The Beatles Albums Ranked

1 Revolver

Revolver

Most songwriters would give their right arm for just one of the melodies, riffs or chord sequences on Revolver. The playing is terrific too. From the looping bass, taut guitar stabs and crisp drumming of the opening ‘Taxman’, to the hallucinatory ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ with that legendary, defining Ringo drum pattern, The Beatles sound like the tightest band on the planet.  And they don’t just hit the back of the net with rock, pop and psychedelia; whatever they turn their hand to on the album is pure gold, from the heart-breaking pathos of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ with its haunting double string quartet arrangement, to the achingly tender ‘Here, There and Everywhere’, arguably McCartney’s most beautiful love song. With every track a banger (and no, I’m not excluding ‘Yellow Submarine’ which has the hookiest chorus ever written), it’s unquestionably the highpoint of The Beatles recording career. An awe-inspiring achievement, especially when you consider it was released only eight months after Rubber Soul and that many of the tracks wouldn’t even make a top 20 of The Beatles best known songs.

Beatles Handbook rating: 5 Stars

Essential tracks
Eleanor Rigby
Here, There and Everywhere
And Your Bird Can Sing
Got To Get You Into My Life
Tomorrow Never Knows

Buy this album: Revolver

2 Help!

Help

For any other band, Help! would be a greatest hits album. But because this is The Beatles, it’s just another shift in the mop tops’ factory of greatness. With what must be the most impactful beginning of any pop album, ‘Help!’ makes for a direct, startling opening statement, vulnerable and yet uplifting as though by simply making the request, Lennon has made himself feel better. With only one track tipping the three minute mark (Ticket To Ride at a hardly epic 3m9s), the band rattle though 14 perfect slices of guitar pop.  Every track is a cracker, including the Ringo-sung ‘Act Naturally’.  As astonishingly excellent as the film it soundtracks is appallingly bad. 

Beatles Handbook rating: 5 Stars

Essential tracks
Help!
The Night Before
You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
You’re Going to Lose That Girl
Ticket To Ride

Buy this album: Help!

3 Rubber Soul

Rubber Soul
It’s amazing what you can do with some tight guitar riffs, even tighter vocal harmonies, passing piano chords and a killer hook line. ‘Beep, beep, beep, yeah’ indeed. It’s incredible to think that, a little more than two years earlier, the same four lads were banging, thrashing and crooning their way through a disparate rag bag of rudimentary rockers and schmaltzy ballads. And ‘Drive My Car’ is just one of any number of sophisticated, mature, memorable and melodic songs on what isn’t even their best album. It may be a music mag all-time-best-list staple but it can’t quite keep pace in terms of quality with Help!  or Revolver, but make no mistake, this is a band close to the very height of their powers sounding both assured, thrilling and moving by turns.

Beatles Handbook rating: 4 Stars

Essential tracks
Drive My Car
Norwegian Wood
Nowhere Man
The Word
Girl
I’m Looking Through You
In My Life

Buy this album: Rubber Soul

4 A Hard Day’s Night

Hard Days Night
As Luke Haines recently noted in his column in Record Collector, “the opening chord of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’… singlehandedly seemed to usher in a new era”.  It certainly ushered in a new era for the mop tops themselves with what might be considered by contemporary listeners as their first ‘proper’ album. Most of the Hamburg hard edges have been sanded off and chugging rock’n’roll for the most part replaced by sophisticated song writing with ace melodies and harmonies. Lennon dominates, taking lead vocals on nine out of the thirteen tracks and, according to beatlesarchive.net, writing ten, but McCartney still manages to make a big impression with his three contributions; the hauntingly beautiful ‘And I Love Her’ (the signature opening guitar motive courtesy of Harrison),  the instantly catchy ‘Things We Said Today’ and of course the timeless classic ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’.  Harrison is given ‘I’m Happy Just To Dance With You’ to sing, one of the weaker numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place on Please Please Me or With The Beatles but it’s still a pleasant enough sub-two minute listen. A great album that soundtracks the band’s finest moment on film.

