Tuesday, December 30, 2014

10 The White Album (1968) The Beatles




This used to be my favourite Beatles album. In fact for a while it was probably my favourite album of all time. I listened to it constantly and it became my go to album when I was in that "what do I feel like listening to now?" mood. I always felt like listening to The White Album.

Over the course of years, White has slipped in my estimations. It was first overtaken by Abbey Road and now it's possibly been overtaken by Revolver and Rubber Soul mainly for their solid consistency.

The White Album always had some amazing highs but some terrible and piteous lows. There are definite skip tracks but over the years songs that had some novelty value have worn a bit thin for me. As I've aged the "Good" column has stayed constant but the "Maybe" column has thinned and the "Bad" column has grown slightly longer to accommodate it. As I've moved from enjoying this on a cassette to owning it on CD, where I've had access to a skip function, and finally in a digital format which I can manipulate at will, I've developed less tolerance for Bungalow Bill and his ilk.

(By the way, I know this isn't actually The White Album and is officially called "The Beatles" but it's always the White Album to me)

Back in the USSR

The White Album is lauded for experiments, stylistic changes and general quirkiness but it's supported by good songwriting. Back in the USSR is just a simple and basic rock song which is nothing but an outstanding example of its kind. Despite the fact that it's lyrically a bit controversial for a song recorded in the Cold War, it's bread and butter stuff for the Beatles and it proves that they could do straight ahead rock better than anyone else at the time. (it also proves that they didn't really need Ringo. Their drummer had walked out at the time so Paul played the drums himself and did a great job)

Dear Prudence

It's often said that The White Album was a compilation of solo tracks recorded by the three Beatles working as their own independent artists, which is true to an extent but overstating the case somewhat. Dear Prudence was written by Lennon who sings lead vocals and plays guitar but Paul plays drums, bass, piano, fl├╝gelhorn and also provides percussion overdubs. The idea that the Beatles paths barely crossed during the recording just isn't true. Prudence is beautiful by the way and all the stronger for being a ballad by John that isn't about his mother or Yoko, two subjects he was known to dwell on somewhat.

Glass Onion

Glass Onion hasn't made the move from "undecided" to "bad" in the ledge of my mind but it's sort of teetering there. Years of listening have dulled and not heightened its impact and it's become a bit take-or-leave in my mind. The self-referential nature is fun but I'm not sure there's enough at its heart to keep it interesting. There's a limit to how many times you can nod knowingly at "The Walrus was Paul" before the novelty wears off completely.

Ob-la-di Ob-la-da

For many this is not just the worst song on the album, it's the worst song the Beatles ever recorded. John certainly thought so and apparently hated having anything to do with it. I've always kind of liked it. It's disposable silly fun but I have no problem with it. It might be an indication of Paul turning to the light side while John was getting darker in his songwriting, but that balance isn't a bad thing as far as I'm concerned.

Wild Honey Pie

Skip this. Seriously. This is just nonsense. It's not part of the album's charm, it's bollocks and while I used to endure it on my tape copy I've barely heard it since I first held the CD in my hands.

The continuing Story of Bungalow Bill

This used to be cute. "Hey Bungalow Bill" used to be fun to say but to be honest over the years it's got kind of annoying. It's not just the presence of Yoko (who makes anything that much more irritating) it's just a stupid kind of song with only a faintly catching chorus line to redeem it.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

As I said at the start, the lows are pretty low on this album but the highs are just magnificent. The White Album was the first Beatles release that saw George take "best song" honours and despite facing some stiff competition, he pulls of an absolute winner here. Weeps is in my top five Beatles songs of all time from its opening to Clapton's solo. It's just brilliant. I've always thought it was a huge shame that George never did this song justice when he played it live. In his few tours he either changed the lyrics or added pointless backing vocals and in every instance buggered it up. I'd love a great live version of him singing this masterpiece with a truly weeping solo. Special mention should go to the acoustic demo which is also great, both are worth enjoying.

