This is a ranked list, meaning each album I mention, I liked better than the previous album on the list. Or, in the case of the first album on the list, I liked it better than all the other Beatles albums that do not appear on the list. Speaking of the first album on the list,
#5. The Beatles (The White Album) (1968). This is a weird one. But taken as a whole, it’s a goddamn experience, and I love it. A couple non sequiturs, but mostly really good Beatles music. This came out after the excesses of 1967, and in many ways it was a counterpoint to Sgt. Pepper’s. The production was a little more subdued on the White Album, and it’s a nice contrast.
#4. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). Balls to the wall psychedelia. This was the album where they really stepped out into it. Or maybe not stepped. More like a jump. The kind of jump where you land stomping on both feet. Preferably in some kind of puddle. In the case of Sgt. Pepper’s, the puddle was a puddle of cultural inevitability. So how’s come it’s only #4? Well, I’ll tell you.
#3. Revolver (1966). Revolver is a dynamite album. They were taking their first forays into psychedelia and hard-core experimentation that was the hallmark of Sgt. Pepper’s. I’m guessing (this is pure speculation on my part) that Revolver was the first album after they got turned on to LSD. I know the song “Doctor Robert” is about a guy who sold LSD, so they were definitely doing it when this album was being written and recorded. I guess the timing doesn’t really matter.
#2. Abbey Road (1969). Abbey Road is the best Beatles album. It is the crowning jewel of their catalog. So why is it only #2? Because this is a favorites list, not a qualitative list.
Honorable Mention. Rubber Soul (1965). Wanted to stick this in here before I reveal the #1. This was the first album after the Fab Four were turned on to weed. As such, it serves as a bridge between the two phases of the Beatles. The first phase was the poppy stuff (but still good), and the second phase, which commenced with Rubber Soul, was the good stuff (but still poppy).
#1. Magical Mystery Tour (1967). But that’s not a real album, I hear you saying. Maybe not. But it has the most iconic songs in their catalog. Let’s list a few of the heavy hitters that appear on this album. “I Am the Walrus”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “Penny Lane”, “All You Need Is Love”. Those are the Beatles songs, man. They fill it out with the likes of “Flying”, “Blue Jay Way”, “The Fool on the Hill”, “Hello, Goodbye”, “Magical Mystery Tour”. Are you fucking kidding me? This album is astonishing! I also like that they put out Sgt. Pepper’s, and then they did Magical Mystery Tour which is in every way a continuation and a culmination of that earlier project.
I love it when bands do this. U2 is another example. They came out with Joshua Tree, and everybody flipped their shit. So they came out with Rattle and Hum, which is my favorite U2 album, and which is a continuation and culmination of Joshua Tree. Along with some live tracks which are greatly appreciated. Man, I like Rattle and Hum.
But we’re not talking about U2 here. We’re talking about the Beatles, which is a different thing, though the two are not entirely dissimilar. So that’s my top five ranked list of Beatles albums. How about that.