Monday, March 22, 2004

#36) The Beatles - Rubber Soul (released in 1965, I bought it sometime in college. I think.)

Yet another album here that represents the chewy middle ground between two periods of a band's career. They'd yet to lose the girlcentric enthusiasm of Please Please Me (which might have made this list if I owned a copy - I really should get on that), but age and experience has clearly taken their toll on the guys. Ringo's dumbfounded by cruelty, George is already letting everybody know that he's above all the crap you obsess about, and even Paul the luhvbug decides that he can't see you because you won't see him (though he gives it up for the French ladies and gets downright boogaloo about some ambitious fox). Top notch stuff, but - as per usual - it's John who's delivering the transcendence that George keeps referring to (total tangent, but I think it really says something that Harrison named his posthumous album Brainwashed. Dude's a smug asshole, sorry).

Tracks like "Norwegian Wood," "In My Life" and "The Word" are universal anthems though loaded with idiosyncrasy, thanks in a large part to Lennon's expressive voice, which is capable of providing almost as much meaning as his word choice (if you don't believe me, check out any and every Lennon cover ever). Even relatively minor numbers like "Run For Your Life" are better crafted than most people's career highlights. While his work has always been marked with clarity and perspective (when not, you know, "For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite"), I think his tracks on Rubber Soul are among his most consistenty effective and personally affecting. While he provides the observations of a man distanced by hurt yet hopeful for rejuvenation, it's the immaculate arrangements and solid playing that help "Nowhere Man" and "In My Life" avoid the maudlin sentimentality of, say, James Taylor (George Martin and Starr get eternal props for the faux-harpischord and drums on "In My Life," no matter what crap they continue to dish out). Devoid of their later albums' mush and more consistent than what preceded it, Rubber Soul is the first Beatles album I throw on when trying to convert the haters (especially fitting since most of these underrating chaps are overly cynical but well intentioned jerks - like the Beatles in '65!). The American edition has a more cohesive sound - it makes the album sound like a conscious "roots" move - but loses "Nowhere Man" and is out of print, so don't even think about it unless your parents already own it.

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