Happiness is a Warm Gun

This is what happens when John sort of smooshes tunes together to make something that he considered a coherent whole. It works but partly because he's gutsy enough to try it and just manages to pull it off. It's dark which isn't normally a Beatles mood but they manage some how make it a decidedly Beatles shade of darkness.

Martha My Dear

This isn't about Paul's dog, despite what you may have heard. He got the name from the dog but it isn't actually a song about a dog. Which is a pity because if it was it might be more interesting. Martha My Dear is one of those tracks in which the novelty has just worn off. It's kind of pretty I've had enough.

I'm so Tired

Lennon in blues mode, effective but not his finest contribution.

Blackbird

McCartney in pretty mode. And it is very pretty. It's a beautiful little number which is simple but doesn't need to be any more complicated. Just lovely.

Piggies

I've never really appreciated the Beatles much when they try and do social commentary. There's something about their world statements that just don't connect, almost as if they're trying too hard. It's like they think Dylan does this sort of stuff so they should too. Piggies is definitely George's weakest contribution to the album and far too strained a metaphor to actually say anything worthwhile.

Rocky Racoon

Oh shush Paul. Bungalow Bill and Rocky Racoon should both just sod off together and form a silly character convention far away from this album as far as I'm concerned.

Don't Pass Me By

Ringo writes a song! Go Ring! It's not bad either. I mean it would be a dud if the others had wrote it but Ringo has enough charm to pull it off and it actually works.

Why Don't we Do it In the Road

As simple as Blackbird but not as effective. The Road sounds more like the potential for a great song rather than a great song in its own right. To be honest it sounds like one of the unfinished song fragments that got smooshed together to make the medley on Abbey Road.

I Will

It would have been interesting if The Beatles had arranged The White Album into a more conceptual idea rather than a random one. They could have had a rock side, an experimental side, a cutely narrative side and a side that was more low key and acoustic. It would be interesting to hear how I Will would have fit into a side of vinyl that also boasted Blackbird, Julia, Sexy Sadie and Mother Natures son. I suspect they'd actually complement each other well and make the whole thing a more enjoyable listen. It would also mean we could just skip the experimental side altogether after hearing it once.

Julia

I will and Julia give us a chance to put a John and Paul acoustic number side by side and see which one comes out strongest. It surprises me to say in this case it's Paul. I Will has a beautiful chorus, verse and bridge while Julia sounds a bit too aimless. I will hangs around in your head after its finished but Julia doesn't.

Birthday

One of the things I love about Birthday is that it's so fantastically meaningless...

You say it's your birthday
It's my birthday too, yeah
They say it's your birthday
We're gonna have a good time
I'm glad it's your birthday
Happy birthday to you.

Whenever anyone complains about modern music and says: people don't write good lyrics like they used to I like to point them to this song. The lyrics are something that Paul obviously wrote in a matter of seconds. It's just any old bollocks that entered his head. Fantastic though isn't it? Birthday is just a joyously fabulous song that it's impossible not to like and the fact that the lyrics are rampant tosh don't detract from it for a second.

Yer Blues

Yer Blues is just an attempt to write a blues song by someone whose natural musical mode isn't the Blues. Lennon wasn't a fan of Muddy Waters or Robert Johnson like his contemporaries were. He was more of a pop and R&B man than a blues purist. But Yer Blues proves that even if he wasn't soaked in the blues it had rubbed off on him enough to perform some with a fair degree of efficiency. Yer Blues is a fantastic and powerful track that Lennon gives real feeling to. I suppose you don't need to study the blues if you live them.

Mother Nature's Son

Another gentle Paul ballad and a really nice one. His tunes seemed simple but were perfect little pop songs. I've heard this a million times but I'm still more than happy to see it come along again.

Everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey

Hot on the heels of While my guitar gently weeps as my favourite song on the album. Monkey isn't long or overblown or drawn out or wasting anyone's time, it just jumps in quick, rips your ears off, belts you around the head a few times and then buggers off.  Brilliant stuff. It's often a favourite track for people hearing the album for the first time because it's the most obscure track on the album which is worth hearing. Anyone who puts White on for the first already knows Birthday, Back in the USSR, Weeps etc but this comes as a surprise and an extremely pleasant one at that.

