The Beatles released 13 official studio albums from 1963 to 1970. What follows is a short “review” of each of these 13 albums. In my view as a true Beatles fanatic every single on of these albums should be a part of your collection eventually. But there are definitely some albums that are more essential than others.
Please Please Me (1963) – The Beatles very first album has some great songs on it including the title track, the opening track “I Her Standing There,” and the great cover “Twist & Shout” but it also has a much higher percentage of clunkers than most Beatles albums. In fact I’d say at least half of this album just isn’t that good. It’s interesting from an historical stand point and sometimes it can even be quite enjoyable to listen to, but I’d probably make it one of my last albums if I were just getting into The Beatles.
With The Beatles (1963) – The Beatles second album includes a few nice songs but it’s largely quite forgettable due to the large amount of covers.
A Hard Day’s Night (1964) – The Beatles third album is when they really started to come into their own. While their first two albums only included 8 originals each, A Hard Day’s Night is nothing but Lennon/McCartney originals. It includes some of The Beatles very best early pop & rock n roll music. If you find yourself more drawn to their early pop songs then this may be a great album to get started with.
Beatles For Sale (1964) – I do think this album is somewhat underrated but it is definitely a step backwards from A Hard Day’s Night. It includes 6 mostly forgettable covers. But the originals are quite nice. “I’m a Loser” & “Every Little Thing” are among the highlights.
Help! (1965) – This was another step forward. It included some of The Beatles biggest hit songs including the title track “Help!” and the legendary ballad “Yesterday.” “Ticket to Ride,” “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” are also among the album’s highlights. It’s a great album with a couple of miss steps (“Dizzy Miss Lizzy” and “Act Naturally” are both awful covers that shouldn’t have been included on the album.)
Rubber Soul (1965) – A huge step forward. Includes the first use of a sitar on a western pop record on “Norwegian Wood” which may be favorite song on the album. Rubber Soul includes many of The Beatles greatest songs like “Nowhere Man,” “In My Life,” “Girl,” “Michelle,” and “I’m Looking Through You.”
Revolver (1966) – Again with the step forward. The Beatles were progressing at an unbelievable rate during these years. From “I Want To Hold Your Hand” to “Tomorrow Never Knows” in 2 years? Are you kidding me? Absolutely mind blowing. One of The Beatles greatest albums. There are no weak songs. Many consider it to be The Beatles very best album.
Sgt. Pepper (1967) – It’s become somewhat hip to say that Sgt. Pepper is overrated. But it’s not. It’s a truly incredible album. I find every single song on this album to be a thoroughly enjoyable listen. They are all essential in my view. Includes the absolute greatest album closer of all time, “A Day in the Life.”
Magical Mystery Tour (1967) – This was The Beatles at their most purposefully “psychedelic.” To me that’s a good thing. It includes some of The Beatles most incredible psychedelic masterpieces “I Am The Walrus” & “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
The White Album (1968) – My favorite Beatles album. That being said, it’s probably not a good one to get started with. It’s probably too sprawling for a first time listener. It’s not as consistent as Sgt. Pepper or Revolver but for me it’s even more endlessly interesting. There’s so many different styles of music on this album and to my ears they are all done perfectly.
Yellow Submarine (1969) – Probably The Beatles least essential album as it includes only four songs that are not heard elsewhere. But of those four songs two are really great “Hey Bulldog” and particularly the very underrated “It’s All Too Much.” I actually recommend getting the 1999 Yellow Submarine Songtrack instead as it replaces the rather boring incidental “film music” that makes up much of the Yellow Submarine album with remixed, remastered versions of many of The Beatles greatest hits.
Abbey Road (1969) – Possibly The Beatles most “modern” sounding album as it was actually the final album they recorded and the only one they recorded on the then new 8 track recording machine at Abbey Road studios. Includes the amazing second side suite and some of their most well known songs like “Here Comes The Sun,” “Something,” and “Come Together.” Probably a pretty good first album to get if you are new to The Beatles.
Let It Be (1970) – Let It Be was actually recorded prior to Abbey Road but had been shelved do to The Beatles being unhappy with the recordings. While it’s often seen as somewhat of a disappointment compared to The Beatles other incredible albums that’s really quite ridiculous when you look at the track listing and see that it includes absolutely killer songs like “Let It Be,” “Get Back,” “I’ve Got A Feeling,” “Across The Universe,” & “Two of Us.” Let It Be has a more funky laid back feeling than any other Beatles album. Let It Be… Naked probably has a better track listing but I think they “cleaned up” the sound too much, the original’s “fuzzy” sound was part of it’s charm and fit the songs better.