RevolverIt’s nice, in its way, that all the albums in the top five hover around a specific period of time, and all speak to each other in more or less direct ways.  Of course, three of them are all by the same band, but even the other two–Pet Sounds and Highway 61 Revisited–join in on that conversation to some extent, the former falling between Rubber Soul and Revolver and serving as a mutually inspirational/ arms-racey bridge between them, and the latter having established a kind of intelligence and depth in pop songwriting that influenced all of these albums to one extent or another.  If you’re not a fan of this era or these artists, of course, it’s not nice at all that they’re cluttering up all the top spots.  But for my purposes, it seems like a pretty solid grouping, and a validation of my own prejudice that popular music peaked in this mid-60s window–due in part to these five albums, but also to lots of other incredible music, much of it non-album oriented, that was being made at the time.

Of the three Beatles records that populate every other one of the five top spots, this is the middle one chronologically, and also in Rolling Stone’s ranking.  This follows the traditional narrative that The Beatles’ middle period, generally regarded as their artistic high point, followed a linear upward progression culminating in their glorious 1967 masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band–the number one greatest record of all time according to this list.  There is, however, a competing narrative, itself pretty well established by this point, which holds that, really, the whole  idea of Sgt. Pepper–its concept and its bright, attractive packaging–seduced everyone into thinking it was their best album, whereas actually, Revolver represents their true artistic high water mark.  Proponents of this theory feel that this is the more solid set of songs over all, and the point at which the group’s studio (and psychoactive) experimentation was new and exciting enough to really change the way everyone thought about how pop music could sound.  In this view, Revolver is secretly the genuine psychedelic masterpiece of The Beatles’ career, and Sgt. Pepper comparatively sort of an uneven confection that couldn’t even hold its alleged “concept” together for more than a few songs.  It parallels the argument that, while everyone talks about 1967 and the “summer of love” and all, really 1966 (the year my father graduated from high school, incidentally) was the year that everything really got cool, and that by 1967, it was all kind of for tourists, existentially speaking.

I’ve generally steered clear of picking a side in this argument, averring my preference for the warmer, simpler pleasures of Rubber Soul.  For the sake of this project, and in the absence of having been able to listen to any of the albums for a number of years, I have committed to remaining neutral in deciding a favorite until the very end, although so far Rubber Soul is holding strong.  I don’t know if it was just the mood I was in listening to this one, or if my expectations had grown too high or what, but I found myself almost shockingly underwhelmed by it.  I mean, of course it’s a great album–one of the greatest–and of course I love it, and will continue to listen to it for the rest of my life.  But right on this listening, thinking of it in relation to the albums that surround it, I found myself kind of let down by its neither here nor thereness.  The music on Rubber Soul, while admittedly not as adventuresomely orchestrated or augmented by backward tape loops and the like, at least presents a relatively unified aesthetic front–it all hangs together quite nicely and the songs feel more than incidentally related to each other.  And looking ahead, while its true that Sgt. Pepper doesn’t continue to reference its specific conceit–that The Beatles are this other, brightly attired community band or something–the quality of cheerful, carnival psychedelia pervades most of the album, and once again the majority of the songs–though there are exceptions–feel of a piece with one another.

But this album in many ways doesn’t really have that quality.  What it does have is all The Beatles arriving at a new level of artistic achievement and adventuresomeness together, but approached from radically different angles.  For the most part this works quite well, and most of the songs that comprise the album are both individually great and not in the main jarringly incompatible with each other.  But there is definitely more than one thing going on with this record that gives it an almost disjointed quality.  It’s all great enough that one tends to forgive this, but it also colors the experience in a way that, at least for me this time around, made it feel like slightly less of a real album than either of the other two that surround it.

One hates to make it all about drugs, but, well…it’s definitely all about drugs.  Because one can’t listen to this record without hearing with almost embarrassing clarity that the rest of the band–or at least John and George–had taken acid by the time this album was recorded, and that Paul had not.  So (leaving George aside for the moment), while John and Paul were both operating at a very high level making unprecedentedly rarefied, spectacular music, it’s almost as though their creative processes–so closely intertwined just a few years prior–by now existed in separate and not entirely reconcilable universes.