Sexy Sadie

Originally this was a venomous song about The Maharishi but John was persuaded to change the lyrics to tone them down which is why he's singing an angry song about someone named Sadie who is apparently possessed of a certain allure. The end result doesn't really work because it's an angry song that isn't angry and John sounds unconvinced. Shame. It could have been great in its original form.

Helter Skelter

This is really noisy stuff. It's just intense and shouty and the track to play people if they think the Beatles were just light pop and ballads. It's a song that really makes you happy to be leaping around your room shouting about a fairground attraction. And not many other songs do that.

Long Long Long

Another of those songs whose ideas don't seem to justify its running length. Harrison's weakest contribution to the album

Revolution 1

Slow and plodding. Unlike the single version which is faster and infinitely better. The plod version of Revolution is one of the reasons why I don't often bother listening to White all the way through anymore. I wonder how many Vinyl owners never bothered flipping over to side 4.

Honey pie

Paul's love of music hall "granny music" used to annoy Lennon and listening to this it's not hard to see why. It's kind of irritating and doesn't just sound like music hall, it sounds like bad music hall.

Savoy truffle

Another in a line of "not really worth the full song length" list of songs and definitely a track which has started to grate on my nerves a bit over the years.

Cry Baby Cry

The best song on side 4 which isn't saying much. It's infectious though and sometimes I find it in my head and I've got no idea how it got there (although perhaps it's got something to do with the fact that crying babies have been a part of my life for four years now)

Revolution 9

The most infamous Beatles track of them all. Eight minutes of noise collage and sound effects that feels like a lot longer. The fact that Lennon recorded this and Paul didn't want it on the album has enforced the view that John was all about experimenting while Paul was safe and mainstream. The truth is that Paul could experiment as well, he was just clever enough to realise that people didn't need to actually hear it. Is it an interesting idea? Possibly? Does it need to hold up eight minutes of album time? No. No it doesn't.

Good Night.

How many people have missed hearing this track because they turned the album off a few seconds into Revolution 9 knowing that it was unrelenting like that for the next eight minutes? I'm guessing a lot. They weren't really missing a huge amount. Goodnight is too overblown and silly for it's own good.


Like most double albums, there's a good single album somewhere within The White Album and it runs like this:

Back in the USSR
Dear Prudence
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
I'm so Tired
Blackbird
I Will
Birthday
Yer Blues
Mother Natures Son
Everybody's got something to hide
Helter Skelter
Cry Baby Cry
Revolution (fast version)

That's quite possibly the best Beatles album ever. I also think there would be a lot to be said for an Abbey Road style medley of tracks like Why don't we do it in the road, Glass Onion, Savoy Truffle etc which could exist without their welcome being worn out.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "I have never understood all the fuss over the Beatles. They couldn't sing, weren't good looking and played the same guitar music over and over that you can't even dance to."

-You have clearly not listened to the album you're actually reviewing. Put down your computer and walk away, you're not qualified to comment.

So is this fantastic or just all white? Let me know below.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Wishing all regular readers a Happy Christmas. I hope you unwrap some quality music on Christmas day. It's one of the finest gifts you can get.

Join me in the new year for the top ten as this blog counts down to its inevitable conclusion. 

11 The Sun Sessions (1976) Elvis Presley




  1. That's All Right
  2. Blue Moon of Kentucky
  3. I Don't Care If the Sun Don't Shine
  4. Good Rockin' Tonight
  5. Milkcow Blues Boogie
  6. You're a Heartbreaker
  7. I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone
  8. Baby Let's Play House
  9. Mystery Train
  10. I Forgot to Remember to Forget
  11. I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin')
  12. I Love You Because
  13. Trying to Get to You
  14. Blue Moon
  15. Just Because
  16. I Love You Because


Elvis Presley walked into Sun Studios and changed the world. He really did. He made it a better place and revolutionised the planet for all of us by inventing Rock and Roll. Sure there are those who believe he should share the credit with a handful of other people; and it feels like every week someone comes up with a new song they think should be called the first rock and roll record, but nobody could ever discount the impact that the original Sun recordings had on the world.

