number in their early days.
5. Rubber Soul
I had trouble with the next two albums because George Harrison himself said that they could have easily been a double album. That said, I’ve decided to go with Rubber Soul at #5. It was a tough call to say the least because this and Revolver are so similar in sound but that doesn’t take away from the brilliance of this album. Lennon’s In My Life is arguably one of the best songs he ever wrote and McCartney has a number of fine moments himself including the opening song Drive My Car the beautifully delivered Michelle.
What’s also great about this album is that George Harrison’s songwriting started to become more noticeable and he was certainly getting more opportunities to include more songs on Beatles albums. If I Needed Someone is my favourite song of his on the album and laid down a solid foundation for his songwriting going forward. They only got better which leads me perfectly onto the next album.
Revolver, where to begin? I mentioned that Harrison’s songwriting was becoming more developed and that couldn’t be more true than the songs on this album. His Taxman is the first song but it’s perhaps I Want To See You that makes the biggest statement, although Love You To is the most musically developed in a way because of the inclusion of Indian musical instruments.
Harrison of course isn’t the only one with great songs on Revolver, both Lennon and McCartney hit the ball out of the big in quite some style with songs like Eleanor Rigby, I’m Only Sleeping, She Said She Said, And Your Bird Can Sing, For No One, Got To Get You Into My Life and the superb Tomorrow Never Knows. These songs could well, up until this point at least, be the most consistent batch of songs ever on a Beatles album. But for me it’s Tomorrow Never Knows that sets the tone for what the band would do musically on their next album. The sounds, the tones, the experimentation of using loops and cutting them together to form a musical orgasm was truly revolutionary at the time, not to mention of course the backwards guitar solo that features on I’m Only Sleeping. Revolver is a special album and even though it’s “only” at #4 on my list, it’s an album I love dearly.
3. The Beatles (White Album)
3rd and 2nd place were tough to decide on and on another day they might be the other way around, but for right now I’m going with the White Album in 3rd place. The album is nothing short of a masterpiece however the reason it isn’t higher for me is because certain songs were left off including the incredibl Guilty by George Harrison. It’s one of the best songs from this particular period and why it wasn’t included and a song like Revolution 9 was is beyond me. And Revolution 9 is another reason why the album isn’t higher for me. I understand that it’s more of an art piece than a song, but that isn’t The Beatles, at least for me. Lennon let Yoko Ono too close to the recording of this album and the result is something that does not belong on a Beatles album. Some people may enjoy it of course, but I detest it.
Aside from that it’s an incredible album and a back to basics after the more flamboyant and experimental Sgt. Pepper’s the year before. It showed how diverse the band were as a group to be able to go from one sound to another so effortlessly, proving once again that their songs and their songwriting was, and continues to be, second to none.
2. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
At #2 is Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I vividly remember listening to the title track when I was younger and being too young to full understand the production on the album. When I heard the cheering and applause at the start of the song I thought perhaps it was a live version I was listening to, but it wasn’t. My mind had been well and truly blown and the possibilities with music seemed endless. Not only are the songs great on this album but the overall sound, the production, the God like genius that was George Martin shone through like never before.
And what’s more incredible every time I listen to this album were how young the Beatles were at the time. The music and the songwriting found on Sgt Pepper’s is so advanced it’s hard to believe four young guys in their mid-20’s could have conceived it, but they did. And that’s another reason why the album is so legendary today. Song after song, note after note, melody after melody, this album is faultless and defined the period perfectly.
1. Abbey Road
Abbey Road has been my favourite Beatles album for many years now. The return of George Martin as producer after the disorganised Get Back sessions was a smart move for what would turn out to be the last album the Beatles recorded together, even though Let It Be was released a year later. It’s an incredible album on so many levels. It’s no secret that Paul took the reigns on this one and even though the band claim not to have thought about it as their last album during the recording sessions, there was probably a feeling (from Paul especially) that the Beatles and their legacy had to end on the right note, and Abbey Road was the perfect ending.
Song wise, I can’t fault anything. There isn’t a moment on the whole album where I want to skip onto the next track. The famous Abbey Road Medley, in my eyes, is the most advanced and brilliant thing that any band has ever done musically. I may have other albums that I love over Abbey Road but it’s the Medley that remains my favourite musical achievement by any artist. A rollercoaster of music, a gorgeous collection of songs even though when you get down to it many of the songs were just thrown together, especially by John. But it’s the end result, the presentation that makes this album my favourite Beatles album. I love it.
Which order would you rank the Beatles album? Leave your answers in the comment section!
For the OPINION PIECE after the next one I will attempt to name my ten favourite songs by The Beatles. This is something I actually started before writing this article but it became very difficult to land on only ten songs. However, my picks will be in the 8th OPINION PIECE article coming next week.