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THE BEATLES

Proto-Prog • United Kingdom


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The Beatles picture
The Beatles biography
Founded in Liverpool, UK in 1958 (initially as a trio) - Starr joined in 1962 - Disbanded in 1970

It goes without saying that the Beatles were one of the most important, influential and progressive bands in the history of rock and pop music. There are many places on the Internet where a full biography may be found, and their history has been covered so many times that here we consider only their place as a progressive band.

The music of the Beatles was notable mainly for the songwriting partnership of Lennon/McCartney, which bucked the trend of bands going to songwriting houses for their material and helped to convince other bands to write their own songs. On their earliest albums, it was the quality of the Lennon/McCartney songs that stands out from the covers that were also included.

The other aspect of the Beatles music that remained a constant throughout their carreer as a band is the wide range of influences and styles that they assimilated into their own. Their hunger for experimentation in style and sound was to last and expand right up to their swansong album, "Abbey Road".

A frequent speculation is that it was the Beatles who finally swayed Bob Dylan in 1964/5 to use electric instruments, and in so doing brought about the fusion of folk and rock that would lead to the development of psychedelia, via the Byrd's "Eight Miles High" and the San Francisco music scene, "Swinging London" and other movements. In fact, many other factors led to the rise of those cultures, but the importance of the Beatles' music should not be overlooked.

The influences were mutual; The Beatles and the Byrds particularly not only exchanged a number of ideas, but also met several times - including one notable occasion which included Bob Dylan and Peter Fonda that resulted in the song "She said, she said" ("Revolver"). It was Roger McGuinn of the Byrds who turned George Harrison onto the sound of the sitar and led George to have lessons from Ravi Shankar.

Harrison also adapted the riff from The Byrds' "Bells of Rhymney" to write the song "If I Needed Someone", dedicating the song to Roger McGuinn who wrote it, and used the sitar in "Norwegian Wood", both songs appearing on the "Rubber Soul" album, an album that contains so many song writing styles that it can be difficult to believe that it's all the same band. "The Word" particularly seems to herald the off-beat musical and rhythmic style that would be prevalent in psychedelia, and...
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THE BEATLES Videos (YouTube and more)


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Abbey RoadAbbey Road
Remastered
EMI 2012
$16.49
$14.95 (used)
Rubber SoulRubber Soul
Remastered
Capitol 2012
$20.34
$21.97 (used)

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THE BEATLES discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

THE BEATLES top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.05 | 438 ratings
Please Please Me
1963
2.89 | 413 ratings
With The Beatles
1963
3.54 | 480 ratings
A Hard Day's Night
1964
2.77 | 412 ratings
Beatles For Sale
1964
3.43 | 497 ratings
Help!
1965
3.94 | 719 ratings
Rubber Soul
1965
4.38 | 924 ratings
Revolver
1966
4.34 | 1040 ratings
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
1967
4.15 | 736 ratings
Magical Mystery Tour
1967
4.17 | 815 ratings
The Beatles [Aka: The White Album]
1968
2.55 | 396 ratings
Yellow Submarine
1969
4.48 | 1002 ratings
Abbey Road
1969
3.29 | 568 ratings
Let It Be
1970
3.50 | 208 ratings
Let It Be - Naked
2003

THE BEATLES Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.87 | 41 ratings
The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl
1977
1.90 | 22 ratings
The Beatles Live! at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962
1977
3.28 | 62 ratings
Live at the BBC
1994
2.11 | 9 ratings
Last Night In Hamburg
1999
3.72 | 13 ratings
On Air - Live at the BBC Volume 2
2013

THE BEATLES Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.84 | 54 ratings
A Hard Day's Night
1964
3.33 | 45 ratings
Help!
1965
3.15 | 8 ratings
The Beatles At The Shea Stadium
1966
3.84 | 76 ratings
Yellow Submarine
1968
3.94 | 36 ratings
Let It Be
1970
3.40 | 40 ratings
Magical Mystery Tour
1978
5.00 | 2 ratings
Ready Steady Go! The Beatles Live
1985
4.45 | 11 ratings
The First U.S Visit
1991
5.00 | 3 ratings
Video Collection
2003
4.09 | 4 ratings
A Long And Winding Road
2003
4.50 | 2 ratings
In Washington D.C, Feb. 11th, 1964
2003
4.50 | 2 ratings
The Beatles With Tony Sheridan - The Beginnings In Hamburg
2004
5.00 | 1 ratings
Destination Hamburg
2007
5.00 | 2 ratings
Turn Left At Greenland
2008
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Tomorrow Show With Tom Snyder
2008
5.00 | 1 ratings
In Performance
2008
5.00 | 1 ratings
Yesterday
2008
2.00 | 7 ratings
The Beatles At The Budokan
2008