What sets Elvis apart from all the other people who started Rock and Roll was the fact that Elvis was white, at least cosmetically. He had white skin which meant when he played music written and originally recorded by black people it was acceptable to white folk. Not all of them of course, there were still people who thought all "Jungle Music" was inherently evil, but for a generation of white kids who were bored with their parents music (and who could blame them?) Elvis was a breath of fresh air and was the right colour as well. Ike Turner might like to claim he invented rock and roll but Elvis made it a style that everyone could enjoy.

But unlike Pat Boone, who took black music and bleached it till it was lifeless pop, Elvis understood what he was singing and brought something sensational to the table. He had an amazing voice and was an incredibly dynamic performer. Listening to these tracks more than sixty years after they were recorded they still have a real power and impact. The recordings might be in mono and they might show the degradation of age, but the performance is still fresh and exciting thanks to that amazing vocal talent. It's hard to believe that when he sang these songs he wasn't a seasoned studio performer and didn't have a massive concert career behind him. Before he played That's All Right he hadn't performed in a single live show, had any vocal training  or formal lessons. He hadn't met the band before or run through anything with them before that day. It was the sound of magic being made.

Credit should go to the band. In the years since Elvis performed in Sun we still haven't really improved on rock and roll band blueprint they laid down in that session. A drummer keeping rhythm, a bass player adding depth and a guitar player taking a lead break. It worked then and it still works today. Granted we've swapped the cumbersome upright bass for the more portable bass guitar but the principal is still the same. There's a reason why Scotty Moore is still revered by guitarists today. None of his playing sounds dated or old fashioned and his eight-bar guitar breaks are a thing of beauty and perfection.

The other reason to appreciate the Sun Sessions tracks is that, unlike a lot of his contemporaries, Elvis was a long way from a one trick pony. These 15 tracks encompass true rock and roll (That's alright, Good Rockin tonight) Country (Blue Moon of Kentucky) slow ballads (I'll Never Let you Go Little Darlin), blues (Milk Cow Blues) and popular standards (I Forgot to Remember to Forget, Blue Moon). Elvis took in a huge variety of musical styles and ideals in his life and he understood them all. He would later add Gospel to his repertoire with equal success.

I don't choose to put on Sun Sessions often by choice but I can't help but treat it with a degree of measured awe when I do. Elvis really was a huge talent and this really is music that changed the world. It turned rock and roll from a musical sideline into a revolution and popular music wouldn't be the same if it hadn't existed. Thanks Elvis, may you rest in peace.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Before Col Tom Parker, Before Ed Sullivan, Before Hollywood, Before Percilla, Before Hawaii, Before Las Vegas, Before Drugs, Before The Gut - There was ROCK and ROLL!! I Challange ANYONE to listen to this legendary first reconding session in 1955 and tell me there has ever been anyone better!!"

-Yeah, hard to disagree with that.

So is this the start of rock and roll or does something else deserve the credit? Let me know below

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

12 Kind of Blue (1959) Miles Davis




1. So What
2. Freddie Freeloader
3. Blue in Green
4. All Blues
5. Flamenco Sketches

I always make a bit of a git of myself when I write about jazz. It's a style of music whose appeal I struggle to put into actual words. I know there are people who can and do it very well but usually they're actual performers themselves. It's interesting that in order to be a pop or rock reviewer you don't need to have played an instrument in your life, you just have to know what you like, but in order to write about Jazz you need to have a background in your subject and a knowledge spawned from an attempt to make the music yourself.  There are some great writer/performers out there who have written some fantastic stuff about jazz and this album in particular. The liner notes to my copy of Kind of Blue make for bafflingly pleasing reading as it references terms that I just don't understand but wish I did. I don't understand what syncopated actually means and I can't tell you why modal jazz is different to jazz that isn't modal.

In fact my reading about Kind of Blue has actually made me understand it less rather than understand it more. I've read about how pianist Bill Evans could play a chord without actually playing the chord, or at least some of the notes, and instead play around the chord and suggest the chord. I don't understand how this works. I don't get how you suggest three notes by playing different ones. It's all got me baffled.

