The Beatles Albums Ranked
I've been an avid fan of The Beatles since 2009, when the massive remastering campaign brought them back, and they were everywhere. I obviously knew quite a few of their songs, let's say the hits, but I didn't have any of their albums; so at that point, given how easy it was to buy them on CD, I bought Abbey Road, and that's where everything started. I later bought every album and loved every single one of them, so today I thought I'd try to rank them. I have to say that this is completely based on my own preferences, I'm not here to convince anyone to change their mind on what they like or tell them they are wrong. Also, as I said, I like all of their albums, even the last ones. So let's begin.
17 - Yellow Submarine (1968)
This is an album that has always been a bit weird. Being the soundtrack of the movie of the same name, it has a few Beatles' songs on the first half and George Martin's film score on the second. If this is already a kind of a confusing listen, it also has two already released songs on the first side: the title track and All You Need Is Love. That leaves us with only four new songs, that while still being very good, they were basically outtakes. So even if I love all the songs, there is too little to enjoy in here in my opinion; and even if Martin's side is very good, it's not really The Beatles... Decades later we saw the release of Yellow Submarine Songtrack, which had all the songs that are in the film, and that was a much better listening experience, even if all the songs added were from other albums.
16 - Please Please Me (1963)
I know some people love this album as it is a perfect testament of the early Beatles. The fact that it was mostly recorded in a day gave it a "live" feel and it's still pretty exciting to listen to. And while having important songs such as Love Me Do, the title track, I Saw Her Standing There and the legendary cover of Twist And Shout in it, I've never been a big fan of most of the other songs. I've always seen this first album as a bit weak and not very representative of what they were really capable of.
15 - Live At The Hollywood Bowl (2016)
The Beatles weren't exactly known and celebrated as a live band, and they actually stopped doing concerts in 1966 to concentrate on working in the studio. However there was an attempt at making a live album, combining recordings of three concerts at the Hollywood Bowl from August 1964 and from the same month in 1965. Obviously it was hard to make those recordings sound good, due to the famous screaming girls in the audience, but it was released anyway in 1977. But it was in 2016 that we actually got to hear a very good version of this live album, thanks to the work of Giles Martin and the help of a much more modern technology. Now we can hear them play very good versions of some of their early hits, and considering it was impossible for them to hear themselves on stage they did a miraculous job. Maybe not an essential Beatles album, but a nice occasion to hear them play live, which is a rare thing.
14 - Live At The BBC (1994) - On Air - Live At The BBC Vol. 2 (2013)
I've put these two volumes of BBC recordings together simply because they are similar in nature. This is another chance of hearing The Beatles live in the '63/'65 era, and the only reason why this is higher than Live At The Hollywood Bowl on this list is because with both volumes combined you get more than 130 songs! Obviously most of them are played multiple times, so there is quite a bit of repetition, which may be a reason to find this a bit hard to listen all the way through. Still, two essential albums for early Beatles fans.
13 - Beatles For Sale (1964)
Often seen as a step back after A Hard Day's Night, not least because of them relying again on many covers, Beatles For Sale actually shows some early signs of maturity. Songs like No Reply, Baby's In Black, Every Little Thing and I'm A Loser are some of the best of their early years. And while I agree that some of the choices in terms of covers aren't the best (Mr. Moonlight, Words Of Love), it still remains a very enjoyable album.
12 - With The Beatles (1963)
Similar in nature and structure to Please Please Me, I find With The Beatles to be much more enjoyable. Songs like It Won't Be Long, All My Loving, Hold Me Tight, Till There Was You, Not A Second Time, and covers like Please Mr. Postman and You Really Got A Hold On Me are amongst my favourites. I find this album to be a bit more refined than the first one, while still keeping most of the same excitement and freshness.
11 - Help! (1965)
Half soundtrack of the movie of the same name and half filled with various other songs, Help! has its highs and lows. The first side is pretty strong: with standout songs such as the title track, Ticket To Ride and You've Got To Hide Your Love Away. The second side has Yesterday and I've Just Seen A Face, but the rest of it is not exactly unforgettable in my opinion. So it's not one of their strongest albums overall, but it clearly shows them developing a clear maturity in their compositions.
10 - Let It Be (1970)
The last chapter of The Beatles' discography was actually meant to come out way before Abbey Road, and was going to be some king of return to their "roots". Get Back was its early name, and they filmed most of the tense sessions that culminated with the iconic rooftop concert. The film and the album both came out a year later, in 1970, with the name Let It Be, and the album was produced by Phil Spector. It's a very fragmented result, with incredible songs such as the title track, Get Back, Across The Universe, The Long And Winding Road, Two Of Us and I've Got A Feeling, but the rest has kind of an "unfinished" feel. Short songs, studio improvisations cut to just a few seconds of lenght, and the decision to leave out a song like Don't Let Me Down made this album less essential than it could have been. Years later Let It Be Naked tried to bring freshness to the album by taking out all the orchestral overdubs made by Spector and hated by McCartney, and adding Don't Let Me Down; but since I liked Spector's work, both these versions have various reasons for not being higher on this list.