THE BEATLES Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.92 | 13 ratings
Introducing The Beatles
1963
2.23 | 27 ratings
Meet the Beatles
1964
1.98 | 16 ratings
Something New
1964
1.65 | 15 ratings
The Beatles' Story
1964
3.89 | 19 ratings
Beatles '65
1964
2.81 | 24 ratings
The Beatles' Second Album
1964
2.41 | 41 ratings
A Hard Day's Night (US version)
1964
2.27 | 7 ratings
The Beatles' First
1964
2.85 | 39 ratings
Rubber Soul (US)
1965
2.45 | 37 ratings
Help (US version)
1965
3.50 | 12 ratings
The Early Beatles
1965
3.94 | 18 ratings
Beatles VI
1965
3.43 | 27 ratings
Yesterday and Today
1966
2.40 | 11 ratings
A Collection Of Beatles Oldies (But Goldies !)
1966
3.48 | 31 ratings
Revolver (US)
1966
3.72 | 44 ratings
Hey Jude
1970
3.34 | 104 ratings
1962-1966
1973
3.84 | 115 ratings
1967-1970
1973
3.21 | 19 ratings
Rock 'n' Roll Music
1976
3.67 | 3 ratings
The Beatles Tapes (From The David Wigg Interviews)
1976
4.00 | 19 ratings
Love Songs
1977
4.18 | 11 ratings
Rarities
1978
4.88 | 8 ratings
The Beatles Album Collections
1978
3.13 | 5 ratings
The Beatles Ballads
1980
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Beatles Box
1980
2.50 | 7 ratings
Rarities (US version)
1980
5.00 | 5 ratings
E.P. Collections
1981
5.00 | 2 ratings
Hear The Beatles Tell All
1981
5.00 | 3 ratings
The Beatles Talk Downunder (1964)
1982
5.00 | 5 ratings
The Beatles Singles Collections
1982
2.25 | 5 ratings
The Complete Silver Beatles
1982
5.00 | 1 ratings
First Movement
1982
3.25 | 4 ratings
Reel Music
1982
2.86 | 9 ratings
20 Greatest Hits
1982
5.00 | 2 ratings
The Beatles Mono Collection
1982
5.00 | 6 ratings
The Collection
1982
5.00 | 2 ratings
The Beatles Original Mono-Record Box
1986
4.33 | 3 ratings
The Beatles On Compact Disc - Help / Rubber Soul / Revolver
1987
2.17 | 10 ratings
The Early Tapes of The Beatles
1987
3.47 | 74 ratings
Past Masters Volume 1
1988
4.04 | 77 ratings
Past Masters Volume 2
1988
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Conversation Disc Series
1988
0.00 | 0 ratings
Talk Downunder Vol. II
1990
3.33 | 3 ratings
The Silver Beatles - Original Decca Tapes and Cavern Club Rehearsals 1962
1991
2.90 | 73 ratings
Anthology 1
1995
3.91 | 78 ratings
Anthology 2
1996
3.67 | 75 ratings
Anthology 3
1996
5.00 | 1 ratings
Words Of Love
1998
3.20 | 44 ratings
Yellow Submarine Songtrack
1999
5.00 | 1 ratings
Magical And Mystical Words
1999
5.00 | 1 ratings
Things We Said Today
2000
3.97 | 95 ratings
The Beatles '1'
2000
5.00 | 1 ratings
Big Beat Box
2001
4.36 | 11 ratings
Capitol Albums Vol 1
2004
4.40 | 10 ratings
Capitol Albums Vol 2
2006
2.98 | 85 ratings
Love
2006
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Beatles - 1967-69 - Acoustic Submarine
2006
4.88 | 41 ratings
The Beatles In Mono Box Set
2009
4.64 | 64 ratings
The Beatles Stereo Box Set
2009
4.65 | 45 ratings
Past Masters (Remastered)
2009
4.34 | 34 ratings
The Beatles 1962-1970
2010
3.75 | 4 ratings
Anthology Highlights
2011
2.53 | 6 ratings
Tomorrow Never Knows
2012
5.00 | 1 ratings
Bootleg Recordings 1963
2013
4.50 | 4 ratings
The U.S. Albums
2014
5.00 | 1 ratings
Meet the Beatles! [also known as: The Japan Box]
2014
4.67 | 6 ratings
1+
2015

