The Beatles released 12 albums during their active career including Magical Mystery Tour (which was actually first released as an EP) but not including Yellow Submarine (which only had 4 new songs) or any of the mangled US versions of their albums.

This is my ranking of those 12 albums from best to worst.

1. The Beatles (The White Album)

The White Album was released in 1968 following the release of Sgt. Pepper & Magical Mystery Tour in 1967. The White Album was a big departure from the sound of those albums.

While the songs on Sgt. Pepper & Magical Mystery Tour are bursting at the seems with layers of musical ideas, many of the songs on The White Album are stripped down in comparison. While the Sgt Pepper album seemed to loosely tie the songs together into a theme, the only theme on The White Album appears to be that there is no theme.

Many detractors of The White Album say it has too many weak songs (by Beatles standards anyway) to be considered The Beatles greatest work. While I agree there’s certainly no song as weak as “Don’t Pass Me By” on Sgt. Pepper, I still disagree with that conclusion.

To my ears the drastic variation in style (and quality) of The White Album’s songs are what keeps it so interesting. It’s an album I’ve listened to countless times over the years yet I still hear something new and enchanting in it with each new listen.

And yes, I love that “Revolution #9” was included on the album. While I often stop the album at “Cry Baby Cry,” I like having the option of taking that trip if I want to. I’ve listened to “Revolution #9” many times and it’s always a different trip. Certainly it’s not a track for everyone but that makes it all the more special to those of us who appreciate it.

Highlights: Dear Prudence, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Happiness Is A Warm Gun, I’m So Tired, Blackbird, I Will, Helter Skelter, Cry Baby Cry.

2. Sgt. Pepper

It’s become hip to say that Sgt. Pepper is overrated. Of course what’s hip is often BS and this is certainly such a case. Sgt. Pepper is a great album that deserves all of the accolades it has received over the years.

And while The White Album has long been my favorite Beatles album, Pepper is actually getting closer to overtaking that spot as the years pass by.

I feel it’s close to being a perfect album. There’s not a single weak track on it. The album is like a carnival and every song is a different ride at that carnival. Even over 40 years later it’s incredible that one band (a quite young band too, if you think about it) was able to write such incredibly different songs all in one short period and record them for one album.

Plus, I feel it’s impossible for any album that ends with “A Day In The Life” to be overrated. To this day it is the greatest album closer of all time.

Highlights: With A Little Help From My Friends, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, Getting Better, Fixing A Hole, Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite, Within You Without You, A Day In The Life.

3. Revolver

Conversely, it’s become quite hip to say that Revolver is in fact The Beatles best album. That somehow everyone missed it at the time and it was the real ground breaker a whole year before Sgt. Pepper came out. Hearing “Tomorrow Never Knows” it’s understandable how someone could take such a view.

But while the songs on Revolver are nearly as forward looking as Sgt. Pepper’s (although I’d say not quite with the obvious exception of “Tomorrow Never Knows”), there is no theme that holds the songs together. The album plays like a collection of amazing songs, while in comparison Sgt. Pepper has a feeling of cohesiveness. The loose theme of Sgt. Pepper is what made people take notice of the idea of an album as “art form” at the time. While looking back that may not make as much sense today, I do still think there’s some merit to that idea when comparing the two albums.

My main reason for liking Sgt. Pepper more than Revolver is simple, “Yellow Submarine.” I’ve grown quite tired of that song over the years and I think it really sticks out like a sore thumb in the sequencing of the album. It would have worked much better as a single.

Highlights: Eleanor Rigby, I’m Only Sleeping, Here There & Everywhere, She Said She Said, Good Day Sunshine, And Your Bird Can Sing, For No One, Tomorrow Never Knows

4. Abbey Road

Abbey Road is the #1 ranked album of all time over at RateYourMusic.com and while it’s certainly an excellent album I do obviously disagree with that ranking. For me it’s just a bit too slick sounding and not quite as bursting at the seems with ideas as the three albums I’ve ranked above it.

That being said, the side 2 suite is incredible and I think I rank Abbey Road’s side 2 as my most enjoyable listen of any album side The Beatles recorded. Does that mean I hate side 1? No. It’s got some of my favorite Beatles songs including “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “Oh! Darling” along with the classic hits “Come Together” & “Something.” But I could do without “Octopus’s Garden” which like “Yellow Submarine” I’ve grown quite tired of over the years and I now feel it mucks up the flow of the album.

Highlights: Come Together, Oh! Darling, I Want You (She’s So Heavy), All Of Side 2.

5. Magical Mystery Tour

While Magical Mystery Tour was not technically an album release at the time (it was officially an EP), I’m considering it as one for the purposes of this list and since it included quite a few new songs (along with older singles like “Penny Lane” & “Strawberry Fields Forever”) I think it makes sense to think of it as an album at this point.

It includes many of The Beatles greatest psychedelic songs. “I Am The Walrus” & “Strawberry Fields Forever” in particular. If one really wants to get an idea of what The Beatles sounded like at their most purposely “psychedelic” then they should get this album.

