Thursday, July 22, 2010

Album sobriquets

As you'd expect, my "best-three-songs-in-a-row" project found me perusing all of The Beatles' albums and taking note of many of their salient and subtle features. In particular, the process helped me to get a strong(er) sense of each album's "feel" or theme. What I've written below stemmed from this. I decided to come up with one- or two-word labels that denoted something close to the essence of each album. What is Please Please Me all about, in a word? How do you distill Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band down to three or four syllables? Etc., etc. The answers are as follows:

1) Please Please Me: The Beatles' "live" album. (PPM was, more or less, a studio re-creation of The Beatles' early stage show.)

2) With The Beatles: The Beatles' "Motown" album. (Three of its songs are Motown covers, and two others were inspired by Smokey Robinson.)

3) A Hard Day's Night: The Beatles' "song-writing" album. (It was their first album composed of all originals.)

4) Beatles for Sale: The Beatles' "exhaustion" album. (Wearied by the obligations of their celebrity, the Fabs were low on creative energy in mid-1964 and, as a result, put out an album laden with covers and dour tones.)

5) Help!: The Beatles' "growing-up" album. (It was their first album that featured truly adult, introspective songs from both John and Paul.)

6) Rubber Soul: The Beatles' "weed" album. (The recreational drug played a not insignificant role in the album's formation, and some of the songs even have that languorous, hazy feel of a stoned state.)

7) Revolver: The Beatles' "innovation" album. (The aggressive experimentation on Revolver marked a decisive shift for The Beatles and their art.)

8) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: The Beatles' "studio" album. (Even more experimental than Revolver, Pepper was crafted so it couldn't be reproduced onstage.)

9) Magical Mystery Tour: The Beatles' "sequel" album. (Loose, flighty, and reflective, MMT comes off as a celebration of all that's great about its predecessor and companion piece, Pepper.)

10) The White Album: The Beatles' "solo" album. (Caused by the band's fractious relations, much of The White Album shows the four Beatles operating as individual artists, not true collaborators.)

11) Yellow Submarine: The Beatles' "children's" album. (The nursery rhyme vibe of the title track and "All Together Now" stands out more than anything else on the album's six originals.)

12) Abbey Road: The Beatles' "reunion" album. (Following the rancorous and near-abortive Get Back sessions, the boys regrouped, reconnected with George Martin, and made Abbey Road.)

13) Let It Be: The Beatles' "breakup" album. (As The Beatles rehearsed for and recorded Let It Be, bickering all the while, their dissolution became close to inevitable.)

Suggestions and counterclaims are welcome.

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