What I'm trying to say is that I don't know why I love Kind of Blue but I can tell you that I adore it to bits. It's blissfully perfect in every way. It's gloriously dense because every single player is doing something interesting at every available moment. Nobody is just hammering out a rhythm while wondering where they're going for dinner and nobody is coasting along, they're all playing their little hearts out all the time and they're just making that stuff up. Nobody is following sheet music, they're just letting the music pour out of them like it was pumped into their body and needed an outlet to prevent them from exploding. The sound of  a bunch of guys making music up at the same time should be a recipe for disaster but whatever loose rules they were sticking to (I think it was a form of modal syncopation) keeps them together. It helps that they're clearly listening to each other as well. Nobody is off on their own planet having an aimless noodle. It all sounds like a coherent and structured group performing a structured idea.

I have made the mistake of putting Kind of Blue on as background music when I've got company around which I realise is a huge error because I have very few friends that are anywhere near as interesting as Kind of Blue is. I find myself wishing my guest would shut up and appreciate the music. It's easy to think it could be background material but it benefits from your full attention. When I hear the opening notes of So What I just want to sit back and enjoy the whole thing.

Kind of Blue is genuinely perfect. It's the jazz album that non-jazz fans like and in its time has converted many non jazz heads to the joys of good jazz music. Be one of those guys if you haven't already.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "how can someone enjoy the horn when all through EVERY song this constant bass thumping, boom boo boo boom boom boo boom boo boom boom boom boo boo boom STUPID!"

-Um... turn the bass on your stereo down maybe? Just a thought.

So does this make you Kind of Blue or Kind of Happy? Let me know below

Thursday, December 11, 2014

13 The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967) The Velvet Underground




1. Sunday Morning
2. I'm Waiting For The Man
3. Femme Fatale
4. Venus In Furs
5. Run Run Run
6. All Tomorrow's Parties
7. Heroin
8. There She Goes Again
9. I'll Be Your Mirror
10. Black Angel's Death Song
11. European Son

There are a couple of entries on this countdown which I can honestly say I've done a complete reversal on: albums or artists I was initially not a fan of but have come to appreciate and even love over time. The VU is definitely of them.

Many years ago, a work colleague tried to convince me of the benefits of the VU and I have to confess I wasn't ready for them. I listened and concluded they just weren't for me. They confirmed what I'd always suspected: they were something of an acquired taste.

It's possible I was correct but I've since definitely acquired the taste. The access point was the easily accessible Loaded which is the VU album that non VU fans like but it led me deeper to try and appreciate this masterpiece, which really is as good as everyone gives it credit for. It's tempting to believe that the only reason The Velvet Underground and Nico is lauded so much is because it was so ignored at the time. We're all over-praising an album because we're so romantically attached to the notion that quality work went totally ignored in its day. While it's true there is a certain cool factor in liking this album and knowing it makes you smarter than the entire of 1967, but that's not the only attraction.

There are some simply outstanding songs on this album. I'm waiting for the Man is a great rock and roll song by anyone's standards. It's not darkly impenetrable, weirdly esoteric, emotionally disturbing or any of the other labels that get thrown at the VU, it's just a great rock song. True it's about waiting for a heroin dealer which in 1967 wasn't in any way cool but that's beside the point. Speaking of heroin, the song Heroin is apparently about heroin. While other bands were trying to subtly drop hints at marijuana or LSD usage into their lyrics, The VU were happy to write a song that was blatantly and unequivocally about an intravenous drug trip.  The lyrics not only talk about taking heroin, the song structure, with its lazy opening tones which build to a crescendo, is designed to replicate the feeling of a trip in progress. Speaking as someone who has never used heroin I have no idea how accurate the aural depiction is, but I can tell you that it works as a Rock and Roll song. Run Run Run is another great track which could easily have been a minor hit for lots of other bands performing at the time, assuming of course that they dropped the heroin references.