I also quite enjoy the wonderfully bizarre film by the same name.

Highlights: I Am The Walrus, Strawberry Fields Forever, Penny Lane

6. Rubber Soul

1965’s Rubber Soul was the album where The Beatles really started expanding their sound and it includes some of the greatest songs they ever recorded. The album showcased The Beatles expanding musically such as with “Norwegian Wood” which was the first song most people ever heard a sitar in, and lyrically such as in “Nowhere Man” which was the first Beatles song to not have any lyrics pertaining to romantic love.

But the album did have a few clunkers too. “What Goes On,” “Wait,” and the awful album closer “Run For Your Life” are all quite weak tracks by Beatles standards.

Highlights: Norwegian Wood, Nowhere Man, Michelle, Girl, I’m Looking Through You, In My Life, If I Needed Someone.

7. Let It Be

Let It Be was the final Beatles album released but not the last one they recorded. It was actually mostly recorded prior to Abbey Road in January of ’69 but released after it in 1970.

The album is inconsistent and sloppy sounding and probably mostly because of that (more so than because of the songs) has received more poor reviews than any other Beatles album.

But there are many great songs on the album and I do feel it is somewhat underrated. The album opener “Two Of Us” is one of my favorites. It also includes the classic piano ballads “The Long And Winding Road” and “Let It Be” along with the great rockers “Get Back” and “I”ve Got A Feeling.”

“Across The Universe” feels very out of place in the sequencing of the album and it should as it was recorded in 1967. But it’s still a great song. Which really goes to the heart of Let It Be’s problem. It’s got a lot of great songs (and a few clunkers, admittedly) but they just don’t seem to quite go together in sound or in style.

Highlights: Two Of Us, Across The Universe, Let It Be, I’ve Got A Feeling, The Long And Winding Road, For You Blue, Get Back

8. A Hard Day’s Night

A Hard Day’s Night was released in 1964 and it was The Beatles 3rd album. It was their first album to feature all original songs and actually is the only Beatles album to feature only Lennon/McCartney originals (as it was before Harrison was a frequent songwriting contributor.)

While I don’t like the individual songs as much as those on Let It Be, it does flow much better as an album and for that reason is sometimes more enjoyable to listen to.

The album is the peak of their early pure pop days before they began to experiment with more complex songs and recording techniques.

Highlights: A Hard Day’s Night, If I Fell, And I Love Her, Can’t Buy Me Love, I’ll Cry Instead, Things We Said Today

9. Help!

I find the best songs on Help! to be better than the best songs on A Hard Day’s Night but yet as a whole the album doesn’t hold together quite as well.

Unlike A Hard Day’s Night, the album includes a couple of covers (“Act Naturally” & “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”) neither of which do I care for at all. The album would be better if they were removed as they are quite out of place and mess up the flow of the album.

But the album does include some of their best pop songs including the classic “Yesterday.” While “Ticket To Ride,” “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” & “Help!” show that John Lennon was at an early songwriting peak.

Highlights: Help!, You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, I Need You, Ticket To Ride, I’ve Just Seen A Face, Yesterday

10. Beatles For Sale

Sandwiched between the superior A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, Beatles For Sale is often overlooked. And when you see that 6 of the 14 songs were covers it’s easy to see why.

But there were some Lennon/McCartney gems on the album as well including “No Reply,” “I’m A Loser,” “I’ll follow the Sun” and “Every Little Thing.” The Beatles originals make the album worth getting. But I find myself quite disinterested in the covers on this one and since that makes up a large portion of the songs on the album, I don’t listen to it often.

Highlights: No Reply, I’m A Loser, I’ll Follow The sun, Every Little Thing, What You’re Doing

11. Please Please Me

The Beatles first album is mostly interesting to me as an historical artifact at this point as I don’t particularly enjoy listening to it. But the opening (“I Saw Her Standing There”) & closing (“Twist & Shout”) tracks are great.

Strangely enough, as I don’t like listening to most of their covers, I do enjoy some the covers on this one (“Anna,” “Baby It’s You,” and of course “Twist & Shout.”)

Highlights: I Saw Her Standing There, Please Please Me, There’s A Place, Twist And Shout.

12. With The Beatles

Their second album is much like their first without as much of the whole “historical significance” thing which means I listen to it very rarely indeed.

Highlights: All My Loving, You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me

I recommend obtaining at least the first 9 albums on this list and supplementing that collection with the Past Masters 1 & Past Masters 2 collections which include all of their singles that are not on these albums (and that includes many of their greatest songs.)

You should then get the Yellow Submarine Songtrack which isn’t really an album but does include some great songs you can’t get elsewhere (particularly “It’s All Too Much.”) and interesting alternate mixes of some of their biggest hits.

Then if you still need more Beatles (and if you’re like me, you will) get the Anthology series, particularly Anthology 2 & Anthology 3.



Source by Johnny Moon

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