Meet (and Rank) the Beatles’ Albums, Part 1

We here at NPI aren’t exactly breaking new ground or going out on a limb when we say that The Beatles are the greatest band of all-time, but we’re saying it anyway. Not only is each one of their twelve studio albums (we don’t really count Yellow Submarine) excellent, but they more or less invented the concept of an “album.” When The Beatles started, albums were little more than collections of singles, but The Beatles made at least five albums that are not only enjoyable to listen to but also riveting works in and of themselves. For a band to have one album like that is an accomplishment, but five is simply legendary. But which of their many classic albums are the best? Without further ado, here is the first half (the Top 5 are coming later today) of Josh and John’s rankings (Tim is abstaining due to the time needed to internally rank every Barenaked Ladies’ song):

(Commentary from John S and Josh comes at the bottom)

12) Beatles For Sale, 1964

John S’ rank: 12

Josh’s rank: 12

11) Please Please Me, 1963

John S’ rank: 11

Josh’s rank: 10

10) A Hard Day’s Night, 1964

John S’ rank: 9

Josh’s rank: 11

9) With the Beatles, 1963

John S’ rank: 10

Josh’s rank: 9

8 ) Help!, 1965

John S’ rank: 8

Josh’s rank: 8

7) Magical Mystery Tour, 1967

John S’ rank: 6

Josh’s rank: 6

6) Let It Be, 1970

John S’ rank: 7

Josh’s rank: 5

What Josh Has to Say: I’m glad there was a tie for 6th because I think there is a natural breaking point starting with Help! Help! and below are all good albums (well, maybe not Beatles For Sale), but they are simpler and not as cohesive as later ones. Moreover, many of the Beatles’ early hits were released as singles and not even included on albums. Of the earlier albums, I think With the Beatles is the most underrated: “I Won’t Be Long” and “All My Loving” are excellent and “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Money” are also performed very well.  I did place Let it Be in my top five: It arguably has the two best Beatles’ ballads (“The Long and Winding a Road” and “Let it Be”) and almost every other song is strong. Magical Mystery Tour’s side two is incredible (“Hello Goodbye”, “Strawberry Fields”, “Penny Lane”, “Baby You’re a Rich Man”, “All You Need is Love” all in a row) and put the whole album in serious consideration for the Top 5.

What John S Has to Say: Josh is right about Help! being a natural breaking point, both chronologically and stylistically. While all of the first four Beatles albums have great individual songs, I never really listen to any of them straight through. Probably the best thing about these albums is listening to the band perform covers like “Twist and Shout” and “Money.” As for the tie at 6, I’ve never been a big fan of Let It Be. I don’t know if it’s the Phil Spector influence or the discord that surrounded the album’s recording, but the only song I really like from it is “Two of Us.” Like Josh, I briefly considered putting Magical Mystery Tour in the top five because of its strong opening (“Magical Mystery Tour” into “Fool on the Hill”) and unconventional sound, but I have to dissent from his love of Side Two of that album: “Hello Goodbye” is Paul McCartney at his most sappy and meaningless, and “All You Need is Love” is cloying.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Dan on July 27, 2009 at 3:11 PM

    Side two of Magical Mystery Tour wasn’t originally part of the album. It was originally just an EP. When it was brought to America, Capitol decided to make it a full album by adding Beatles singles that were already released.

    But if you are considering it as a whole, then what about the Past Masters collection (which contains the singles that weren’t put on albums)?


  2. […] Listen Mr. Shirley, we like you here at NPI. We like sports. We like books. We like people who write good books about playing sports. You even tweeted at Tim. But if forced to choose between you and the Beatles, well, we’re gonna have to go with the Beatles. […]


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