In the main, I think it’s the emphatically psychedelic music on here that one most immediately associates with this album and its legacy as a real groundbreaker.  At the same time, those tend to be the parts that have not necessarily aged all that well.  The tape loops, the backward guitar parts, the influence of Indian music, the shimmery guitars–by now they’ve become cliches, but at the time, no one had ever heard anything like it before.  “Tomorrow Never Knows,” which closes the album, is the most famous example–a masterpiece of unconventional song structure and studio trickery, fleshed out by lines lift from The Tibetan Book of the Dead.  It really is an amazing piece of work, and yet I confess that I never quite loved it.  I think it’s very much a “you had to be there” kind of track–something that would have felt unearthly and world changing in its time.  But those of us born into the world in which it already existed have had to work a little harder to properly appreciate its magnitude.  It’s not really like a…catchy number.  I’ve grown in my ability to appreciate both its innovative technique and its starling effect, and yet it remain not really my favorite piece of psychedelic music.  The stuff Brian Wilson was doing on Smile, for example, which was directly influenced by this music, strikes much deeper into the heart of the psychedelic experience, at least to my ear.  In some ways, I think I always sort of took this track for granted, and it wasn’t until its rather stunning use on Mad Men (so shocking in part because the royalties The Beatles’ music commands means that one never hears their songs on TV) that I was able to almost put myself in the position of someone who had never heard anything like it before.

“She Said She Said” fares a little better, at least in that its more of a real song.  But it’s also never been a big favorite of mine.  Hearing it this time in its full glory (good mono pressing playing through a tube amp) was perhaps the most I’ve ever enjoyed it.  The wall of affected guitar noise that runs throughout and shifts about it is truly stunning.  I especially like the upward sense of where the music goes in the “when I was a boy” part.  It’s really just the “like I’ve never been born” melodic hook that I’ve grown to find rather cloying over the years.

“I’m Only Sleeping” is in spirit more of a weed song, but its backward guitar solo sounds invitingly trippy–dreamlike, I guess you’d call it–and is perhaps my favorite of the “special effects” on the album.  It’s the first such moment on the album, and the one that, to me, holds up the best.  I like how the guitar part, though backwards, makes a certain kind of musical sense in the context of the song.  It’s like the musical equivalent of the way “the man from another place” speaks on Twin Peaks.  It’s one of three songs that Capitol pulled from the American version of the record, which is the version I grew up with.  The change, while abhorrent, was less convoluted than some, because they didn’t add in any tracks from elsewhere.  It’s just a shorter, slightly worse version of the same album.  However, it’s noteworthy that “I’m Only Sleeping” is really the only of those three tracks that I have come in adulthood to feel as an essential part of the album.

The other two songs they pulled, “And Your Bird Can Sing” and “Dr. Robert,” are great songs–even minor favorites of the period for me.  And yet in their comparative straightforwardness, I don’t find them all that well situated here.  Even though one is a delightful piece of nonsense and the other is about a drug dealing M.D., and both are by John, neither of them feel all that druggie to me in a way that would make them fit this album (or at least my scheme of divvying it up) more naturally.  Both songs are especially strong in the guitar department, but it isn’t any kind of phase shifted or backwards or otherwise weirdly affected guitar.  “And Your Bird Can Sing” is in some ways all about the guitar riff–a neat, angular little composition unto itself, whereas “Dr. Robert” finds George giving us a warm, almost overdriven update on his classic Carl Perkinsian style.  Though I’d surely feel different if I’d grown up with the real album, I must confess that I kind of liked these two songs better as they fell on Capitol’s Yesterday and Today album.  (I think I need to find a copy of that record, or at least dig out my old one from my Mom’s basement.)

George also lands with what kind of qualifies as a psychedelic number on “Love to You,” although it’s perhaps better understood simply as a spiritual song.  In general, it’s not a phase of Harrison’s writing I’m all that fond of, and indeed, I don’t love this song.  The conclusion of it’s chorus–“I’ll make love to you, if you want me to”–seems kind of blunt and rude almost, especially as it arises up abruptly out of a lot of vaguery about impermanence and whatnot.  Still, the track itself feels a little more muscular than some of his other, more tepid quasi-Indian songs like “The Inner Light.”  I’m surprised to learn it’s actually George playing the sitar, because he’s shredding pretty hard on that thing.  And, while its virtues are limited for contemporary consumption, it is kind of cool to imagine people hearing this stuff on a pop album in 1966.  It certainly doesn’t sound like anything that came before it.

