Friday, November 6, 2009

The Art of the Album: The Beatles – With The Beatles

Withthebeatlescover What You Need to Know: Bands have it easy these days. They release an album, and then go on a leisurely tour, and then maybe like two or three years later they meander into the studio to do another album. With The Beatles was recorded four months after Please Please Me.

This speed is impressive given the quality of the music here, though to be fair it is as close as they came to repeating themselves musically – the material here is very similar to that on Please Please Me, which certainly isn’t a bad thing, but it does get a little repetitive after multiple listens.

The Songs You’ve Heard: Another impressive thing about With The Beatles is that none of its fourteen tracks were ever issued as singles, the theory being that the band wanted to give the people who were snapping up everything they recorded more for their money – why charge for the single, and then again for the same song on an album? This philosophy was one that didn’t catch on in the music business.

Anyway, since none of these songs were singles, you might not be familiar with many of them. “All My Loving” was their first number on their first legendary Sullivan Show performance, so you’ve probably heard that. “Please Mister Postman,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” and “Money (That’s What I Want)” are three covers that you’ve probably heard in one form or another, though unlike “Twist and Shout” none of them have completely obliterated the originals from our cultural consciousness.

The Songs You Haven’t: If you haven’t heard “It Won’t Be Long,” the album’s opener, you should remedy that immediately. Equally strong is the next song, “All I’ve Got To Do,” and “Hold Me Tight” is good clean fun. “Don’t Bother Me” has the distinction of being the first George Harrison-penned song – he gets much better, don’t worry. While the originals and the covers sort of blended together on Please Please Me, I find the original songs on With The Beatles to be preferable – this is a theme that continues as their career progresses.

Why I Like It: The vocal harmonies on With The Beatles will kick your ass. To an extent, that’s true of most of their catalogue, but rarely are the harmonies so intricate and tight as they are on this album.

Otherwise, pretty much everything I said of Please Please Me can be said of With The Beatles – it’s high-energy, well-performed rock music. I’m really glad that their music evolved, of course – listening to Please Please Me and then this multiple times over the course of two days means I’ve officially overdosed on their earliest music – but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a really fun listen every once in awhile.

Desert Island Tracks: “It Won’t Be Long,” “All My Loving