I'm Waiting for The Man, Heroin and Run Run Run are three fantastic songs with brilliant Lou Reed vocals but then Reed's singing isn't the problem a lot of people have with The Velvet Underground and Nico. The issue is the Nico bit.

Nico was a German chanteuse, a word which I think means "woman possessed of a deep voice". She sings her lyrics with a definite German accent in a register below what most people consider a normal female range. For those used to pretty singers with pretty voices it must have been a real shock to encounter someone who sounds like she's not just from the other side of the Berlin wall, she's actually a part of its foundations.

When you can get past the fact that Nico has an unconventional voice, you can definitely start to really enjoy and not just endure her contributions to the album. I'll be your mirror is great, All Tomorrows parties is brilliant and Femme Fatale is kind of haunting. I've heard them all done by more classically acceptable singers with pretty voices and they don't have anything near the appeal of the original. There really is something to be said for the value of character and personality in a vocal performance and this proves how important matching the right singer to the song really is.

Even if you overcome the hurdle of Nico's voice, this album still has challenges to throw at you. European Son is basically just loud feedback and distortion and The Black Angels Death Song sounds like... well it sounds a lot like a Black Angel would if it was dying. Neither are the sorts of tracks that your mother would put on for a relaxing afternoon.

The Velvet Underground and Nico isn't just a novelty album that has gained a reputation thanks to its initial obscurity and famous cover. It's a great set of songs in its own right and deserves all the praise it gets. If you're not a fan then can I urge you to give it a few more listens? You might be exactly where I was once, but trust me you'll be much happier where I am now.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "I bought this CD after a guy at a coffee shop saw me playing my Strokes CD on my player. He said, if you like the Strokes you'll like the velvet Underground."

-That's a very cool way to get into music "Some stranger reccomended this album..." shame he didn't end up enjoying it.

So is this as addictive as... I don't know some addictive substance, I can't think of one right now... or not? Let me know below

Thursday, December 4, 2014

14 Abbey Road (1969) The Beatles



Abbey Road isn't just a great Beatles album, it's an important one. It's one that Beatles fans need in order to end their story on a high instead of a depressing kind of low.

After spending a painful few weeks staring at each other in hatred for the dismal Let it Be sessions, the band was pretty much ready to go their separate ways and call it a day.  They were happy to slink off into their solo careers leaving someone else to salvage what they could from the Let it Be sessions and consequently make the band's final statement a sad record of their infighting and bickering. Thankfully Paul had more respect for the Band's legacy and persuaded them to reunite in their old studio with their old producer for a final album made the way they used to.  The end result is Abbey Road which is thankfully a triumph. If you're going to listen to the Beatles albums in order of release then Let It Be will be your final moment, but if you listen to them in they order they were created you can end the journey that starts with Please Please Me with this masterpiece and feel like you've had a much more satisfying trip.

Come Together.

Come together has a brilliantly slinky baseline some outstandingly cryptic lines and a fantastic vocal performance. It's also responsible for the best legal settlement in music history. For years people have been suing other people who they think have lifted bits of their music. There are a huge number of lawyers in America getting extremely rich representing disgruntled musicians who are suing other disgruntled musicians demanding a percentage of royalties because their songs sound a bit similar. Most of these settlements end up with one party paying the other some cash, but Come Together's lawsuit had a much better result. Lennon was sued by the people who held the publishing rights for Chuck Berry's catalogue for a line that he definitely lifted from a Berry song. Instead of handing over any money however, Lennon agreed to record some of their songs on his next solo album which would give them royalties but wouldn't cost him. How cool is that? I'd like to see all such disputes settled this way: okay so you clearly plagiarized the tune from these guys so you should probably listen to the rest of their catalogue because you're covering three of their songs on your next LP.

Something

It's definitely fitting that one of the best songs on Abbey Road is by George. Lennon and McCartney started life as the Beatles songwriting strength and George was running to catch up. By the White Album he was more than holding his own and by Abbey Road he was producing songs as good as Something, which nobody else was doing at the time. It's the perfect love ballad which has soul not schmaltz at its core.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Nobody covers this song much anymore. At the time it was kind of a cheery kids song and I remember singing it in school but as the years went on people started to think "Wait, is hitting someone with a hammer really that cute?" Somehow brutal violence could be overlooked in the late sixties and you could easily slip multiple blunt-force trauma fatalities into an album as long as the tune was bouncy. We've changed a bit now.

