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Ranking The Beatles' Original Studio Albums

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published November 20th 2020
The original albums ordered
As I said in my Billy Joel ranking column, I had intended for the Beatles to be the first ranking column, but struggled to get my head around what order to put them in. So, after being inspired by finishing that first one, and after a full night of listening while writing, I think I have a decent enough order.

The Beatles ranked!
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My box set in its rather nifty case!


Looking at that picture - the extra CDs are Past Masters volumes 1 and 2.

First, a reminder of my rules. I need to like (or at least not hate) everything by an artist, every film in a series, every book. I do not want to be negative, so if I say something is my least favourite, it still means I like it, or at the worst think it is meh. And there has to be at least five items for me to rank, to make it worthwhile.

All right, The Beatles. Four lads from Liverpool who actually changed the world of music. They wrote their own songs, played their own instruments and, as they grew more confident, experimented with musical styles and changed the face of music. They have been covered by a huge number of other artists, appeared in films, wrote books and, after the band broke up, all four members continued to make some great music.

I first discovered The Beatles through a greatest hits package my father had (the so-called "red" double album set), plus his old copy of Rubber Soul. Then, in high school, I bought a re-release vinyl copy of Sgt. Pepper's…. And then, in the late 90s, I managed to get hold of the first release box set of Beatles albums on CD. I have since added the albums that came after (Love is gorgeous!). I am a fan.

Now, what I have decided to do is look at the original 13 albums. Normally I wouldn't include Magical Mystery Tour as it is an EP, but my CD is the US version with bonus non-album singles; the rest are the standard UK releases.

13 full-length albums, 1963 to 1970. Some of the greatest music of a generation. Some of the greatest music of subsequent generations. In a hundred years, people will still talk about this music. Very few bands (okay, no bands) were as consistent or produced such era-defining, magnificent music that reaches across all walks of life and all ages.

And that's enough gushing from me. I'll start at the one I like least and finish with the one I like most… or ones. That's because I am giving a tie for first place.


Yellow Submarine (1969)
The new songs are fine, there are two repeated songs, and the instrumental score is okay, if not a little dull at times. This is the soundtrack of the animated film of the same name which I remember watching as a kid and not understanding at all. The music is fine.
Key track: 'Hey Bulldog'



Beatles For Sale (1964)
The Beatles' fourth album. From now on, all the albums have truly great tracks on them, and this is why putting them in order is so hard. Some great songs, some wonderful cover versions, but some songs that are really just there. Still a good album, just not a great one.
Key track: 'Eight Days A Week'



With The Beatles (1963)
Their second album suffered from a lot of what makes many other second albums go through, the "sophomore slump" – the band has refined itself performing for so long before the first album, that the new songs on the next just don't feel as confident. Again, some good originals and strong covers.
Key track: 'All My Loving'



Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
The soundtrack for a made-for-TV film, and filled with some good songs from the non-album singles, some of the tracks written for the show are not The Beatles' best. The problem is, the album, taken as a whole, feels disjointed. Great music, though.
Key track: 'I Am The Walrus'



Please Please Me (1963)
Their first album, with some of their best cover versions and showing already the song-writing skills of the Lennon-McCartney team were above what was the norm for the time. The problem (term used advisedly) with it is that it does not have the finesse of later albums. But still, a good debut album.
Key track: 'Please Please Me'



Let It Be (1970)
The last album released, though not the last recorded. The documentary of the making of this album shows a band falling apart; the music has that sense in parts. However, most of the tracks are really good still. Some were even written in the early days of the band. There are about half the tracks, though, that I prefer from the re-released Let It Be… Naked remaster.
Key track: 'Get Back'



The Beatles ("The White Album") (1968)
My issue with this set is that it is just too long. It could have made one awesome single album, but because The Beatles were starting to go through what would ultimately break them up, the band just could not leave anything out. To be honest, there are only a few tracks I struggle to listen to. There are some truly wonderful ones here, though.
Key track: 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'



A Hard Day's Night (1964)
Part soundtrack from their first film, part new originals, The Beatles' third album showed what they can truly be. There is not a bad song here, and that is true of every album from here on out (one exception). But this was an early peak that really cemented The Beatles and their Liverpudlian beat sound into the consciousness of the 60s.
Key track: 'I Should Have Known Better'



Rubber Soul (1965)
The first Beatles album I heard in full. Like I said, from here on out, there is not a bad song to be found (maybe one), and this album is one I should do a classic album review of because it is magnificent. The experimentation and more introspective and intelligent lyrics were really taking hold here, and this album includes some of The Beatles' finest ballads.
Key track: 'Nowhere Man'



Help! (1965)
What Rubber Soul solidified started here, with a title track covered by so many but never matched. There are so many great songs on this album; this is where The Beatles truly came into their own and told the world that they were it. And they were right.
Key Track: 'Yesterday'



Abbey Road (1969)
The last recorded by The Beatles, and a great album, with the superb side two medley capping it all off. It contains one of the greatest love songs ever written, some great song-writing and is just a joyous album. If only that last song wasn't there (the only dud in 5 albums)…
Key track: 'Something'



All right, consider the next two on equal standing. I could not separate them. Great – my second rankings column and I've already given a tie!


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
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Often called the greatest album of all time – or near the top of those lists – there is a reason for that: it's great! Called a concept album, the concept is pretty loose, but the tracks are great. Trippy psychedelia, pop-rock, Indian styled rock, novelty songs – it's got something for everyone. Great album.
Key tracks: 'A Day In The Life' and 'Within You Without You'




Revolver (1966)
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And the one-two punch of greatness started with this. So many great tracks, starting with a protest song! And it finishes with 'Tomorrow Never Knows', my favourite ever Beatles track. Such a good album, and one that I am glad to note has been re-appraised by modern critics. So good.
Key tracks: 'Eleanor Rigby' and 'Tomorrow Never Knows'




And so we have it, all of The Beatles' studio albums ranked. All are worth listening to, really. But if you want to cherry-pick, any of the top five are well worth your time. Their songs are great, their covers are great, the singing, musicianship, songwriting, all of them are great. There is a reason The Beatles are considered the best band by many – they are.

All right, that's the second rankings list. Next will be a movie one, and then I'll have a look at the responses and decide if this stays a part of the repertoire. At the very least, I hope you enjoyed this.
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Your Comment
Well done.
by Jeremy Bryce (score: 2|120) 65 days ago
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