THE BEATLES Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.15 | 11 ratings
My Bonnie
1961
3.07 | 20 ratings
Love Me Do
1962
2.79 | 15 ratings
Please Please Me
1963
2.65 | 14 ratings
From Me To You
1963
3.68 | 16 ratings
She Loves You
1963
3.08 | 15 ratings
I Want To Hold Your Hand
1963
2.80 | 5 ratings
The Beatles Christmas Record
1963
3.71 | 14 ratings
Twist And Shout
1963
3.33 | 6 ratings
The Beatles Hits
1963
3.20 | 5 ratings
The Beatles No. 1
1963
2.84 | 10 ratings
All My Loving
1964
3.14 | 9 ratings
Long Tall Sally
1964
4.00 | 7 ratings
Extracts From The Film A Hard Day's Night
1964
3.67 | 3 ratings
Extracts From The Album A Hard Day's Night
1964
2.80 | 11 ratings
Beatles For Sale
1964
3.67 | 3 ratings
Souvenir of Their Visit to America
1964
3.67 | 3 ratings
Four By The Beatles
1964
3.64 | 14 ratings
Can't Buy Me Love
1964
3.71 | 14 ratings
A Hard Days Night
1964
3.64 | 14 ratings
I Feel Fine
1964
3.10 | 11 ratings
If I Fell
1964
2.67 | 3 ratings
Another Beatles Christmas Record
1964
4.00 | 14 ratings
Ticket To Ride
1965
4.00 | 16 ratings
Help !
1965
4.13 | 16 ratings
Day Tripper
1965
3.50 | 2 ratings
The Beatles Third Christmas Record
1965
3.33 | 3 ratings
4 By The Beatles
1965
3.33 | 3 ratings
Beatles For Sale No. 2
1965
3.67 | 3 ratings
The Beatles Million Sellers
1965
3.45 | 12 ratings
Yesterday
1966
4.21 | 14 ratings
Nowhere Man
1966
3.57 | 18 ratings
Paperback Writer
1966
3.85 | 26 ratings
Eleanor Rigby
1966
2.26 | 4 ratings
Pantomime: Everywhere It's Christmas
1966
4.73 | 36 ratings
Strawberry Fields Forever
1967
3.67 | 23 ratings
All You Need Is Love
1967
3.83 | 23 ratings
Hello Goodbye
1967
2.40 | 6 ratings
Christmas Time (Is Here Again)
1967
4.07 | 30 ratings
Magical Mystery Tour (UK Version)
1967
3.46 | 20 ratings
Lady Madonna
1968
4.27 | 34 ratings
Hey Jude
1968
3.50 | 2 ratings
The Beatles Sixth Christmas Record
1968
4.29 | 24 ratings
Get Back
1969
3.28 | 21 ratings
Ballad Of John And Yoko
1969
3.36 | 23 ratings
Something
1969
3.50 | 2 ratings
The Beatles Seventh Christmas Record
1969
3.18 | 14 ratings
Let It Be
1970
4.00 | 3 ratings
The Beatles Christmas Album
1970
3.50 | 2 ratings
From Then To You
1970
3.68 | 10 ratings
Yesterday
1976
3.92 | 13 ratings
Back In The U.S.S.R.
1976
3.57 | 7 ratings
Twist And Shout
1977
4.02 | 22 ratings
Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band/With A Little Help From My Friends
1978
3.75 | 4 ratings
Movie Medley
1982
2.86 | 7 ratings
Love Me Do
1982
3.50 | 4 ratings
Baby It's You
1995
3.97 | 15 ratings
Free As A Bird
1995
4.03 | 11 ratings
Real Love
1996
4.00 | 7 ratings
Yellow Submarine Songtrack Sampler
1999
4.67 | 9 ratings
Within You Without You / Tomorrow Never Knows (promo)
2006
3.17 | 6 ratings
Love (promo)
2006
3.75 | 4 ratings
Help! (7 Song Radio Sampler)
2007

THE BEATLES Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Yellow Submarine by BEATLES, THE album cover Studio Album, 1969
2.55 | 396 ratings

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Yellow Submarine
The Beatles Proto-Prog

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Even a body of work as gilded as the Beatles' discography must have a nadir, and for the Fab Four, this tie-in to the 1968 movie of the same name is the low point.

The album is comprised of six Beatles songs on Side One, and a seven-title soundtrack, composed and conducted by Beatles producer George Martin, on Side Two. Two of the Beatles songs had already been released: "All You Need is Love" (b/w "Baby You're a Rich Man"), as a single in July 1967, and the title track, released on Revolver, and simultaneously as a double-a-side with "Eleanor Rigby," in August 1966. This means that the LP regarded as the Beatles' tenth had just four new Beatles songs: Harrison's "Only a Northern Song" and "It's All Too Much," McCartney's "All Together Now," and Lennon's "Hey Bulldog."

Unfortunately, these are third-rate Beatles tunes, and not the kind that helped fill out albums earlier in the decade; these aren't fun-but-flimsy pop tunes put together by young lads learning their craft. These are songs recorded between February 1967 and February 1968 by the band which had just released "Strawberry Fields Forever"/"Penny Lane" and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - - a band at the absolute height of its songwriting powers. All four were available for inclusion on The Beatles, the sprawling, theme-free double album released in November 1968, yet there was no room for them among the thirty tracks selected for that album.

