Classic Rock Review

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The Beatles Rubber Soul (1965)


Rubber Soul is an undeniably brilliant album, but before I get underway I want to address a statement I read in an earlier review, which I find difficult to believe that someone would actually make this statement. Matthew McDowell, in his review dated September 4, 2000, said this was the first significant album ever produced. That is simply an asinine statement. Even that year, Dylan gives The Beatles a run for their money (and arguably beats them, especially with Highway 61 Revisited), and both BIABH and HW61R were already released.

There was a significant body of recordings and albums in other genres being produced for a long time, especially jazz, and his claim of Rubber Soul being first important album ever is both ridiculous and uninformed. That being said, I will resume the review proper.

Rubber Soul, The Beatles’ sixth studio album in a mere three years, takes its place as the very first full length release that truly beings the evolution of away from the boy-girl “I Love you” pop that dominated the first half of their career.

The truly fascinating element of The Beatles are going through their recordings chronologically. You can watch that extremely rapid artistic growth explode. It is amazing that this is the same band who, a mere three years ago, recorded Please Please Me. Obviously, there are several influences that can be felt on this album, although The Beatles up the antes one with this release.

This album sounds like The Beatles playing (and beating) The Byrds at their own game. There are gorgeous three part harmonies, several compositions that would become standards almost on their release, and such a vast improvement artistically over the last five albums. The Beatles knew the time to move was now. Dylan had released Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited that year, both of which are much better aesthetically than The Beatles’ effort that year (Help!).

The critics always talk about Rubber Soul being that pivotal album in The Beatles’ artistic growth, but that is simply not true. While it is true that it is the first album by The Beatles to have that mature sound, about half of Help! stands proudly alongside this release, as does the non LP tracks “Yes, It Is,” and “I Feel Fine,” which, to me, has always sound much more mid period Beatles than the earlier material with which it belongs. Although it’s true it’s the first album of their mature sound, the seeds were already there in earlier material already released.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened had they scrapped Help!, but the five or six extra tracks on this, and released the other half as singles, but we can never know. What we do know, however, is that tracks like “Help!,” “Ticket to Ride,” “It’s Only Love,” “Yesterday,” “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” and “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away,” (which, by the way, is the best song Dylan never wrote) point toward this release. The first two tracks cited hearken back to tracks like “Hard Days’ Night” and their earlier sound, the lyrics are much better and without expense to the melody.

Those who complain that the record company has butchered the pre-1967 Beatles releases by coming out with totally reconfigured albums are putting on prominent display their ignorance of The Beatles’ history and the decadence of Capitol in regards to respecting the artistic integrity of their artists. There were eleven*, count them, eleven U.S. albums released from1963 to 1966. In the UK, however, The Beatles had only issued five albums before this. No one complains about these missing albums with the exception of this US version of Rubber Soul.

In those days, The Beatles were extremely hot commodities (which they still are) and the market supported singles more than albums anyway, so the reshuffling of all the tracks does not effect (much) the artistry of the songs until we get to Rubber Soul and Revolver. It is only until Sgt. Pepper that the American version and the UK version coincided. The most famous of these bastardized American albums is “Yesterday . . . and Today,” the famous Butcher album, which is comprised of the four lost Rubber Soul tracks, two from the Side 2 of Help!, three from the then current Revolver sessions (the album was not completed when Yesterday was released), and the “Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out Single.” Yet that album has its place in Beatles history more for the cover as opposed to the music inside, although the music is brilliant. But of all the American albums, this and the U. S. Rubber Soul are the most sorely missed.

Why are they sorely missed? Well, there’s a reason why there have been many people complaining about the UK version when they grew up with the American version. With the release of this particular album, The Beatles and their contemporaries (especially Dylan) were firmly moving the market away from the singles and were becoming much more album oriented, which is why this is the most controversial reconfiguration. The rest sound like a collection of singles: this sounds like a unified album. To those who argue that the American release is better I do not necessarily agree. “Nowhere Man” stands as a vastly important composition, the first of The Beatles to move beyond the boy-girl subject of their early pop material, and to remove it from this album makes the record suffer greatly. The American release compensated (partially) as having “Face” as the opener, which I greatly prefer to start the album off as opposed to “Drive My Car.” This version of the album also is strengthened by dropping the rather bland “What Goes On,” the worst track on the album.

As everyone praises this album, no one seems to fully discuss the disturbing “Run For Your Life,” an extremely misogynistic Lennon song and the most baffling song in The Beatles’ canon. This song makes a rather weakened end, and Ringo’s simply isn’t that impressive.

Still, an enthusiastic five star release non-the-less.

May 4, 2013 - Posted by | The Beatles Rubber Soul |

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