I don’t have a lot to say about one of the most famous albums of all time. At least, I don’t have a lot to say about the album as a whole. I have more to say about the individual songs, which I’ll just leave in my song notes. This is fitting. The Beatles were famously not getting along at this point, writing and even recording many of these songs apart from each other. And that shows. The album feels more like a collection of songs than a cohesive whole. That’s not necessarily a criticism, as most of these songs are excellent. It’s just there and doesn’t give me a lot to write about.
The other part that makes this album so hard to write about is that we already know how great the great songs are. “Back In The U.S.S.R.,” “Birthday,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and “Helter Skelter” are all part of the definition of rock and roll, even over forty years later. So coming to the album now you just take those songs for granted and the clunkers and near-clunkers end up dominating your opinion that much more. So maybe my rating doesn’t reflect just how great the great song are.
In the interest of making this review a little bit longer, I’ll either contribute to an ongoing argument that already exists or start one that should exist. The best side of this double album is Side Three. It’s only got one mixer, “Birthday,” and it ends with the worst song in the collection, “Long, Long, Long,” but in between those two it has five strong keepers, including probably my favorite Beatles song, “Helter Skelter,” that doesn’t get mixed pretty much only because of it’s fade-out and face-back-in thing at the end. After that the quality of sides, in descending order, are Sides Two, Four, and One. But I haven’t thought really hard about that last part, and in fact Side One’s first four tracks are phenomenal.
Finally, this is the remastered (2009) version, and so there’s a five minute mini-documentary included with the CD. It’s about what you’d expect. It’s got each of The Beatles plus George Martin providing commentary over stills and video of them in India and recording the album. Fine. Not earth shattering.
Mix: “Back In The USSR,” “Glass Onion,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Blackbird,” “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?,” “Birthday,” “Savoy Truffle”
Keep: “Dear Prudence,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Happiness Is A Warm Gun,” “Martha My Dear,” “I’m So Tired,” “Rocky Raccoon,” “Don’t Pass Me By,” “Yer Blues,” “Mother Nature’s Son,” “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey,” “Sexy Sadie,” “Helter Skelter,” “Cry Baby Cry,” “Revolution 9”
Like: “Wild Honey Pie,” “The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill,” “Piggies,” “I Will,” “Julia,” “Revolution 1,” “Honey Pie,” “Good Night”
Filed Between: The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road
- Back In The USSR – That high, sustained guitar note when Paul sings “Let me hear your balalaikas ringing out” is one of my favorite moments in rock.
- Dear Prudence –
- Glass Onion – One of my faves on this disc.
- Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – I made this a mix on my review of 1967-1970, so I guess I’ll keep it as that, no pun intended.
- Wild Honey Pie – Much better than “Honey Pie,” even though I think this is just supposed to be some jokey version.
- The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill – Wow this sounds terrible. Is this an anti-hunting song? This might be ditch. It got liked, but barely. Can be annoying.
- While My Guitar Gently Weeps – Kind of surprised this was only keep when I reviewed 1967-1970, but there you go.
- Happiness Is A Warm Gun – Lennon does some stuff on this album where he pastes together sections that wouldn’t seem to go together into one song.
- Martha My Dear – Start of side 2.
- I’m So Tired – Here’s another one where Lennon does that pasting thing. I do not like the A section at all, but when this picks up it’s awesome.
- Blackbird –
- Piggies –
- Rocky Raccoon –
- Don’t Pass Me By – Ringo. Beginning keeps it from being mixed. Fantastic fiddle part, another reason Ringo’s the best Beatle.
- Why Don’t We Do It In The Road? – Who is that singing so low? It’s Paul. Awesome.
- I Will –
- Julia –
- Birthday –
- Yer Blues – My take on this is like The Beatles saying, “Yeah, the blues? It’s a tired, limited genre, but let’s knock the s**t out of it” and then doing just that. Awesome.
- Mother Nature’s Son –
- Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey – about Michael Jackson?
- Sexy Sadie –
- Helter Skelter – This might be the best song ever. But it gets funky at the end making a mix harder. One of the things I really like about this is that it’s Paul doing a song in the style of John…and totally killing it.
- Long, Long, Long – The worst thing The Beatles have ever done? Completely forgettable and regrettable. The only ditch on the album.
- Revolution 1 – Start of side 4. This seems so different from the version I think I know. It is. The rocker, titled just “Revolution,” is the single. This is much slower with the shoo be doo wop thing going on. Wikipedia seems to describe this at length, I think this may have been the first version, but the history is hard to parse.
- Honey Pie – Kind of a vaudeville show thing going on.
- Savoy Truffle – Probably my favorite of the songs I didn’t know coming in. I love this.
- Cry Baby Cry –
- Revolution 9 – Wow, this is like 8:20 long. Maybe a minute or so long, but I really think this is a great piece. And not just because it was novel. I think it’s really enjoyable. It may be a minute or so long, but Lennon really did some great work on this.
- Good Night –