I think I'm on pretty stable ground, panning he four new songs on Yellow Submarine. Brodax's Up Periscope Yellow has Martin referring to the them as "the dregs of their inventory ? junk, file-and-forget pieces." McCartney and Lennon each disparaged their own contributions to the album. I also think it's worth pointing out that at six and a half minutes, "It's All Too Much" was one of the longest Beatles songs ever;* in its unmercifully extended form, it absolves the group from having to come up with another song for the project.

Side Two - - Martin's soundtrack - - isn't bad; it's actually not that different from incidental music John Williams composed in the 1970s or Danny Elfman in the 1990s. It sounds fantastic, by the way, on the 2009 remaster, from the reeds at the beginning of "Sea of Holes" to the tuned percussion in the middle of "March of the Meanies" to the dramatic brass stabs at the end of "Pepperland Laid Waste." Nonetheless, it's not the Beatles. And besides, stretching four songs into an album largely by adding eighteen minutes of the film's score seems a move beneath the Beatles.

To recap: the only two really good cuts on this album were previously released. Half of the album is unexceptional, albeit great-sounding, film music not performed by the Beatles. The remaining four songs are mediocre. If someone owned all of the group's albums, including Past Masters, except this one, I'd still consider him or her a Beatles fan. Two stars: for collectors or serious Beatles buffs.

====

*Only three were longer: "Revolution 9" (8:22), "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" (7:47), and "Hey Jude" (7:10).

 Live at the BBC by BEATLES, THE album cover Live, 1994
3.28 | 62 ratings

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Live at the BBC
The Beatles Proto-Prog

Review by sgtpepper

3 stars Want a record with early Beatles recording and a decent audio quality with a personal and loose feeling? Then go for Live on the BBC which features mainly known Beatles cuts with subtle differences, rare cover and own material and even 4 interviews with each Beatle. The conversations with the moderator are witty but not too distracting from music and young, fresh feeling. All four Beatles have a chance a sing with obvious majority of songs sung by Paul and John. Recordings have only a bit rougher feeling than in the studio. The repertoire includes songs with classic rock instruments without keyboard instruments so easily played anywhere. Songs from the first 4 albums up to Beatles for Sale are presented in various order. Some songs have different vocals, such as "Honey don't" sung by McCartney and not by Starr. "I feel fine" is attempted twice before the official take starts as it is a studio outtake.

Notable rare tracks include "Lucille" with McCartney on vocals, "Sure to fall(in love with you)" with nice vocal harmonies.

Overall, this is great listening for groups of people that want to have almost a live touch by the Beatles.

 Yellow Submarine Songtrack by BEATLES, THE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1999
3.20 | 44 ratings

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Yellow Submarine Songtrack
The Beatles Proto-Prog

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

2 stars This one's a tricky CD to assess on the star-rating scale. Yellow Submarine Songtrack isn't really an expanded rerelease of the original 1969 Yellow Submarine album, as it omits half of the original LP. It's also not simply a hits compilation, as several of the songs are lesser-known; furthermore, since the tracks are remixed, they differ somewhat from the familiar versions. Finally, it's not precisely a soundtrack album. First, it excludes one of the Beatles songs from the 1968 Yellow Submarine movie ('A Day in the Life'), although all of the other fifteen are present. But the missing half of the 1969 album is George Martin's orchestral score for the film, and it's been pointed out that these recordings would've fit quite comfortably in the runtime of the Yellow Submarine Songtrack CD.

The remixes on the Yellow Submarine Songtrack are not reinterpretations ' la Love; in fact, they are pretty faithful renderings, using only the original tracks, but realized using late-1990s technology. And they sound great. 'Eleanor Rigby' is starker that the original, and takes a bit of getting used to, but most of the songs just sound clearer and cleaner. 'When I'm Sixty-Four' in particular sounds absolutely fantastic, as do 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,' 'With a Little Help From My Friends,' and 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds' - - the other Sgt. Pepper tunes. It really is a shame that 'A Day in the Life' was omitted.

Those five songs, plus the title track, are the strong cuts here. Now, second-rate Beatles songs are still pretty good songs, but the fact remains that more than half of the Yellow Submarine Songtrack is comprised of second-rate Beatles songs, including all four of the songs which debuted on the original album.

So, how to rank the Yellow Submarine Songtrack? On one hand, it's another compilation, in this case a compilation of songs which every Beatles fan already owns, and yet not a best-of album by any stretch. It's a nice tie-in to the 1999 rerelease of the Yellow Submarine film, but is otherwise nonessential. On the other hand, it has the best-sounding mixes available of several Beatles classics.

The official Prog Archive guidance has two stars indicating an album for 'collectors/fans only,' and that's my best estimate for the Yellow Submarine Songtrack. A casual fan looking for a single-disk compilation would do better with 1 (2000), even if they'd be missing out on the mixes here.

