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The Beatles albums ranked (2021 update)

A look at the Fab Four’s catalogue and an update to my earlier ranking from a little while ago.
13The Beatles
Yellow Submarine

This was destined to be last. While the movie has gone down as a timeless psychedelic gem, the soundtrack is spread just a little too thin. With songs re-appearing from older albums (‘Yellow Submarine’, ‘All You Need is Love’), tossed off outtakes (‘Only a Northern Song’) and an entire side of non-Beatles George Martin compositions, it’s easy to see why most people don’t bother with this one. However, overlooked gems like the burning ‘Hey Bulldog’ and George’s acid rock masterpiece ‘It’s All Too Much’ stand far above the rest of the LP and make the album worth at least giving a curious listen for these two songs alone

Best song: It’s All Too Much
Worst: Only a Northern Song

12The Beatles
Beatles for Sale

Recorded amidst the chaos of Beatlemania, ‘Beatles for Sale’ sees the Fab Four at their wits’ end, worn down by the constant touring and media and fan harassment. In contrast to the all Lennon-McCartney original led ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, ‘Beatles for Sale’ relapses back into their days of covers. And those covers are either hits (‘Rock n Roll Music’) or... pretty big misses (‘Words of Love’). The results are thoroughly mixed, although the originals here are mainly very strong and showcase the group’s growing interest in Folk and Country (‘I’ll Follow the Sun’, ‘I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party’) as well as John’s emerging more personal style of lyrics (‘I’m a Loser’).

Best: I’m a Loser
Worst: Words of Love

11The Beatles
Please Please Me

It might be a bit harsh putting the band’s debut so low, but it’s definitely an LP that’s acclaimed more for its impact than its quality. Don’t get me wrong, this is mainly a pretty killer set of Merseybeat pop rock with some of the band’s finest tracks (‘I Saw Her Standing There’, ‘Twist and Shout’, ‘Please Please Me’), though the heavy reliance on covers (it was the early 60s, what could you do?) that vary in quality greatly (the Ringo led ‘Boys’ is full of fire and fun, while ‘A Taste of Honey’ spurts out like a wet fart) tend to water things down. Regardless of some forgettable songs, the band are clearly having a blast and the energy radiating from these tracks is admirable. And for the first album by the biggest band on earth? It’s a pretty great start.

Best: Twist and Shout
Worst: A Taste of Honey

10The Beatles
With the Beatles

As the mass hysteria called Beatlemania gripped not just Britain but the entire world, The Beatles returned to the studio to record their sophomore record. While it’s basically just ‘Please Please Me 2’, the improved production, song writing and the focus on rockier, heavier tunes (‘Roll Over Beethoven’, ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’), while still demonstrating their pop side (‘All My Loving’, ‘’Til There Was You’, ‘All I’ve Got To Do’) push it ahead of its brother. The result is an album that not only showed the Beatles were a versatile lot, it also made the hysteria even more out of control.

Best: All I’ve Got to Do
Worst: Not a Second Time

9The Beatles
Let It Be

The disastrous ‘Get Back’ sessions nearly destroyed the Beatles completely, and the resulting album that spawned from the nightmarish sessions was long held as the worst thing the Beatles ever shit out. Time has been much kinder to ‘Let It Be’ however, warts and all. While the unusual song choices, highly contrasting production from Phil Spector and occasionally shambolic performances can hamper the product, the raw (when it IS raw) performances (‘I’ve Got a Feeling’) heavy hitting RNB and blues influences (‘One After 909’, ‘For You Blue’) and the emotionally powerful lyrics (‘Let It Be’, ‘Two of Us’) make the band’s much maligned last album more than its often cracked up to be.

Best: Let It Be
Worst: Dig It

8The Beatles
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Yeah, I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. “Pepper is the best album ever made” and “Pepper is an overrated piece of shit”. Yadda yadda yadda. In my opinion, it’s good. Great even, but it’s by no means their best album, god no. While the mythos and the impact of the record have long overshadowed its music, the album remains incredibly strong, with career highs that likely changed the face of pop music (‘A Day In the Life’), brought new sounds to the masses (‘Within You Without You’) and continued Paul’s excursions into grannycore music (‘When I’m 64’). There’s also a bit of fluff stacked here and there (the gooey horrors of ‘She’s Leaving Home’ mainly). Funnily enough, the best track here is the Ringo tune ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’, a song so charming and catchy its nigh impossible to hate. Fab job, lads, but you’ve definitely done better

Best: With A Little Help From My Friends
Worst: She’s Leaving Home

7The Beatles

Soundtracking the Beatles’ second movie, the quirky adventure comedy of the same name, ‘Help!’ is sort of a turning point in the band’s catalogue, when they progressed from four guys making catchy pop tunes to the innovators they’re regarded as today (though ‘Rubber Soul’ is definitely more of a jumping point, ‘Help’ is probably the stepping stone to it). John’s continued push into more personal tunes (‘Help!’, ‘You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away’ and ‘Ticket to Ride’) as well as the group further embracing the Dylan school of folk (‘I’ve Just Seen a Face’). Elsewhere, George continues to come into his own as a songwriter (‘I Need You’) and Paul writes the most covered song in history with ‘Yesterday’.