George’s other two songs are less explicitly psychedelic/spiritual, but both weave in trippy elements in pretty effective ways.  “Tax Man” is the best of the lot, and a fine choice of opener for the album, at least musically.  It’s got a nice hard, sharp sort of attack to it, and its repetition of the titular phrase gives it a faintly comic bookish feeling, referencing Bat Man, I suppose, and also kind of echoing Johnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man.”  Its famous guitar solo is the trippy part, but its in a harder, more spastic vein of psychedelia, almost prefiguring the kind of dissonant Coltranesque soloing that would become popular among Bay Area bands in the years that followed.  It’s a great solo, and a fine, tight song.  The only thing that weird about it is that it’s kind of just about George Harrison complaining about having to pay his taxes.  It seems an oddly quotidian, whiny subject for a song–and kind of an oddly conservative sentiment to find at the outset of what is regarded as one of the founding documents of the psychedelic era.  “I Want to Tell You” is a decent one too–a little more vague feeling, like it could have used a bit more tightening up.  But it stands up pretty well, and introduces some cool, trippy backward tape parts at the end that resemble the sound of one of those pitchy Middle Eastern horns.

That leaves us with the much cleaner, profoundly unpsychedelic Paul songs.  To his credit, he does engage in a bit of studio trickery here and there that mirrors, if tentatively, the psychedelic excursions of his bandmates, but they feel more like incidental effects than something central to the songs’ conceptions.  I guess the closest he gets to cleaving in a trippy direction for a whole song would have to be “Yellow Submarine,” which really sounds like someone who has never taken drugs at all trying to write a druggie song.  Still, it’s got an easy, campfireish sensibility to it, and it earns some points for being the first Beatles song that most kids probably ever get into.  I don’t think it really merits having been a single (though it did quite well), but it’s a harmless enough little trifle of a song that interrupts only slightly the progression of the more mature songs that surround it.  More troubling to me, at least most days, is the cloyingly bright “Good Day Sunshine.”  It tries to be simply a cheerful, optimistic little pop song, and every once in awhile I can hear it that way.  But mostly, it tips over into that vein of mawkishness that prefigures much of the unlistenable dreck of McCartney’s solo career.  He feels good…in a special way.  Slightly better is “Got to Get You into My Life,” which shares a bit of that same over-brightness, but at least adds some horns to give it the patina of soul music.  It’s not terribly soulful, but it’s a good enough little tune, especially in its arrangement of horns and the guitar parts in between.

But really, the places where Paul really shines on this album are in a series of small, delicate art music pieces.  It’s a range of McCartney’s output that began with “Yesterday” and seemed to kind of peter out after “She’s Leaving Home,” but finds its fullest expression on this album.  It’s Pauls’ biggest contribution to the serious and groundbreaking qualities of the record–making lovely, quasi-classical songs almost in the vein of Schubert’s lieder in the context of a pop album. It’s what he could do to move the music forward on his own steam while his bandmates were reaping the benefits of having severely altered their consciousness–and it does count for something.

Truthfully, I don’t love the most famous of these, “Eleanor Rigby,” which seems kind of bathetic and overwritten, and whose sawing, arpeggiated melody starts to grate on me by the end of the song.  Perhaps its just that I was exposed at too young an age to Doodles Weaver’s fine evisceration of the song to ever quite be able to take it as seriously as it’s asking to be taken.  (Although in a poignant denouement, I just learned that Doodles Weaver killed himself, which sort of folds some gravity back into the whole thing.)  Much more satisfying to my ear is “For No One,” a chillingly polite little song of heartbreak whose structural formality nicely mirrors the iciness of the couple growing apart in the songs lyric.  It’s piano accompaniment is so harpsichordishly staccato that an almost funky kind of rhythm starts to emerge subtly and almost incidentally beneath song’s classical trappings.  It’s punctuated by a sweet, clear horn solo of the type McCartney would reprise on “Penny Lane.”  I think it’s a very fine song, if not exactly a fun one.  Also very fine is “Here, There and Everywhere.”  Rhythmically, it has more of a modern–or at least in the twentieth century ballpark–feel to it, but the delicacy of its melody, the sweetness of its harmonies and its subtle arrangement makes it belong to this camp of what I’m calling Paul’s “art songs.”  It might even, in its own quiet way, be the among the best songs on the album.