 Past Masters (Remastered) by BEATLES, THE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2009
4.65 | 45 ratings

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Past Masters (Remastered)
The Beatles Proto-Prog

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Past Masters was originally released in 1988 as a double-album on LP and cassette, but as two separate CDs (as Volume One and Volume Two) since 2009, the two-CD set has been the standard, and it's the version I'll discuss here.

What makes the Beatles' Past Masters unique among compilation CDs is that it's absolutely essential to the group's fans - - even casual fans. Regardless of the quality of the tracks, it contains one or both sides of fourteen non-LP singles - - 24 songs in total - - plus five other non-album songs (the other four tracks are alternate versions of album cuts, including three from Let it Be). Since the group decided against including bonus material on the CD versions of their albums, Past Masters is, in effect, the "home album" of these 29 songs.

Of course, we could consider the quality of the tracks. By my count, the Beatles had roughly 20 truly great songs, and a quarter of them are here: "She Loves You," "Day Tripper," "We Can Work it Out," "Hey Jude," and "Lady Madonna." There are plenty of other gems, like "This Boy," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "I Feel Fine," "Bad Boy,"* "Paperback Writer," the hit version of "Revolution,"** and "The Ballad of John and Yoko."

The remainder of Past Masters's 33 tracks aren't at the same level (but really, how could they be)? There aren't too many lemons, but in some cases you could see why a song here or there was left off of that year's album. The German singles are strictly for completists, and the alternate versions, even of all-time classics like "Get Back" and "Let it Be," are for serious fans only; none varies significantly from its respective album version.

On one hand, every one of these cuts could've fit comfortably and sensibly as a "bonus track" on one of the standard Beatles albums. That would've translated into lost profits, though, and some would have complained about the integrity of the original LPs. But at least a kitchen-sink philosophy was used in compiling these non-LP tracks: Past Masters includes everything applicable: the proverbial good, band, and ugly. As a result, the album doesn't have a Greatest-Hits feel; there's a twelve-song run on the first disk, for example, which contains just one hit ("I Feel Fine").

But especially given the fact that the compilers had very little say in song selection - - and none in song sequencing - - Past Masters stands on its own as a very good album, and a fine edition to the record collection of any fan of rock music.

====

*Technically not a non-album song in the US, where it appeared on Beatles VI. The story of the songs from the Long Tall Sally EP is similar. Anyway, since the Beatles UK albums were the ones committed to CD, these are all non-album tracks.

**I'm counting this as a non-album song even though there was a very different arrangement on The Beatles.

 Let It Be - Naked by BEATLES, THE album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.50 | 208 ratings

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Let It Be - Naked
The Beatles Proto-Prog

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Interestingly, Let It Be... Naked is actually better than the original Let It Be from 1970.

To begin with, Let It Be... Naked is not an incredible revelation. It's pretty much just an alternate version of Let It Be. And second, although I'm a Paul McCartney fan, and although I've never been much of a fan of the original Let It Be, I never thought Phil Spector's postproduction detracted from the album. It's like Ringo Starr said - - or was it George Harrison? - - if you hire Phil Spector to produce your record, don't be surprised if your record sounds like it was produced by Phil Spector. Nonetheless McCartney strongly disliked the album's sound, and thus, 33 years later, we have Let It Be... Naked.

... Which is actually an improvement, however slight, over the 1970 album. Whereas the original "The Long and Winding Road" was a solid, baroque pop gem about the end of something, the version here sounds like an early McCartney solo song - - it's almost as if that long and winding road has led him to a new beginning.

The alternate mixes of the filler songs like "Dig a Pony" and "For You Blue" don't change my opinion of them, but each of the five songs following "The Long and Winding Road" ("Two of Us," "I've Got a Feeling," "One After 909," "Don't Let Me Down," and "I Me Mine") benefits from the new treatment. Plus, it helps that "Dig It" and "Maggie May" - - probably the weakest songs on Let It Be - - are omitted on Let It Be... Naked, replaced by "Don't Let Me Down." Apparently the latter song was removed as part of Spector's "re-producing" of the album.

I'll bet that some, or even many, have argued that Let It Be... Naked should be regarded as the genuine "original" Let It Be. After all, both versions are comprised entirely of material created on or prior to April 2, 1970. This includes all of Spector's overdubs. Other than the change resulting in the addition of "Don't Let Me Down," which was originally intended to be on the album, the biggest difference between the 1970 and 2003 versions is that for Naked, three of the songs don't include Spector's contributions. To ensure that customers who already owned the 1970 album wouldn't be paying twice for the same material, different takes or mixes of the remaining seven songs were used for Naked. There are other changes, but overall, these are two versions of the same album.