9 - Anthology vol. 1-2-3 (1995-1996)
It was hard to decide where to place these albums on this list, since their content vary in quality and it covers their whole career. Basically these are three volumes, both on double CD, filled with outtakes, live tracks and various sessions in the studio, so It's obviously something for fans only. Nedless to say that the last two volumes are the most interesting, covering their later years and offering too many gems to mention. On top of this, the first two volumes offer two new Beatles' songs based on John Lennon's demos, the beautiful Free As A Bird and Real Love, produced by Jeff Lynne, and they are a perfect and moving goodbye to their fans.
8 - A Hard Day's Night (1964)
What's not to love about A Hard Day's Night? Both the movie and the album show the culmination of the beatlemania, but the album in particular is very important also for other reasons. This is the first time that they didn't record any cover for their album, which is filled with songs written solely by them (mostly by Lennon). This was kind of a revolution in pop music at the time, led by them and Bob Dylan, and showed that pop could go beyond the usual format, with professionals writing songs and musicians and singers just playing and singing them. A Hard Day's Night is very strong from start to finish, and it doesn't lose focus, unlike Help!, on the second side (because once again only the first side has songs from the movie). The iconic title track, If I Fell, And I Love Her, Can't Buy Me Love, Things We Said Today, You Can't Do That, I'll Be Back are just beautiful songs, but I can name all of them.
7 - Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
From here on it gets harder and harder to decide the order on the list, because these are all magnificent albums. Magical Mystery Tour is the only album of which the american version made by Capitol became the official version. In Europe it was released as an EP with just the songs from the movie, and Capitol decided to add a second side with all the singles from 1967, thus making it a full LP. So while its content comes from different sources, the result is a very strong album thanks to iconic songs such as The Fool On The Hill, I Am The Walrus, Strawberry Fields Forever, Hello Goodbye, Penny Lane and All You Need Is Love. There are weaker tracks obviously, but it still remains an overall great album.
6 - Rubber Soul (1965)
Yes, I know, it's one of their best albums ever but it's not even in the top 5, but what can you do? It's probably the first truly great album of their career, showing maturity and a very strong sequence of wonderful songs. Drive My Car, Girl, Michelle, Nowhere Man and In My Life are some of their best. The reason why it's not higher on this list is because of songs that I just don't love as much as the ones I just mentioned: things like What Goes On and I'm Looking Though You are not bad songs, just not as good in my opinion.
5 - Past Masters (1988)
Past Masters is a double album containing everything that wasn't part of their official albums. So here we can find all of their singles, A and B sides, the Long Tall Sally EP, two track sung in german, a whole lot of great stuff. The second disc alone is worth the price, with songs such as Day Tripper, We Can Work It Out, Rain, Paperback Writer, Hey Jude, Lady Madonna and Don't Let Me Down. Plus, You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) is probably their most fun song ever.
4 - Revolver (1966)
This was very hard to leave out of the top 3, but I have to make it clear that all of these albums on top of the list are always changing order for me, as they are all masterworks. Revolver is a major turning point of their career, with tracks exploring psychedelia and oriental music, and others that are just perfect pop songs. Taxman, Eleanor Rigby, Here There And Everywhere, For No One, Yellow Submarine... And what about Tomorrow Never Knows? That song will always sound modern. It's a great album, and the only reason why it's not higher on this list, is just because I personally think that they've done even better things.
3 - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
This was a VERY hard decision. Everywhere else this album is number one, it changed the music world and inspired musicians more than any other record at that time. Let's face it, it's a great album, there's not really anything weak in it and the overall feel and colour perfectly encapsules 1967 in music. The only reason why it's not numer one on this list is because after this one I think they became even better as songwriters. But still, a nearly perfect and essential album. The remix done by Giles Martin in 2017, while discussed by many because of some interesting choices made by him, is highly recommended for its new sound clarity.
2 - The Beatles (The White Album) (1968)
In total contrast to Pepper, The White Album is a very heterogeneous album, with man highs and lows, but it contains some of their best songs ever. While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Helter Skelter, Dear Prudence, I can go on forever. Many say that it would have been stronger if it was a single album. And while it's easy to agree, when it comes down to choosing which song to leave out, it's nearly an impossible task. There is an indescribable vibe all the way through the album that is easily missed if you don't listen to the whole thing. The way it slowly descend into madness with Cry Baby Cry, the "Can You Take Me Back" segment, Revolution 9 and the return to sanity with the wonderful Good Night leaves me with something that is very hard to put in words, and it doesn't happen with other albums. The new 2018 mix by Giles Martin gives the album new life and brings out many parts that were buried in the original mix. Highly Recommended.
1 - Abbey Road (1969)
It may be because it's the first Beatles album I bought, but Abbey Road will always be my favourite one. Two of the best songs by George Harrison are here (Something and Here Comes The Sun), along with some of my favourites by John Lennon (Come Together, I Want You and Because), my favourite by Ringo (Octopus's Garden) and some of the best work by Paul McCartney on the closing medley. I think that they've reached the top on Abbey Road, and they also have found a great balance between "stripped down" songs and complex arrangements by George Martin, back at his place after the anarchy of the White Album. An iconic album.