Beatles Handbook rating: 4 Stars

Essential tracks

A Hard Day’s Night
I should Have Known Better
If I Fell
And I Love Her
Can’t Buy Me Love
Things We Said Today
I’ll Be Back

Buy this album:  Hard Day’s Night 

5 Let It Be

Let It Be

An album that includes songs of the quality of ‘Across The Universe’, ‘Let It Be’, ‘The Long and Winding Road’ and ‘Get Back’ should rate five stars, but it’s actually somewhat of a disappointment.  The inclusion of two sub-one minute tracks (‘Dig It’ and ‘Maggie Mae’), a piece of Lennon juvenilia in the form of ‘One After 909’, and Harrison’s lightweight ‘For You Blue’ gives Let It Be an uneven quality. That’s exacerbated but the inclusion of second division songs (at least in the context of The Beatles catalogue) ‘Dig a Pony’ and ‘I’ve Got a Feeling’, but it’s hardly surprising once you’ve seen the film Get Back and understand the chaotic nature of the rehearsal and recording sessions for the album. McCartney’s touching and wistful ‘Two of Us’ and Harrison’s waltzing ‘I Me Mine’ are the album’s two relatively hidden gems.    

Beatles Handbook rating: 3 stars

Essential tracks
Two of Us
Across The Universe
I Me Mine
Let It Be
The Long and Winding Road
Get Back

Buy this album: Let It Be

6 The Beatles (White Album)

The Beatles White Album
Where to start with The Beatles by The Beatles? An album that sounds like an extended re-issue of itself with bonus tracks that should never have seen the light of day (WTAF is Wild Honey Pie?). Starting at the beginning is actually a very good idea as you get to hear ace rocker ‘Back In The U.S.S.R’., the dreamy psychedelia of ‘Dear Prudence’ and the archly self-referential ‘Glass Onion’. Then the problems start. Oh bloody hell, it’s ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’, McCartney at his absolute worst, culturally appropriating a story that’s not his to tell over a weird and horrible umpah-meets-cod-reggae backing track. Jesus wept. At least the aforementioned ‘Wild Honey Pie’, the next track up, with its faux avant garde stylings has the decency to last a merciful 53 seconds.

I’m not going parse all 30 tracks of this sprawling mess, but suffice to say that to get to every magnificent song such as Harrison’s ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, Lennon’s ‘Julia’  or McCartney’s ‘Blackbird’ you have to wade through dreck like ‘The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill’ or the more than eight unlistenable minutes of ‘Revolution 9’ (if anyone tries to tell you that, actually, that’s their favourite Beatles song, run). It is however almost worth the slog to end up at one of the loveliest songs the band ever recorded, ‘Good Night’, affectingly sung by Ringo.

Beatles Handbook rating: 3 stars 

Essential tracks
Back In The USSR
Dear Prudence
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Happiness Is A Warm Gun
Martha My Dear
Helter Skelter
Julia
Mother Nature’s Son
Everybody’s Got Something to Hide
Revolution 1
Cry Baby Cry
Good Night

Buy this album: The Beatles

7 Beatles For Sale

Beatles For Sale
Sorry, I’m not buying. Compared to the giant leap forward that was A Hard Day’s Night, Beatles For Sale is a big step back. But let’s be fair; it was released just 21 weeks after Hard Day and was the fabs fourth album in two years. No wonder they resorted to padding out the 33 minute running time with no less than six cover versions. We are sadly back in Hamburg it seems, but at least Chuck Berry’s ‘Rock’n’Roll’ and Leiber/Stoller/Penniman’s ‘Kansas City’ sound convincingly raucous. The less said about Ringo’s rather painful stab at Carl Perkins’ ‘Honey Don’t’ the better.  Of the originals, ‘Eight Days a Week’ is the obvious stand out but the nakedly vulnerable, confessional lyrics of ‘I’m A Loser’ are striking, ‘Every Little Thing’ is a beautifully constructed pop song full of hooks, and Harrison’s twelve string riff gives ‘What You’re Doing’ a distinctive sound that would be much copied by the likes of The Byrds.