The only question is, how does a song like “Here, There and Everywhere” tie in with a song like “Tomorrow Never Knows”?  What possible conversation could those two songs have with each other that wouldn’t swiftly devolve into mutual rankor and misunderstanding?  I don’t think there’s a good answer for that, except that by the force of The Beatles’ presentation, it all kind of works out.  It’s almost like the White Album of the mid-period in that way.  On this one, they were still all getting along and collaborating and working together toward something, but to some degree, the basic differences in artistic and even existential orientation become hard to ignore nevertheless.  Perhaps that tension–or just diversity, I guess you could call it–is part of this album’s appeal.  And yet, at least this time, I found it a bit distracting.  If Sgt. Pepper is not as innovative as this one, or not as strong song to song, I would say in its favor that it at least manages to blend its various elements together in a way that feels a bit more harmonious and cohesive, more on the same psychoactive page, and if only for that reason, might still trump this one after all.

Source: the 2014 Mono Reissue.  On the strength of Rubber Soul and the other records I’ve heard from this set, I had really high hopes, and yet I found myself a little unsure of how I liked the way this one sounded.  It felt maybe almost a little too transparent, like I could feel the spaces around all that studio trickery a little too acutely.  It seemed to kind of thin out in places, and bunch up in others.  Maybe, although it contradicts both my own expectations and the popular consensus of the day, this one works better in stereo.  And maybe my slight reservations about the album as a whole was in part a function of this sonic uncertainty. Or maybe I was just cranky at the time.

beatles-rubber-soulNow we’re getting somewhere.  The three albums that comprise The Beatles’ glorious middle period constitute three of the five of the greatest albums of all time, according to this list.  Not coincidentally, they are also pretty central components of the musical appreciation part of my life, which is a pretty central part of my life.  So because I resolved to not listen to the albums on this list until their proper time, and because this project has wound up taking much longer than expected, I have been without some fairly important pieces of my life for quite a few years now.  I’ve heard individual songs from the albums here and there, but I haven’t been able to sit down and enjoy these albums in full in far too long.  What is more, in that span of time, I’ve upgraded to a much better stereo system, and what are likely to be the definitive vinyl reissues of these albums for our time have been released.  So I have really, really missed being able to listen to these records.  And goddamn, it felt good to be able to listen to this one, the first of the three, and possibly my favorite.

I read a pretty good book recently called To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris.  It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s quite good.  I guess I could say I’d recommend it, depending on who you, the reader, are.  In any event, it includes this brief scene in which the protagonist  finds himself in a mall music store:

I should try to find some new music, I thought, because there was a time when new music could lift me out of a funk like nothing else.  But I wasn’t past the Bs when I saw the only thing I really cared to buy.  It was the Beatles’ Rubber Soul, which had been released in 1965.  I already owned Rubber Soul.  I had owned Rubber Soul on vinyl, then on cassette, and now on CD, and of course on my iPod, iPod mini, and iPhone.  If I wanted to, I could have pulled out my iPhone and played Rubber Soul from start to finish right there, on speaker, for the sake of the whole store.  But that wasn’t what I wanted.  I wanted to buy Rubber Soul for the first time all over again.  I wanted to return the needle from the run-out groove to the opening chords of “Drive My Car” and make everything new again.

It’s a nice passage–one that speaks to the importance that great music can play in our lives, and which makes a canny choice in picking this as an album that might have that kind of lifelong resonance.  And yet it also set off a nerdish inaccuracy alarm bell in my head that frankly, slightly diminished my regard for the entire book.  Everything is fine right up until the end, when he recounts putting the needle down on the opening chords of “Drive My Car.”  “Drive My Car” opens with more like individual notes than chords, but that’s not the part that bugs me.  The protagonist is an American of roughly my generation, which means that if he first owned Rubber Soul on vinyl, as I did, than “Drive My Car” wouldn’t have been the first song on the album.  On the American version of this album, the first track was “I’ve Just Seen a Face.”

It’s a travesty, of course, that their American record label, Capitol, undermined the integrity of The Beatles’ albums, mostly by shaving off cuts that could then be put onto other albums for which there was no British equivalent.  The mixes are also said to be quite different, although I’ve never personally done a side by side comparison.  It’s especially egregious that it was allowed to last as long as it did, up through Revolver, by which point these albums had a conscious, decisive sort of integrity that ought not to have been fucked with.  And yet I know a lot of people who grew up with the American records who retain a soft spot for “our versions” of these records.  For the most part, I have made the transition over to the real albums pretty comfortably, and yet I must admit that I miss hearing “I’ve Just Seen a Face” at the beginning of this album.  Its acoustic, bluegrassy feeling sets up the tone of the album perfectly–the presiding folky, autumnal quality that is a big part of the reason I have always considered this my favorite Beatles album.