Given their similarities, Let It Be... Naked and Let It Be are both three-star albums, although I have a slight preference for Naked. If you're any kind of serious Beatles fan, you should have both. Otherwise I'm not sure it matters. The Naked versions of the best-known songs ("Get Back," "The Long and Winding Road," and "Let It Be") are slightly but noticeably different from those you'll be familiar with, so if it's these you'll mainly be listening to, Let It Be is a better bet. On the other hand, Let It Be... Naked hangs together better as an album.

 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by BEATLES, THE album cover Studio Album, 1967
4.34 | 1040 ratings

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Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles Proto-Prog

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Surely more has been written about Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band than about nearly any piece of twentieth-century music. This is the album credited with punctuating the ascendance of the album over the single as the primary form of rock music, of sparking the "concept album" trend, of introducing postmodernism into pop music, and even of spawning the genre of "progressive rock." Earlier examples of concept albums, prog rock, et cetera can be found, but Sgt. Pepper is not a derivative of any of these. But it was the first album to fully integrate these ideas - - and even if that claim isn't wrong, it's the single most influential rock album.

We can argue endlessly about the location of the headwaters of progressive rock. Sgt. Pepper's claim to being prog-rock's ultimate progenitor is largely unrelated to its status as a concept album - - the contention is that early prog largely grew out of a melding of rock & roll with high(er) art, or more narrowly, that it melded (post-)psychedelia with harder, electric-guitar-oriented rock. With Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles did this without following a template. That the album was released before most other similar examples seems to be further evidence of its claim as "the first progressive rock album."

If pressed for a year, I'm pretty sure most music historians would cite 1967 as the point where the forty-minute, long-play album supplanted the seven-inch, 45 RPM "single" as the primary way rock bands were judged. The first two songs recorded for Sgt. Pepper were "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever," but these were ultimately excluded from the album, released instead as a single three months prior to the LP release. The single was another gold-certified chart-topper, although the songs would've charted higher and had a higher combined sales total had they been released separately. But more to the point, each side is regarded as a masterpiece (I regard "Penny Lane" as the greatest pop song ever). So Sgt. Pepper is often regarded as the best album by the greatest rock band, despite overtly eschewing "Strawberry Fields" (#1 in Australia, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden; #2 UK; #8 US) and "Penny Lane" (#1 in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the US; #2 UK). Meanwhile, with some very minor exceptions, there were no singles released from Sgt. Pepper.*

So how great is this album? To be fair, there are a few pedestrian songs here, all on Side Two: George Harrison's overlong "Within You Without You," Paul McCartney's silly "Lovely Rita," and John Lennon's equally silly, but more endearing, "Good Morning Good Morning." None of these is a disappointment, but imagine replacing any two of these with "Strawberry Fields" and "Penny Lane." Some listeners have referred to McCartney's "When I'm Sixty-Four" as fluff, but I strongly disagree; it's my favorite song here.

By the time Sgt. Pepper was released, McCartney had eclipsed Lennon as the Beatles' premier songwriter. Nonetheless Lennon's "Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds" is an all-time classic, as is his contribution to "A Day in the Life;" and the Lennon-McCartney collaboration "With a Little Help from My Friends" is excellent. Furthermore, both "Lucy in the Sky" and "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" are historically important, given their influence on late-1960s popular music.

But McCartney's Sgt. Pepper compositions are even better. And while the title song may stand out as the most accessiblee, the trio of consecutive McCartney songs on Side One, "Getting Better," "Fixing a Hole," and "She's Leaving Home" represent a pop sophistication only matched by Brian Wilson. None was a single, nor does any one stand alone as a Beatles classic. Each, however, is a good example of a type of song that was still emerging at the time, which we now refer to as an "album cut" or a "deep cut."

I could go on explaining why I think Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is so great. My suggestion to any fan of prog rock - - and indeed to any fan of popular music: get it. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

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*"She's Leaving Home" was released as a b-side in Italy (1967) and four-song EPs from the album were released in Argentina and Spain in 1967 and 1968. A promo single, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" b/w "A Day in the Life" was pressed in Italy in 1967. Also, in 1978 a three-song single ("Sgt. Pepper's" / "With a Little Help from my Friends" b/w "A Day in the Life") was released worldwide in connection with Michael Schultz's film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, starring the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton.

 The Beatles [Aka: The White Album] by BEATLES, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.17 | 815 ratings

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The Beatles [Aka: The White Album]
The Beatles Proto-Prog

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Here's more solid evidence for the claim that the Beatles were trailblazers. Perhaps you thought Pink Floyd's Ummagumma, Soft Machine's Third, or Can's Tago Mago was the first double album that would've been a wonderful single album if they'd just kept the best material. Well, it turns out those bands were just following in the Beatles' footsteps.

