The folks over at Ultimate Classic Rock published their ranking of the Beatles’ albums a couple of weeks ago. God bless them, they tried, but they got it all wrong. So I’m here to set them straight with my ranking. Enjoy!
13. Yellow Submarine (1969)
#13 on UCR‘s list
Yellow Submarine is really only half a Beatles album — the other side is George Martin’s score for the lackluster animated film. Even the half that belongs to the Fab Four contains only four original songs joined by two tunes that appeared earlier. The Yellow Submarine soundtrack really only has value to hardcore Beatles fans.
12. Beatles for Sale (1964)
#12 on UCR‘s list
You can tell on Beatles for Sale that the demands of Beatlemania had taken their toll on John, Paul, George, and Ringo. The weary, somber faces on the cover and the tunes produced on the quick within demonstrate how weary the Fab Four must been at that time. Even though a subpar Beatles album beats most any other artist any day, Beatles For Sale is a noticeable drop from “A Hard Day’s Night,” which preceded this album by a mere 21 weeks.
11. Please Please Me (1963)
#10 on UCR‘s list
Here is the beginning of the Fab Four in all their sweaty, frenetic glory. Soulful, immediate, and exciting, Please Please Me shows the promise of so many great things to come. It’s easy to see how Great Britain — and the rest of the world soon after — would succumb to the charms of the lads from Liverpool.
10. Let It Be (1970)
#8 on UCR‘s list
It’s obvious without even seeing the movie that the Beatles had fractured beyond repair. Graceful moments like the title cut and “The Long and Winding Road,” the band’s final two number one hits, and other magical songs like “Across the Universe” and “Two of Us” fall in between odd tracks, creating a record that’s uneven as a whole. At least closing the album with “Get Back” allows the Beatles to leave on a high note.
9. Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
#9 on UCR‘s list
For the Beatles’ 1967 television special Magical Mystery Tour, the band released the soundtrack in an unusual format in the UK — a double-EP consisting of two seven-inch records with three songs each. The U.S. release appeared on an LP with five singles that hadn’t appeared on an album previously added. The TV special songs range from the infamous, inscrutable “I am the Walrus” to the elegant, nostalgic “Your Mother Should Know,” and the addition of the singles prevents the soundtrack songs from being too uneven. Magical Mystery Tour is a pleasant little collection.
8. With the Beatles (1963)
#11 on UCR‘s list
This album is a perfect snapshot of Beatlemania. With the Beatles captures the R&B drenched, ready-for-live-performance vibe of the Fab Four’s early work. The soul covers blend in well with the spirited originals. I dare you: try not to tap your foot or clap your hands. And if you close your eyes, you can almost hear the teenage girls screaming.
7. Help! (1965)
#6 on UCR‘s list
The Fab Four’s second film soundtrack serves as a nice bridge from their lighter-weight early days to the deeper, more experimental stuff to come. Only the first seven cuts appeared in the movie Help!, but the other songs — including the two cover tunes — fit nicely with the soundtrack songs. The Beatles rock nicely on hits like the title track and “Ticket to Ride,” while leaving space for more delicate, acoustic moments like the Simon & Garfunkel-esque “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and the eternally beautiful “Yesterday.” It’s a fine effort for a band at a turning point in its career.
6. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
#7 on UCR‘s list
The soundtrack to A Hard Day’s Night seems almost unfairly packed with hits, particularly the seven tracks that made the film. With so many fine songs and great memories of their wacky first appearance on the big screen, it ‘s easy to see why it’s a go-to purchase for many fans. It’s worth noting too that A Hard Day’s Night is the first album to feature all-original, all-Lennon-McCartney compositions. This record stands head and shoulders above the rest of the albums of the Beatles’ astonishingly prolific early period.
5. Rubber Soul (1965)
#3 on UCR‘s list
Here is where the Beatles truly began to transition from a rock-and-roll band to true artists. Rubber Soul displays a new maturity in both lyrics and music. As the band started exploring topics beyond simple love songs, songs like “Nowhere Man” and “In My Life” resonate with depth and emotion, but even love songs like “Michelle” and “Girl” reflect growth in songcraft. With Rubber Soul, the world began to see a greatness that transcended Beatlemania.
4. Revolver (1966)
#2 on UCR‘s list
Revolver doubled down on the artistry and experimentation of Rubber Soul, yet the album contains some of the band’s most accessible music. Paul shines on this record with memorable performances on songs like “Here, There, and Everywhere,” “Eleanor Rigby,” and “Got to Get You into My Life,” while John chimes in with songs like “Doctor Robert” and “She Said She Said.” George contributes one of his most pointed social commentaries in “Taxman,” while Ringo joins in for the fun of “Yellow Submarine.” Who knew experimentation could be so fascinating and enjoyable?
3. The Beatles (the White Album) (1968)
#4 on UCR‘s list
The ultimate irony of the White Album is that it was the Beatles’ self-titled effort, yet each member brought some of the most disparate songs in the band’s catalog. The White Album suffers from the same problem that plagues so many double albums — too many tracks. Rather than create one kick-ass record, John, Paul, George, and Ringo released 34 tracks, and some of them come across as filler. The album is at turns frightening, baffling, blistering, and downright beautiful. And somehow it works. The Beatles presents a snapshot of a band in the early stages of dissolution in the form of a stunning, flawed epic that still packs a fascinating punch.
2. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
#1 on UCR‘s list
Sgt. Pepper is the gold standard that the rock world seems to desire to live up to, and it’s easy to see why. Here’s an album that serves as a perfect time capsule of psychedelia, and it still provides us with Exhibit A that rock music can be art. Under Paul’s leadership, the band presented a loosely connected song cycle that elevated rock to something higher and more fascinating — and Paul got to indulge his Edwardian fancy a little more. Sgt. Pepper belongs near the top of the list for “A Day in the Life” alone. Enough said.
1. Abbey Road (1969)
#5 on UCR‘s list
Though Apple released Let It Be later, Abbey Road is for all intents and purposes the Beatles’ swan song. As such, they go out on a high note. This album is rock as experimental art, as beautiful art, and as just plain good music. There’s not a poor track on the record, and everyone gets his turn to lead well. Side 2 shows that by this time the Beatles had perfected their art. I’ve often heard people refer to this side of Abbey Road as a medley, but that’s not quite right. Rather, it’s a collection of shorter suites of music that demonstrate that the Beatles truly went out at the top of their game.
There you go! Feel free to weigh in with your choices in the comments section below.