The Beatles 1

The Beatles

Apple/Capitol, 2000

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


The premise of The Beatles 1 sets itself up to be almost impervious to criticism. The album is a collection of The Beatles’ number one hits (from the U.S. and the U.K.). Thus, the compilers were at the mercy of the charts (thank Engelbert Humperdink’s “Release Me” for preventing “Strawberry Fields Forever” from reaching number 1 in England).

This means no matter how lovely and essential “Dear Prudence” or “A Day in the Life” are to Beatles fans, they don’t make this album because they didn’t hit number one. Hence, this album is heavier on the early Beatles hits, the period when the boys made singles and not necessarily album statements.

The Beatles 1 is organized chronologically, enabling listeners to easily track the band’s evolution from scrappy yet beautiful pop ditties to psychedelic experimentation that still contained the band’s pop sensibilities. With the majority of the critical analysis going toward later-era Beatles, the first 15 songs are great reminders of what kicked off Beatlemania. And thanks to bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The White Stripes (and The Raconteurs), who excel at firing off tight, three-minute jams, there seems to be a greater appreciation of early-era Beatles songs than there was in the ‘80s and ‘90s, making my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Beatles 1 a great primer for early-era Beatles.

The Beatles 1 is probably too pedestrian of an investment for most Beatles fans, though. Thanks to playlists and blank CDs, most Beatles fans have already crafted their personal “number ones” disc. And “official” greatest hits albums like the Blue (1967-1970) and Red (1962-1966) albums do a far superior job documenting the band’s artistic high points as well as their commercial high points.

But The Beatles 1 still serves a purpose. The album has come to the rescue in many-a-bars with bad jukebox selections. While I can’t stand to listen to an AOR-saturated greatest hits collection by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Seager or Boston, I can still happily feed a dollar into the jukebox to hear “Hello Goodbye” or “Paperback Writer.” One can argue that the similarly-packaged number-one hits collection from Elvis Presley is a more essential purchase because Elvis Presley’s output was primarily focused on singles, not albums -- in fact, that disc used this one (and its subsequent high spot on the charts) as inspiration.

So musically, this warrants an A rating, but it is ultimately flawed because it's missing so many of the band's high points. Compared to the masterworks like Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, I can’t in good faith give this an A. The omitted songs are no fault of the album’s compilers, since this sets out to serve one purpose. But it's neither a best-of collection nor an adequate overview, since it is missing "Strawberry Fields Forever," has nothing from Sgt. Pepper's and omits "Please Please Me," among others.

On the other hand, it serves as a great primer for the uninitiated and is a reminder of just how great and influential this band was. Still, I can’t help but think how much one is missing if this is the only Beatles they have.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2006 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Apple/Capitol, and is used for informational purposes only.