Friday, June 25, 2010

Best three songs in a row - Pt. 9

Resuming the conversation after another long and regrettable pause....

Parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight.

Album: Magical Mystery Tour
Three songs: "I Am the Walrus," "Hello, Goodbye," and "Strawberry Fields Forever"
Comments: I'll start with this disclaimer - though the Magical Mystery Tour LP is an artificial creation, its track listing consisting of the MMT EP and some non-album singles that Capitol Records decided to add on, I'm still going to approach it as I have the other albums. The Beatles' disapproval of the LP format won't factor into my thought process; I'm just following the official canon. End of disclaimer.

On some days, maybe even most, MMT is more purely enjoyable than Pepper. Song-wise, it has greater consistency from start to finish, and it doesn't bear the weight of aspirational Significance that saddles its predecessor. It feels like a loose and breezy victory lap, not needing to prove anything but certain that it's great all the same. The Beatles do indeed sound self-assured and commanding here. Carried over from Pepper, there's a lot of studio experimentation at work, which results in some career highlights like "I Am the Walrus" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" (both are trippy, and both are courtesy of John, the self-proclaimed Rock 'n' Roller). Paul matches "Fields" with his own nostalgia tour, "Penny Lane" and also serves up "Your Mother Should Know," another album standout and Tour's answer to "When I'm Sixty-Four." Lastly, though it's his sole contribution, George's "Blue Jay Way" represents one of his finest forays into psychedelia.

To put it succinctly, Magical Mystery Tour is loaded with terrific songs. In thinking about the three best in a row, I had to start with "I Am the Walrus," the album's high point and a song both bombastic and absorbing. From there, you see that "Strawberry Fields Forever" is nearby, with "Hello, Goodbye" separating the two. Now "Hello, Goodbye" doesn't offer much to speak of, but it's pleasant fluff, and the outro is killer. This triumvirate - "Walrus"-"Hello"-"Fields" - won out over the other contender, "Hello"-"Fields"-"Lane," by virtue of "Walrus" being a cut or two above "Lane."

It's a tribute to the overall strength of Magical Mystery Tour that it features a couple of songs superior to the great "Penny Lane." Underrated album in my opinion.

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