This was not an accident.  While most of Capitol’s rearrangements seem capricious and arbitrary–mostly just thieving tracks to monetize elsewhere, in this one particular case, they seem to have applied a bit of their own real aesthetic logic.  They borrowed two songs off of Help!–“I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “It’s Only Love” and put them at the beginning of each side with the explicit intent of making the album feel more folk-rocky.  (Indeed, one of the treats of discovering the British releases later in life is realizing how continuous Help! and Rubber Soul in many ways are.  The songs Capitol pulled from Help! fit perfectly on the American version of Rubber Soul, as would have other Dylanesque songs like “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.”  In turn, some of the poppier moments of Rubber Soul, like “You Won’t See Me,” would have fit right in on Help!  The earlier album doesn’t have the same aura of album as intentional art piece–especially where the track listing gets ridiculously slapdash feeling right near the end–“I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “Yesterday,” “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”–but much of the actual songwriting is operating a similarly high level.)

Capitol’s choice in this regard wasn’t purely aesthetic, of course–they were trying to capitalize (no pun intended) on the popularity of Bob Dylan and The Byrds.  But the fact is, at least in the case of the opening track, their selection is one that, in its way, works better with the album than The Beatles’ own choice.  On the other hand, they left off a number of other songs that fit it quite well with the dominant ethos on the original, particularly “Nowhere Man” and the jaunty, countryish “What Goes On.”  So there are definite limits to the wisdom of their decision making here.

Ultimately, of course, one must affirm the integrity of the original release, which is the version I now listen to almost all the time.  (Full disclosure: I did kind of cheat on the not listening rule with this one a few years ago when I played a nice old mono copy of the American release I had just bought, on the lawyerish grounds that it wasn’t technically the real album.)  The most jarring incongruity remains the opening track, “Drive My Car,” which is a great song, and a great album opener.  (Capitol wisely used it as the opener of their quite good but in principle unconscionable frankenalbum Yesterday and Today.)  What’s odd to me is how the style of that song mirrors the album title in a way that very few other songs do.  From the woodsy cover photo to the stoney, gentle sound of most of the music on this album, the aesthetic of the album feels uniformly folksy, even without “I’ve Just Seen a Face” kicking it off.  But for whatever reason, they went with a title that indicated an album that would be rooted in more of an soul influence, despite really only having a few explicitly soul-based tunes.

I guess “The Word” could also be construed as somewhat soul-influenced, though I’ve never really thought of it that way.  Actually, I try to think of it as little as possible, since to me its the one true clunker on the album.  I saw a poll once asking what people’s favorite song on Rubber Soul was (a small, informal poll, possibly disproportionately targeting aging hippies), and I was stunned to see that “The Word” was the winner, which is just preposterous.  I have no problem with its basic message–I love “All You Need is Love,” for example.  It’s just the writing on this song–“in the good and the bad books that I have read”–feels so clunky, and parts of it–“it’s so fine!, it’s sunshine!” feel so teeth-gnashingly boosterish that I have historically struggled to imagine anyone not hating it.  But I guess it was the first time they introduced the concept of love as a global force for good into their music, which is an important piece of their cultural legacy, so maybe it “matters” in that sense.  And I must admit that this listening was the most I ever enjoyed it.  I found myself almost looking forward to the hard angular groove it starts off with, and hearing it better than ever before, I noticed for the first time how impressive Paul’s rolling, fast-grooving bass line is.  But still, it’s never going to be anything but my least favorite track on the album.

That anyone would think to call it the best song on here is especially absurd, of course, because there is a clear and objectively agreed upon best song on the album, and it is “In My Life.”  I saw another, larger and more widely disseminated poll which elected it the best song of the twentieth century tout court.  That overstates the case a little bit–probably that honor should really go to something like “White Christmas” or “Stardust.”  But it does underscore what an incredibly fine song it is.  As much as I love The Beatles, I don’t always look to them for maximal emotional connection.  But a song like this seems to capture the joys and sadness of being human in such a clear and generous way that it reliably can bring a tear to my eye, as it did this time, even after hearing it untold hundreds of times.  More so even, really, as I get older and have both more life to look back on and more to love right now.  And while it’s arrangement is more chamber-folky in orientation, John’s vocal is probably the most emphatically soulful thing on the album.  The track is also noteworthy, of course, for George Martin’s harpsichord solo in the middle, which, if it hasn’t aged quite as well as the rest of the song, remains an important benchmark in establishing–or really, underscoring–the seriousness of The Beatles’ music as real art.