It's never been obvious to me why the Fab Four didn't release the best 35 or 40 minutes of The Beatles (a/k/a The White Album) as one album, then rework the remaining material for their next LP. In fact, 1968 was only the second year since 1963 in which the Beatles didn't release two separate albums. Unlike Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and their three film-soundtrack albums, The White Album wasn't thematic; the songs seemingly could have been divided into multiple projects. So why a double album?

Multiple reports have the Beatles, at various times, fearing that they were about to become irrelevant. Could a double album have seemed like a consolidation of both their popularity and their gravitas?

The White Album has been referred to as an 'inside joke,' and I guess can see why; while 'Blackbird' doesn't need much context to be understood, and while 'Revolution 1' would've been decipherable to most who heard it in 1968, the attentive yet uninitiated listener may well have felt that songs like 'Happiness is a Warm Gun' and (especially) 'The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill' required some insider knowledge. It should be acknowledged, though, that in 1968, there must have been fewer attentive listeners uninitiated to the Beatles than to any other band. Mid-period Beatles albums like Rubber Soul (1965) and Revolver (1966) were comprised of unrelated songs, but, partly due to their song sequencing, those albums hung together as unified works. The sequencing of the songs on the The White Album seems intended to avoid palatable transitions. And then there's the length of the album: 30 songs totaling more than an hour and a half. From the point of view of UK fans, The White Album was the same length the band's previous three LPs/EPs combined (Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, and the Magical Mystery Tour EP). This was no longer the band of little ditties like 'She Loves You.'

But it also wasn't the band that had produced the cogent, singles-eschewing Sgt. Pepper sixteen months prior. It's been said that the sprawling, disorienting miscellany of The White Album formally described the state of the band at the time. While that's pretty ingenious if it was the intention, it doesn't make this a better musical work, even if it helps illuminate the situation for those in the know.

In retrospect is seems more likely that the fractious foursome's lack of cohesion prevented the album from becoming the unified whole it could've been; indeed, the Beatles had discarded raw material in the past in reaching consensus on the final form of an album. But with The White Album it seems they included everything, ready or not. Maybe they settled on a double album before realizing that they only had three sides of good material, but didn't have the collective will to reverse course.**

Be that as it may, there's a lot to like about The White Album. Among its thirty songs are one all-time classic ('Ob- La-Di, Ob-La-Da') and four other very good songs ('Back in the U.S.S.R.,' 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps,' 'Blackbird,' and 'Birthday'). Add to that 'The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill,' 'Revolution 1,' 'Glass Onion,' and 'Savoy Truffle,' and there's a solid half-hour to build upon. And although neither 'Helter Skelter' nor 'Revolution 9' is a Beatles classic, each is important historically - - and maybe each fits better here than on a tighter, more calculated album.

On balance, The White Album is worth having, but it's not the first to get if you want an immersive Beatles-album experience; for that I'd suggest any other of the group's albums from Rubber Soul (1965) to Abbey Road (1969).

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* counting Magical Mystery Tour as an album, which I do.

** to be fair, the band made the final selection of 30 songs from a larger collection, as evinced by the 2018 '50th Anniversary Box Set' of the album.

 Magical Mystery Tour by BEATLES, THE album cover Studio Album, 1967
4.15 | 736 ratings

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Magical Mystery Tour
The Beatles Proto-Prog

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Another winner from the Beatles, though not quite at the level of their prior two albums, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. As has been repeated ad nauseam, in the UK, the Magical Mystery Tour record was a double EP with six new songs; in the US, those six songs comprised Side One of the LP; on Side Two were five songs previously* released on singles.

I've reviewed 'Hello, Goodbye'/ 'I Am the Walrus' and 'Strawberry Fields Forever' / 'Penny Lane' separately, and here I'll focus on the remainder except to say that without them, Magical Mystery Tour would be a considerably poorer album. Conspicuously, the group composition 'Flying,' Paul McCartney's 'Your Mother Should Know,' and in particular George Harrison's 'Blue Jay Way' are below-average Beatles songs. But 'Hello, Goodbye,' 'I Am the Walrus,' and 'Penny Lane' more than atone for them.

John Lennon's 'All You Need is Love,' and the Lennon-McCartney tune 'Baby, You're a Rich Man' are considerably better, and overall it's Lennon who provides much of the depth on Magical Mystery Tour. I think the average fan of the Beatles is ambivalent to McCartney's relatively trifling pieces of the time, exemplified here by 'The Fool on the Hill' (and elsewhere by 'When I'm Sixty-Four,' 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer,' etc.). While they pale in comparison to 'Hey Jude' or 'Penny Lane,' I still enjoy them as pop music. Nonetheless, there's only so much 'The Fool on the Hill' and 'Your Mother Should Know' one 36-minute album can withstand.

