5) Rubber Soul, 1965
John S (3): Rubber Soul is the band’s first truly great album; it features the beginning of the band’s more sophisticated songwriting (“You Won’t See Me,” for example, was the longest song the band had recorded to that point, coming it at a whopping 3:22), both in terms of lyrical depth and musical arrangements, and them finally finding the right equilibrium of their wide-ranging sensibilities. The first four songs (“Drive My Car,” “Norwegian Wood,” “You Won’t See Me,” and “Nowhere Man”) may constitute the best balance of Lennon and McCartney’s different styles in The Beatles’ entire oeuvre—at least until the “Penny Lane”/“Strawberry Fields Forever” double A-side. Both of Harrison’s songs, “Think For Yourself” and “If I Needed Someone” are great, and even the token Ringo song (“What Goes On”) is an exciting stylistic change of pace (though Josh disagrees). The album’s finale, “Run For Your Life,” is maybe the most underrated song in the Beatles’ canon. Also, the vocals at the end of “In My Life” are beautiful.
Josh (7): This is my most controversial rank and—frankly—I feel a bit badly about it. I have a bias towards later albums largely because I love the Beatles’ more psychedelic work: that’s why I ranked Magical Mystery Tour higher in my own rankings. There is no doubt that this was a huge leap for the Beatles, shifting from a more lighthearted pop style in Help! to a more sophisticated style in Rubber Soul. But I think Side Two is a bit weak. With the exceptions of “In My Life” and “I’m Looking Through You,” all of the side two songs are mediocre (once again, by Beatles’ standards) at best, bad at worst (“What Goes On” comes to mind). Side One is very good though: “Think For Yourself” is the most underrated George Harrison song and the harmonies in “Nowhere Man” are beautiful. But, the fact that it’s fairly brief and contains a number of subpar songs gives Rubber Soul its relatively low rank. Continue reading