Oh Darling

It was easy to write McCartney off at the end of the Beatles career as someone who was moving towards the Middle of The Road artistically and producing dull and tedious music. There are those who believe he was turning his back on rock and roll and embracing music hall. Oh Darling proves them wrong. It's a fantastic song that he really belts out with genuine passion.

Octopuses Garden

The obligatory Ringo track and one that he wrote (almost) by himself. While his other songs were often covers or written by a fellow Beatle, this one was his own idea. It's one of those Beatles songs which is great for kids but a bit tiring when you're an adult, especially when people started playing it to you when you were three. There aren't many things I liked when I was three that I still like now.

I want you (She's so Heavy)

A good song? Yes. Worth extending to almost eight minutes? No. When it starts you're pleased to see it arrive but by the time it finishes you're definitely glad to see the back of it. The extended coda wears out its welcome. It's made more frustrating by the knowledge that George had some great songs lying around that could have been included and if John had turned this into a regular length composition there would have been space for one, but no instead of hearing All Things Must Pass we had to hear this repeat itself over and over again.

Here Comes the Sun

Another classic George composition. How many people sing this spontaneously when the sun breaks through a cloud cover suddenly? And how much more joyous does it make the situation when it does? Some songs just put a permanent smile on your face, this is definitely one of them.

Because

I love Because. Partly because it's a fantastic song but partly because it's the sound of John, Paul and George working together in harmony, literally. The gorgeous harmony vocals were created because the three of them put aside their differences and banded together to make a great song as good as it could be. Nobody was saying "That's good enough" and leaving to pursue their solo interests, they all cared enough to put the effort in and make the best Beatles album they could. Thanks guys.

The Medley

The rest of Abbey Road is taken up with a medley which almost acts as a clearing house for half finished songs that Lennon and McCartney had lying around and couldn't brush up into a full track. It shouldn't work but it does. It doesn't have a weak moment from its opening note to the final triumphant finale as it travels through lyrical vitriol and absurdity, rock and pop, vocal harmonies, drum solos and lead breaks. It's all there and every single bit of it works.

My only quibble with Abbey Road is the presence of Her Majesty as the final moment. It would be perfect if the finale moment in the Beatles catalogue was "And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make" which might be clumsily worded but is as good a summation of the Beatles ethos as your likely to find. It comes at the conclusion of a magnificent album of music and should send the listener on their way with a huge grin plastered over their face. Sadly Her Majesty breaks the euphoria and is the album's final track. Her Majesty is a pointless little 23 second ditty with useless lyrics and an aimless tune that starts nowhere and ends up in the same place. It was included on the album's final mix by accident but approved by the band which on the whole is a shame. I'm tempted to say it would be better if it had never existed but then if it didn't Chumbawamba would never have recorded a cover version with added verses and chorus which turn it into a fantastic republican anthem.

Abbey Road is my favourite Beatles album and the one that I return to most frequently. There's not a weak song on its running length and the whole thing creates a joyous mood, making it one of those rare albums that genuinely has the power to lift my day. It's testament to the Beatles' genius that even though we're at number 14 on the countdown, there are still four more of their albums to come. To my mind none of them is better than this one but my favourite Beatles album has changed several times over the years and may well change again.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "England's Fab Bore released this album in 1969, during which the Beatles were falling apart at the seams due to creative, financial, and legal issues. "Come Together" sounds fake, and everything else is tired. Who would buy this when you have Pink? Get her new album instead."

-Do you know the only fun I have with this whole Amazon review thing now? It's reading reviews that are obviously written by American 14 year olds and trying to guess which band they will say is better than the artist they're writing about. Which artist are they going to claim the reader should buy instead? I didn't see Pink coming this time but that doesn't make it any less depressing.


So... favourite Beatles album? Abbey Road? Sgt Peppers? Revolver? Something else? Let me know below.