With The Beatles

The Beatles

Capitol Records, 1963


REVIEW BY: George Agnos


The Beatles released their second album, With The Beatles, in 1963. At that point of time they were the biggest rock band in the UK and about to embark on their first tour of the United States. Every Beatles album, including this one, is an important piece of rock and roll history. But based solely on its own merits, With The Beatles is a fun album although not a great one.

If the title With The Beatles does not sound familiar to Americans, it is because Capitol Records decided to release an altered version here titled Meet The Beatles. This version contained two less songs, but unlike its British counterpart, included their big hit at the time, "I Want To Hold Your Hand." However when Capitol converted the Beatles catalog over to CD's, they decided instead to release the original British albums, probably thinking it would be difficult to sell the more numerous American releases. (Incidentally, all the Beatles non-album singles can be found on the CD's Past Masters Volume I and II.)

For the most part I prefer the British releases, but in the case of With The Beatles, the exclusion of "I Want To Hold Your Hand", one of their best early songs, does hurt the album a little. Instead, we get "It Won't Be Long" which is a nice, typicially Beatlesque song with it's yeah yeah yeah's, that somehow falls short of their best early singles. And "I Wanna Be Your Man", which has drummer Ringo Starr singing lead, also comes off sounding like just another "I Want To Hold Your Hand" wannabe.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

John Lennon and Paul McCartney were still developing as songwriters. Their output for this album is an improvement over that of their previous album, Please Please Me, but not quite as good as that of their next album, A Hard Day's Night. "All I've Got To Do" is a semi-successful attempt at rewriting the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song "Baby It's You" which they covered on Please Please Me. And songs like "Not A Second Time", "Hold Me Tight", and "Little Child" are pleasant enough ditties that are helped greatly by the Beatles overall charisma. Most of the Lennon/McCartney songs on this album are pretty good, but not up their usual standards.

The major exeception to this being "All My Loving" which is about as good a song as the Beatles have ever released. It has one of those Beatlesque melodies that is sure to stick in your head for a long time, and the lyrics are cute. George Harrison contributes one song: the midtempo pop number "Don't Bother Me." I especially like the attitude of this song.

Other than "All My Loving", the major highlights on With The Beatles come from some of the cool covers they perform. They rock with abandon as Harrison does a dead-on Chuck Berry guitar lick for "Roll Over Beethoven." And the Beatles are absolutely on fire for Berry Gordy's "Money". With Lennon's kick-ass vocals, their version easily surpasses the original. It is Lennon's soulful singing again, along with able backup singing by McCartney and Harrison, that put their cover of Smokey Robinson's "You've Really Got A Hold On Me" out of the stratosphere.

The Beatles, eclectic as ever, do a respectable job with the ballad "Til There Was You" which came from the Broadway musical The Music Man. I find some of their non-rock moments like this one endearing. I appreciate that they listened to a lot of different kinds of music to come up with their unique sound. For example, they weren't afraid to cover the girl groups of the time and their version of the Marvelettes' "Please Mr. Postman" is very playful. On the other hand, I do think their rendition of the Donays' "Devil In Her Heart" is a bit on the cheesy side.

If you were going to start a Beatles collection, there are several albums I would pick up before With The Beatles. Even if you are interested in their early sound in particular, I would recommend A Hard Day's Night over this one. But that does not mean that this is not an enjoyable album; on the contrary, this album successfully shows a band with plenty of talent and charisma. It is a testament to the Beatles that one of their lesser albums is this good.

Rating: B

User Rating: B+



© 1998 George Agnos 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 Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.