Beatles Handbook rating: 3 stars

Essential tracks
No Reply
I’m A Loser
I’ll Follow The Sun
Eight Days a Week
Every Little Thing
What You’re Doing

Buy this album: Beatles for Sale

 

8 Abbey Road

Abbey Road

The band’s final recordings (although penultimate release; Let It Be appeared eight months later) are sadly a rather scrappy affair. Harrison comes out on top with two stone cold, all time classics in ‘Something’ and ‘Here Comes The Sun’, not only the best songs on the album, but among the best he ever wrote and among the best of the entire Beatles catalogue. Lennon’s strident ‘Come Together’ makes an ear-grabbingly effective opener, especially with Ringo’s rolling drum pattern, one of the most famous in pop history. 

Beyond that, things get rather messy. Apart from inventing three chord punk nearly a decade before the Sex Pistols with ‘Polythene Pam’, there is McCartney’s music hall fetish in the form of ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’, the white man’s doo-wop of ‘Oh! Darling’ and whatever the hell ‘Octopus’s Garden’ is meant to be to contend with. Not to mention a patience-testing 7 minutes 47 seconds of ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’, although the extended instrumental outro is pretty mesmerising. 

There are some stunning moments scattered around, ‘Sun King’ is a rather lovely thing, reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’, and there are some great melodies on ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ and ‘Golden Slumbers’, but ultimately the album fails to cohere in the same way as Revolver or Help!.

Beatles Handbook rating: 3 Stars

Essential tracks
Something
Here Comes The Sun
Sun King 
You Never Give Me Your Money
Golden Slumbers

Buy this album: Abbey Road

9 Magical Mystery Tour

Magical Mystery Tour
Not a full studio album as such but a compilation of a double ep soundtrack to a made-for-TV film plus some singles. It might be a bit of a mess thematically (as is the film itself, and that’s putting it mildly) but that’s hardly a rare trait in the Beatles album canon and it does contain some of The Beatles best-known songs.  The original British ep release not only included the rousing title track (a far better signature tune for a concept than St. Pepper’s) but ‘The Fool On The Hill’ one of McCartney’s greatest and most unusual compositions, ‘I Am The Walrus’, Lennon’s most successful stab at musical and lyrical surrealism, and Harrison’s remarkable, woozy and weird ‘Blue Jay Way’ (is there anything in pop or rock that sounds quite like it?).

The collection of non-album A and B sides that make up the rest of the album is almost ridiculous in terms of its quality. ‘Hello, Goodbye’, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘All You Need Is Love’ are of course among the cream of the Beatles crop; even ‘Baby, You’re A Rich Man’, the B-side of ‘All You Need Is Love’ is a cracker.

Because it’s status as an album is questionable and having all those non-album singles on it is sort of ‘cheating’ in the context of the band’s other releases which lack that advantage, it appears lower down on this list than it might do.  A great listen, especially for those whose favourite Beatles album would be ‘The Best of The Beatles’.

Beatles Handbook rating: 4 stars

Essential tracks
The Fool On The Hill
I Am The Walrus
Blue Jay Way
Hello, Goodbye
Strawberry Fields Forever
Penny Lane
All You Need Is Love

Buy this album: Magical Mystery Tour 

10 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
The first Beatles album I bought as a kid, aged 11. I never really liked it and now, more than four decades years later, I still don’t. It sounds to me like a band losing their way; the Sgt Pepper’s conceit merely a way of bringing some sort of cohesion to a very disparate group of songs written by musicians with one eye on the exit door.  You can either view the juxtaposition of ‘Within You Without You’ and ‘When I’m Sixty Four’ as audacious and daring or simply desperate. ‘Lucy In The Sky’ has aged badly into try-hard psychedelia; ‘Fixing a Hole’ is uninspired, lumbering and mundane, ‘She’s Leaving Home’ is a re-tread of the vastly superior ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite!’ is much less clever and much less listenable than Lennon probably thought it was.  ‘A Day In Life”s haunting refrain is swamped by over production and the unwelcome intrusion of McCartney’s ‘middle eight’. It’s a striking, innovative piece but I’m not sure I’d ever want to listen to it for fun. It’s another album that would make a great EP with ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ and Ringo’s touchingly performed vocal providing the lead track.