Luckily, the title song (composed, as I understand it, by McCartney with help from Lennon) is on par with the previously-released material. One writer cites critics who regard 'Magical Mystery Tour' as 'a warmed-over 'Sgt. Pepper'- type fanfare/invitation to what's to follow,' but to me McCartney manages to create a unique song despite it playing a role nearly identical to that of the the lead song on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which had been released just six months earlier.

Despite its unevenness, the Magical Mystery Tour LP contains at least six indispensable Beatles songs among its thirteen tracks, making it a good place to start for those interested in the Beatles' later work.

 Abbey Road by BEATLES, THE album cover Studio Album, 1969
4.48 | 1002 ratings

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Abbey Road
The Beatles Proto-Prog

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Abbey Road is one of the best Beatles albums, and that says something.

The weakest track on the album is "Oh! Darling," and I think that says something, too: while it's by no means a great song, each of the other sixteen* is better. My only other criticism is that nearly eight minutes, "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" is a bit long. I do appreciate the need for the song to be longer than the usual track, by the way; I think in particular that the three-minute coda gets a little monotonous. But overall, the songwriting here is excellent. In fact, among all Beatles LPs, Abbey Road represents the best balance among the group's songwriters. Although Paul McCartney doesn't have a standout track, his contributions to the Side Two medley are pretty good - - especially "You Never Give Me Your Money," "Golden Slumbers," and "Carry That Weight." Ringo Starr's contribution, "Octopus's Garden" is delightful, and John Lennon turns in both "Because" and "Come Together," the latter being one of his best Beatles songs. The real star, though, is George Harrison, as his best two songs, "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun," are both here.

While few bands have produced a song as incredible as "Here Comes the Sun," "Something" is in another league. Among Beatles songs, "Something" is only equaled by "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," "She Loves You," "I Saw Her Standing There," and "Eleanor Rigby," and is surpassed only by "Penny Lane." Of course, to be fair to Lennon and McCartney, Harrison learned from the best. Every compositional aspect of "Something" is fantastic, from the way the verse-chorus melody builds and resolves to the contrast the bridge provides to the incredible guitar solo. And the hopeful but ambivalent the lyrics ("you're asking me, 'will our love grow?' / I don't know; I don't know") are on a par with the writing of Lennon or McCartney.

In addition to the compositions, the instrumental and vocal performances (and in particular the choral performances on "Because" and "Sun King") are superb. As the group's bass guitarist, McCartney outdoes himself, so to speak, on "I Want You (She's So Heavy);" surprisingly, the appropriately conventional bass line on "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" is played by Harrison, the lead guitarist. In turn, McCartney, Lennon, and Harrison play successive guitar solos on "The End," the song which also features a drum solo by Starr.

While I still consider Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band to be the Beatles' best LP, Abbey Road and Revolver are also strong contenders. It's particularly remarkable that the band produced Abbey Road after two relatively weak albums (The Beatles and Let it Be, the latter finalized and released after Abbey Road).

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*counting each track on the 2009 CD as a separate song.

 Let It Be by BEATLES, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.29 | 568 ratings

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Let It Be
The Beatles Proto-Prog

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

3 stars They are still the best rock band ever, and to their credit, they broke up before they became irrelevant. But the Beatles didn't exactly go out with a bang. Some forgive the relative lack of quality of Let It Be, citing a web of circumstances: nearly all of the recordings had been "in the can" for sixteen months prior the the album's release in May 1970; band had already publicly broken up in April; Phil Spector was brought in at the last minute to entirely remix the album - - you get the idea. But to me the fact remains that most songs on Let It Be were either previously released or filler material - - or both.

To wit: "Get Back" was released as a single in April 1969; "Across the Universe" appeared on a compilation album in December. "Let It Be" was released as a single in March 1969 and "The Long and Winding Road" and "For You Blue" were released on a single in the US (but not in the UK) a week before with the album. All three a-sides were #1 hits in the US. So the best material - - by far - - on Let It Be had been previously issued, albeit in different mixes.

The original versions of "Let it Be," "Get Back," and "Across the Universe" all appear on the Past Masters compilation, which I would argue is an essential purchase, even for casual Beatles fans. Without them, what's left on Let It Be? Well, "The Long and Winding Road" is pretty good, strings and all. And then there are the fun throw-always like "Two of Us," "I Me Mine," and the Chuck Berry homage "One after 909." But that's really about it. In retrospect, that's not really surprising, I suppose; why would George Harrison, for example, contribute his best work, when it could have otherwise appeared on All Things Must Pass? The same argument could be applied to any of the Beatles; each released a gold-or platinum-selling album in 1970.

To me Let It Be is an unexceptional album, especially by Beatles standards. Nonetheless, time and money permitting, pick it up, but perhaps wait until after you've picked up the rest of their incredible catalog.

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P.S. Surprisingly, Let It Be... Naked, the 2003 alternate version of Let It Be is actually better than the original.

Thanks to Certif1ed for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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