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The Beatles - Rubber Soul CD (album) cover


The Beatles



3.94 | 724 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Finally able to record an album in a properly planned series of sessions rather than grabbing studio time here and there between concert and filming appearances, Rubber Soul showcases the Beatles doing precisely what they want to do, with less commercial influence than ever before. Of course, Parlophone weren't fools - they realised by this point that anything the band produced would sell like mad, so there was no point not letting them indulge themselves.

What results is the first "mature" Beatles album - gone is the pretence that rock music is just for kids, and in its place comes a set of grown-up songs expressing grown-up feelings and attitudes - as expressed in songs such as Drive My Car and Nowhere Man. Love is no longer the simplistic unalloyed good yearned for in the lyrics of the early album; it's a complicated business, people make mistakes, and when mistakes happen things get ugly very fast. Or maybe, as on the Word, it's something altogether more mystical than that...

With the added lyrical depth came more musical experimentation. George Harrison's sitar on Norwegian Wood - otherwise a fairly simple (if well-crafted) folky piece - is in some ways hilariously out of place, but there's no denying that it adds something to the sound and proved to be immensely influential in the future. The fuzzy guitar on Think For Yourself adds the necessary bite to match the dismissal implicit in the lyrics. George Martin provides a harmonium line on The Word that helps evoke the cosmic themes the song is aiming at.

Which isn't to say that any listener should expect proggy levels of complexity here; simpler tracks include the beautiful and French-flavoured Michelle (check those Beach Boys harmonies!) and the almost country-like What Goes On - the latter of which is the obligatory "Let's let Ringo sing this one" number that actually works better than a good many of the songs with Starkey on lead vocals. In fact, if the album has a weakness is that it's so diverse that unless your musical tastes are especially broad (and you're especially fond of the Beatles) you'll probably find some songs weaker than others, though it doesn't quite have the chaotic lack of focus that plagued the White Album.

For my part, I find myself kind of turned off by Run For Your Life, a Lennon song in which the narrator threatens his partner with violence. Of course, domestic violence is a serious issue which artists should not feel afraid to address, but the delivery of the lyric is a slice more gleeful and enthusiastic than I'm comfortable with, especially considering Lennon's own history of domestic violence (which he would confront in some of the more confessional periods of his later solo career).

This is a second transitional release from the group and as such feels still a little tentative, with the occasional misfire here and there. In presentation it feels like the Beatles momentarily fell into imitating the West Coast pop scene rather than blazing a new trail; in principle Rubber Soul was a necessary step for them to accomplish in order to broaden their musical horizons, but at the same time the masterpieces that would follow rather leave it in the shade. A three star album made of a cluster of four-star and two-star songs.

Warthur | 3/5 |


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