by Erin Crosbie
13. Yellow Submarine (1969)
In a discography commonly thought to be without any duds, The Beatles do have one standout in this field. Yellow Submarine, the soundtrack for the psychedelic animated film of the same name, isn’t an awful album by any means. The four new songs written for the record vary from quietly excellent (“It’s All Too Much”) to pleasant diversions (“All Together Now” and “Hey Bulldog”). The problem is, it’s less a Beatles album and more a soundtrack album with a few new songs thrown into the mix. It’s a fine listen, but it’s barely a Beatles studio album.
12. With The Beatles (1963)
The Beatles almost immediately followed up their studio debut, Please Please Me, with the more uneven With The Beatles. Now, With The Beatles is a good album full of good material, but it feels less essential than either Please Please Me or the album that followed it, the confident A Hard Day’s Night.
11. Please Please Me (1963)
The difficulty with writing a list like this is having an album as good as Please Please Me ending up as low as #11. And here the thing: it’s far from a bad album. In fact, it’s a very good album! Probably one of pop music’s finest collection of singles. But as The Beatles developed, even an album as solid as Please Please Me ends up getting the short shrift. The perils of greatness, I suppose.
10. Beatles For Sale (1964)
Beatles For Sale presents an interesting addition to The Beatles’ canon. While it is the last album before Let It Be to significantly feature covers, it also features a host of innovative original songs (“I’ll Follow The Sun”, “Baby’s In Black”, and “No Reply”) that elevate it above earlier records. Plus, the covers are fucking great too -- Paul McCartney’s righteous lead on “Kansas City” shows just how strong a vocalist he could be.
9. Let It Be (1970)
A notoriously troubled recording led to a strong record. Anyone who’s seen the video of the Let It Be session know how incredibly painful it was to create. So painful, in fact, the band recorded Abbey Road just so Let It Be wouldn’t be the last thing they did together. That being said, Let It Be is still a strong album. “Two of Us” is one of Paul’s lushest ballads, and “Dig a Pony” is a solid John Lennon jam. As for the contributions of one Mr. Phil Spector...well, it’s a good thing Let It Be...Naked exists.
8. Help! (1965)
Help! Is a great soundtrack to a lousy film. It’s true! While I have some affection for the film Help!, it’s a big of a mess. The album, on the other hand, is pop perfection. Songs like “Ticket to Ride” and “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” showcase Lennon/McCartney’s growing confidence as songwriters. There’s hardly a dud on the record.
7. Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
Wikipedia does not consider Magical Mystery Tour to be an official studio album, which, whatever. I make the rules now, Wikipedia! Magical Mystery Tour is a combination soundtrack (again, for a terrible film), and a compilation album which at first glance wouldn’t lend itself well to greatness but -- somehow, it works. The album’s trippy, surreal tone is felt throughout, and while I’ve never been as fond of “Hello, Goodbye” as others have, I still appreciate the bizarre tone that permeates the album. The album has given two earlier singles, “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”, a wonderful and beautiful home. Magical Mystery Tour is beautiful and pure, and no one can convince me otherwise. Just listen to “Blue Jay Way”, haters.
6. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
Finally: a soundtrack that’s as good as the film. Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night isn’t just good, it’s great. What about the album, though? Pop heaven. A Hard Day’s Night is The Beatles’ first unambiguously great album, and that comes from melding pop masterpieces like “Can’t Buy Me Love” and more beautiful tracks like “And I Love Her”. There is more depth here than you’d think.
5. Rubber Soul (1965)
Ah, to have a rubber soul. Rubber Soul is a gorgeous record, probably The Beatles’ folkiest. At this point in time, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were listening to a huge amount of Bob Dylan at this point in time, and it shows. The album also introduces some elements that would become instrumental in later Beatles, such as George Harrison’s gorgeous sitar on “Norwegian Wood”. This is also the album with the song where John Lennon talks about murdering a woman which, eh.
4. The Beatles (“White Album”) (1968)
The epitome of the messy double album, but it’s still so good. One of the long standing debates in bars, in music schools, and in comment sections is can the White Album be made into one record? While there are definitely excellent, excellent track listings for single record versions of the album, the album’s grab bag nature paints a compelling portrait of the fractured, ambitious state of The Beatles in 1968. John, Paul, and George all had their own artistic ambitions at the time, and the bloated nature of the record reflects this.
3. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Rolling Stone hailed Sgt. Pepper’s as the greatest album of all time. They’re not far off -- the record is magnificent in its scope and its strong individual tracks. But much has been written about the album’s purported “concept album” status and, eh, this gal ain’t buying it. Sure, it was developed with the idea of creating a fictional band to tour in place of The Beatles, but that band is almost immediately abandoned after the second track, only returning for a reprise of the title track at the end. It’s an incomplete concept, but it’s still one hell of a record.
2. Revolver (1966)
Revolver is an album so good that it’s almost the best The Beatles have ever done, and that’s saying something. Coming off the artistic high of Rubber Soul, Revolver shows a band maturing. “For No One”, “Here, There, And Everywhere”, and “In My Life” are among the most gorgeous songs ever written, and they sit comfortably among more experimental tracks like “He Said, She Said” and “And Your Bird Can Sing”. Revolver is exemplary, and even if people are shouting about it from the rooftops it remains underrated.
1. Abbey Road (1969)
Abbey Road is a miracle. After the fractured, painful sessions of Let It Be, The Beatles went back into the studio for a more positive record. They emerged with Abbey Road, which is an album so iconic, so perfect, that it can only be described as miraculous.
Erin Crosbie is a writer and music lover in Toronto.