Earlier, I referred to this album as “possibly my favorite” Beatles album.  For a long time, I would have dropped the “possibly,” and just went with calling it my solid favorite.  If I’ve grown more tentative in that decision in recent years, it is largely in the vacuum of not having had this album in my life.  In that time, a friend I often discuss music with has also made the confidence-eroding point a few times that, really, there’s a lot of conspicuously minor songs on an album of this stature.  And there is some truth to that.  What is more, some of the more noteworthy songs on here–“Norwegian Wood,” “Nowhere Man,” maybe “Michelle”–are ones that I think of myself as having grown somewhat tired of through heavy early exposure.  By the flintiest of metrics, one could level the claim that “In My Life” is really the only irreducibly, eternally great masterpiece on the album.

But in listening again for the first time in a long time, and with better sound than ever before, I was pleased to affirm anew how much I really do love this album as a whole.  Those songs I feared I had grown tired of felt refurbished in my estimation, and a number of what might qualify as lesser songs–“I’m Looking Through You,” “You Won’t See Me”–are positively delightful, whatever their stature in the broader canon.  “Run for Your Life” is a good one, if you can get past the violent misogyny at its core.  “Girl” is pleasantly dreamy.  “Wait” is maybe a bit forgettable, but is entirely pleasant in the listening.

I’ve grown especially fond of “What Goes On,” which features some of George’s hottest (yet most old fashioned) guitar playing in this era of their music.  It’s the only Lennon-McCartney song that Ringo also got partial credit for, though he says he just wrote a line or two.  I both hope and doubt in equal measure that the line “you didn’t even think of me as someone with a name” was his.  It’s such a heartrendingly deft way of expressing the crushing feeling of anonymity in the shadow of a distant, idealized beloved, and all the more so coming from a man who has spent his entire adult life laboring under an infantilizing pseudonym.

Also noteworthy are the two solid George numbers on the album, particularly “Think for Yourself.”  It’s a sharper, heavier song than most of the album–perhaps a bit soul inspired in its buzzy kind of groove–and also a darker one.  It’s a nice solid shot of that good old fashioned George Harrison misanthropy, before he got stuck in that backwater of tepid, passive-aggressive spiritual drivel that made The Beatles’ best period overall among his worst as a songwriter.  I like his songs on Help! too, but I think this one gets my vote as his best work in the wide timespan between “Don’t Bother Me” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

Listening to this album under better conditions than I ever had before (sonically and circumstantially) I was able to really appreciate a lot of the subtlety that went into creating the sounds on this album that give its distinctive character: the refinement of their harmony singing, sometimes into pieces that almost mirror instrumental parts; the greater emphasis on acoustic instrumentation; the real beginning of their experimentation with divergent and unlikely instrumental choices.  I’ve always known it was a great album, but I never quite realized just how beautiful it is.

At the same time, I think part of its strength lies in its restraint.  Revolver and Sgt. Pepper certainly represent great leaps forward from this album in terms of sonic complexity and studio wizardry.  And they are (obviously) great too.  Until I hear them both, I’m remaining agnostic on declaring a definite favorite.  But to a great extent, there’s a real virtue in the cleaner, less elaborated structures that this album traffics in.  What it lacks in aesthetic razzle dazzle (and only in comparison to what came after), it makes up for in a more emotionally immediate listening experience.  Whatever the song-to-song virtues of the album, I think this album does a better job than the others at creating an overarching mood–one whose sepia-tinged warmth and integrity is almost endlessly inviting to me.

In the narrative of drug experimentation that paralleled and strongly informed The Beatles musical development, this album is understood to be the culmination of their “weed period,” which began in earnest on Help!, whereas Revolver and Sgt. Pepper (and Magical Mystery Tour) constitute their full on psychedelic period.  To extend that historical reality into something like a metaphor, I would say that the psychedelic albums–especially Sgt. Pepper–are rare and splendid things, great special occasion albums.  Whereas this album in its more resolute comfortability, feels like something one could easily settle into enjoying on a more regular basis.  I love Sgt. Pepper, but I don’t think I could listen to it everyday.  This album, on the other, I could easily listen to everyday, at least for awhile.  And now that I’m allowed to again, I just might.

Source: LP – The 2014 Mono release.  I just can’t say enough about how great–and truly definitive–these records sound.  I have various other copies of this record, but this is the definite new go to.