Best: You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
Worst: Dizzy Miss Lizzy

6The Beatles
Magical Mystery Tour

Another soundtrack album and the only US album on the list (it’s canon now anyway), Magical Mystery Tour may have played alongside a cosmic surreal clusterfuck of a film but make no mistake, the music here is likely the band’s finest venture into psychedelic music. While the occasional dodgy track makes the wheels on this bus a bit rickety (‘Flying’, ‘Blue Jay Way’), the pure poppy, dayglo bliss of some of these songs can not be understated (‘Hello Goodbye’, ‘Baby, You’re A Rich Man’). If that isn’t your thing, there’s always John’s experimental pop masterpieces ‘I Am the Walrus’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, songs that were basically unlike anything that was being made at the time. Psychedelic bliss.

Best: Baby, You’re a Rich Man
Worst: Blue Jay Way

5The Beatles
A Hard Day's Night

Perhaps a confusing choice to have so high up on the list, but hear me out. ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ is basically pop perfection from start to finish. With the burden of a film project now looming over them, the band, who now couldn’t perform covers for the album, released 14 all Lennon-McCartney originals upon the world. And they’re all fucking killer. From the opening *TWAAANG* of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, the heart melting ‘And I Love Her’, the emotionally soaring ‘Any Time at All’ to the tense and biting ‘Things We Said Today’, every song is a hit, and most of those were deep cuts! That’s not even mentioning hits like ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, ‘If I Fell’ and ‘I Should’ve Known Better’. If you want to know why the Beatles were larger than life in the early sixties, listen to this. It’ll all make sense then.

Best: Any Time at All
Worst: When I Get Home

4The Beatles
Rubber Soul

The album that changed the Beatles. While their early work had been frowning gradually more and more mature, ‘Rubber Soul’ was the change from boys to men. With a distinctly folk rock vibe (more so in the US version) and a healthy balance of pop and soul sprinkled in, ‘Rubber Soul was a new venture for the boys. While early albums mainly dealt with love (well, basically every song they made up to then), ‘Rubber Soul’ was darker, more mature and much unlike what they’d made before with themes not yet explored in pop music. The band experimented with new sounds (like the sitar on the moody ‘Norwegian Wood’ and the sped up piano on the heartbreaking ‘In My Life’), further pushing them to the experimental heights of their next few albums. It’s an album of metamorphosis, showing these four boys, well, becoming masters of the craft

Best: Norwegian Wood
Worst: What Goes On?

3The Beatles
The Beatles

As the Summer of Love tapered out and political unrest began to brew around the world, the Beatles shed the psychedelic coating to their work and released a double album of utter chaos. Bitter, cynical, goofy, miserable and all around bizarre, the White Album is a kaleidoscope of styles, sounds and a portrait of a band falling apart. Mediative folk ballads (‘Long Long Long’) sit next to proto-metal freakouts (‘Helter Skelter’), lullabies (‘Good Night’) with sound collages (‘Revolution 9’). Baroque (‘Piggies’) with country (‘Rocky Raccoon’). It’s excessive, pretentious, overwrought and in desperate need of an editor. It’s the Beatles. And it’s the tits.

Best: I Will
Worst: Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?

2The Beatles

If ‘Rubber Soul’ was the gun, then ‘Revolver’ was the bullet that changed everything. This was the album that made people turn their heads and realise the Beatles’ weren’t just making music for teenyboppers, they were on the cutting edge. I mean Christ, who else in the top 40 was putting out avant garde proto electronic art rock (‘Tomorrow Never Knows’), Indian classical (‘Love You To’), baroque (‘Eleanor Rigby’), jazzy rnb (‘Got To Get You Into My Life’), woozy psychedelia (‘I’m Only Sleeping’) and pop ballads (‘Here, There and Everywhere’) on the SAME ALBUM? And to have all those experiments work! To be great songs outside of their experimentation! I rest my case.

Best: I’m Only Sleeping
Worst: Dr. Robert

1The Beatles
Abbey Road

Truth be told I was going to put ‘Revolver’ at the top spot, but a relisten to ‘Abbey Road’ made me realise that it’s likely better. From start to finish, the album never lets up. I’m talking absolute classic after absolute classic. George’s stunning ‘Something’ and ‘Here Comes the Sun’. John’s cryptic ‘Come Together’ and apocalyptic ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’, Paul’s throat shredding ‘Oh! Darling!’ and heartbreaking ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ and Ringo’s timeless and light hearted ‘Octopus’s Garden’. And that’s not even mentioning the life affirming medley that ends the album. It’s songs like these that prove why the Beatles were the ones. The best in their field, above anyone else. While other bands have come and gone (and arguably made better music), The Beatles’ legacy is something that will remain for decades to come. And for good reason.

Best: Oh! Darling!
Worst: Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

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