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THE BEATLES

The Beatles

 

Proto-Prog

4.15 | 530 ratings

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thehallway
Prog Reviewer
4 stars With 30 songs and 94 minutes of listening time, this is one of the most expansive albums I own. And it's good, although I don't think anyone could like every single song. The White Album saw The Beatles turn away from their psychedelic and baroque pop period in favour of, basically, doing whatever they felt like at any given moment, be it blues, country, rock, ska, folk, reggae, jazz, funk, metal, vaudeville, pop, soul, music hall, prog, boogie, or totally avant-garde electronic soundscapes.

I'll talk about a few of my favourites from the album. 'Dear Prudence' is a wonderful journey of a song, building up the instrumentation around a familar chord sequence. I think it was an influence on Led Zeppelin (think 'Ten Years Gone'), and maybe even Supertramp ('Even in the Quietest Moments'). The song that closes side one, 'Happiness is a Warm Gun' is also fantastic, changing time signatures as often as Gentle Giant. It shows John as the forward thinker of the group, even if Paul could write a better melody. George's 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' is equally one of his best songs, featuring Eric Clapton's famous guitar solo, but it's the great chords that do it for me.

The second side might be my favourite (it's mostly Paul, so that doesn't surprise me). 'Martha My Dear' is a strange, but endearing composition, and everything about it feels just right. 'Blackbird' meanwhile, is Paul's best acoustic ballad, and he already set the bar quite high with 'Yesterday'. 'Rocky Racoon' is another cracker, a western pastiche. Lennon's songs here reflect what would come from him in the seventies; with the moody rock of 'I'm So Tired' and sad, meaningful 'Julia'. 'There is certainly a feeling, after the album's first half, of individualism. This continues throughout the record, and it becomes a problem for me when the songs don't sound remotely 'Beatley'. The appeal of this band was their cohesiveness, and whether these tunes are good or not, very few of them sound like 'a band', which makes the whole album seem more like a aural documentary of Abbey Road Studios than a piece of art.

'Birthday' is the one song that really defies this judgement, and the whole band are on top form. Apart from that song, 'Mother Nature's Son' is the best that side three has to offer. The final side is also thin on meat, but flows the best, with the pair of 'Revolutions' bookending and 'Good Night' making for a beautiful finale. 'Honey Pie' and 'Savoy Truffle' are gems from Paul and George, but nothing new by this point in the album. Regarding 'Revolution 9', I come on the "favourable" side of the fence, because I think the picture Lennon paints is interesting from a number of angles. It doesn't come close to the true avant-garde composers though.

I always feel a bit tired and confused after listening to The White Album, but it is one of the Beatles' albums I frequent if I want to pick out some great individual songs. 1967 couldn't last forever, and in that respect, the greatest thing about this monster is that it wasn't afraid to take chances.

thehallway | 4/5 |

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