Beatles Handbook rating: 3 stars 

Essential tracks
With A Little Help From My Friends
Getting Better
Lovely Rita
Good Morning Good Morning

Buy this album: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

 

11 Yellow Submarine

Yellow Submarine

A curio in The Beatles album canon. The soundtrack to the animated film contains only four previously unreleased songs, the rest of the running time made up from the title track, which previously appeared on Revolver,  ‘All You Need Is Love’ which was a single and also collected on Magical Mystery Tour, and George Martin’s instrumental orchestral music for the film, none of which will be troubling us here. Unusually, Harrison gets two out of the four new cuts and both are very decent examples of late period Beatles. The inventive and unusual ‘Only A Northern Song’ is built around a loping bassline and random-sounding soundscape of squawling trumpets and backwards tape loops that is much easier on the ear than that description might sound. ‘It’s All Too Much’ is a medium paced stomper with a droning organ riff and busy percussion track supporting a lilting verse melody and catchy chorus hook that all adds up to a distinctive and enjoyable addition to the bands catalogue. ‘Hey Bulldog’s driving piano riff underpins a snarling, menacing Lennon vocal to great effect, but McCartney’s throwaway knees up ‘All Together Now’ irritates rather than amuses. One for Beatles collectors rather than the general listener.

Beatles Handbook rating
3 Stars

Essential tracks
Northern Song
Hey Bulldog
It’s All Too Much

Buy this album: Yellow Submarine

12 Please Please Me

Please Please Me

Released shortly after their return from their extended show band stint in Hamburg, Please Please Me sounds like a historical recording from an ancient civilisation. That the album sounds underwhelming now should come as no surprise; after all, The Beatles had been so busy performing for eight hours a day that they hadn’t quite got around to creating modern pop music.
 
Instead, we get a rather underpowered impersonation of The Beatles’ rock’n’roll heroes (‘I Saw Her Standing There’ sounds pretty energetic until you play ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ immediately after and Little Richard really blows your hair back) along with some pretty schlocky and sappy love songs.  The title track hints at the greatness to come, as does Lennon’s  plaintive harmonica refrain on ‘There’s A Place’ and the song’s touchingly introspective lyrics. Ringo’s forceful, driving vocal on ‘Boys’ is another highlight.
 
For those that lived through the era, it’s no doubt an essential album and that has to be respected, but if you missed out on those heady days this is a record you can probably live without.


Beatles Handbook rating
2  Stars

Essential tracks
Please Please Me
Do You Want To Know A Secret
Baby It’s You
Boys
There’s A Place

Buy this album: Please Please Me

 

13 With The Beatles

With The Beatles
Released eight months after Please Please Me, the band’s second album sticks pretty much to the debut’s formula with again, eight originals and six covers including Chick Berry’s ‘Roll Over Beethoven’. It’s a similar mix of rockers and sappy love songs but this time there’s a high quotient of original top pop tunes including the urgent opening track ‘It Won’t Be Long’, the timeless classic ‘All My Loving’ and Harrison’s sombre and relatively overlooked ‘Don’t Bother Me’. But as an album, it still sounds too much like it’s based around a got-to-please-them-all Hamburg set list.

Beatles Handbook rating
2 Star

Essential tracks
It Won’t Be Long 
All My Loving
Not a Second Time
Don’t Bother Me

Buy this album: With The Beatles 

The Essential Beatles Playlist

I Listened to all The Beatles albums in order and these are the tracks I liked

Published by

Andy Lynes

I'm a food and drink writer and author.

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