Wednesday, February 27, 2008

12 by Beck

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).

Week 9

The best way to describe Beck? Kitchen sink. If you are looking for an artist who embraces electro-funk, bluegrass, folk, hip-hop, blues, R & B, psychedelica, pop and other genres that don't even have names, he's your man. I'll admit, this was a hard list to pick. Someone who defies definition is hard to define.

1. Loser (from Mellow Gold, 1994)
Of course it's got surreal, evocative lyrics and a keenly memorable chorus, but I think most people at the time expected to see Beck go the way of Dishwalla, Primitive Radio Gods, Deep Blue Something and every other mid-'90s alternative one-hit wonder. Who really knew?

2. Where It's At (from Odelay, 1996)
Beck grabbed sample kings Dust Brothers and decided to show us what hip-hop would have been like if had been invented in the deep south.

3. Sissyneck (from Odelay, 1996)
Nashville on acid, featuring the line: "I got a beard that'll disappear if I'm dressed in leather."

4. Dead Melodies (from Mutations, 1998)
Slightly more conventional musically, if not lyrically. By the way, the title is ironic, considering the song sports such a strong melody.

5. Mixed Bizness (from Midnite Vultures, 1999)
Earth Wind & Fire circa the 30th century.

6. Get Real Paid (from Midnite Vultures, 1999)
Beck only appears on the chorus of this song. Speaking of getting paid, that's sort of like a professor getting full salary while a TA handles his classes. But it's still a good tune.

7. Guess I'm Doing Fine (from Sea Change, 2002)
The logical extension of Mutations, except this time he's lucid on on the lyrics, which are honky-tonk-at-closing-time worthy. I love the ennui of the title statement, which you know clearly is a lie.

8. Lost Cause (from Sea Change, 2002)
This one is a little more honest...

9. Rental Car (from Guero, 2005)
I love this one for the "yeah, yeah, yeah" chorus. Add those handclaps and the dirty guitar and it sounds like it could have been on one of those '60s Nuggets compilations.

10. Hell Yes (from Guero, 2005)
Basically a remake of Where It's At. Seriously, listen to them one after the other.

11. Clap Hands (from Guerolito, 2005)
Okay, so this should really be a live version, but the studio recording still gets the point across. Though it feels like it could have something to do with the Tom Waits song of the same name, it doesn't.

12. Think I'm In Love (from The Information, 2006)
Here's the culmination, a stylistically diverse Beck song with straight-forward lyrics. Strange how when you've made off-kilter your status quo, conventionality is it's own form of rebellion and innovation!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

163. The Beatles: Past Masters Volume One (1988)

Now we continue our journey through the back catalog of a little-known '60s band I've recently discovered.

This album was a bit of a curiosity to me at first. It was released in 1990, long after the band's other albums, and appears to be some sort of compilation. But of what?

So I did some research and discovered that bands used to put out something called 45's or "singles". And, get this, the songs almost never appeared on any proper album! Can you believe that? Apparently, The Beatles did it all the time.

Covering singles from their first three years (1963 - 1965), this is a collection that draws a strong dividing line. You see, singles were somewhat poorly named. There was not just one song on the record, but rather one on each side, the back side (or b-side) being often a throwaway track from the artist. Going by Past Masters Volume One, The Beatles put populist, sweet songs out as singles, and used the b-sides to work out their rockier tendencies.

As a bit of a format change, I'll talk about each pair songs that were released together.

From Me To You / Thank You Girl: The a-side is a bang-up, harmony-rich toe-tapper with shrewd lyric that allow the listener to pretend that they are the he or she the band is singing directly to. The back up is a bit raw, with a garage sound to the instruments that contrasts nicely with John and Paul's strongly blended voices. Like its partner, the use of the 2nd person is very effective. This is a rare case where either of the songs, in my opinion, could have been the lead.

She Loves You / I'll Get You: More "you" usage, but She Loves You has a deceptive complexity, in that the narrator is somewhat removed from the proceedings himself and is merely encouraging another guy to go after a girl. The song is strong and energetic, with a chill-inducing "ohhh!" right before the chorus. How did this not end up on an album?! In contrast, I'll Get You is sort of plodding and pedestrian.

I Want To Hold Your Hand / This Boy: These two win the best combo award hands down. The lead is a hand-clappy John confection punctuated by near screaming in the middle of the chorus. This Boy is a transcendent '50s throwback. A warning though, don't try to follow all of the thises and thats in the song or you'll get a headache. Instead, just relax and enjoy the heavenly three-part harmonies.

I Feel Fine / She's A Woman: I Feel Fine shows of John's increasingly progressive nature, opening with feedback and challenging traditional structure. The lyrics, however, are predictable. She's A Woman is a Paul showcase wherein he creates a compositional and vocal homage to R & B rave-ups. It's charming.

The collection is filled out by German-language versions of She Loves You (Sie Liebt Dich) and I Want To Hold Your Hand (Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand) that are interesting in theory only, a four song EP that features three rocking covers and one rocking original, and the b-sides for Ticket To Ride and Help!. Yes It Is is in the This Boy tradition and I'm Down is another Paul R & B workout.

Taken as an album, Past Masters Volume One simply doesn't hold up. But as a collection of important songs you can't get elsewhere, it's invaluable. How such an obscure group warranted such a comprehensive release, I'll never know, but we're lucky to have it.

Grade: C
Fave Song: This Boy

Thursday, February 21, 2008

24 by U2

Here's the drill: 24 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).

Week 8

Here it is week 8 and I'm already breaking the rules. The general guidelines I follow for picking artists for the 12 by... feature are as follows: 1) they don't have a greatest hits album already and 2) no one could make a case for much more than 12 classic songs by that artist.

A feature on U2 obviously breaks both of those rules, but with good reason. For one, it's nice to change things up once in awhile. For another, I saw the fun U23D concert film this weekend and that got my mental cogs turning. And finally, despite the surest bet any band could ask for, U2 whiffed all three of their best of packages. Those should have been classic greatest hits albums, yet they were hampered by non-chronological sequencing, remixes and odd song choices. I'm here to rectify.

1. I Will Follow (from Boy, 1980)
Is that the guitar riff from Guitar by Prince that I hear? What strikes me about this early highlight is how generic Paul Hewson's voice sounds, like he's imitating Peter Murphy.

2. Sunday Bloody Sunday (from War, 1983)
Take a military marching beat, guitar harmonics, plus lyrical and vocal passion from Bono and you have the band's first bonafide classic.

3. New Year's Day (from War, 1983)
Though they hadn't reached their defining moment, they were certainly creating a rough draft of it. Rare for U2 in that the piano is more memorable than the guitar, this one features spirited background vocals and an undeniable sense of motion.

4. Bad (from The Unforgettable Fire, 1984)
This song is a slow burn ballad. My only problem with it is that it's hard to remember from its title. Wide Awake or I'm Not Sleeping would have been better. Plus, it wouldn't make me think of Michael Jackson dancing in a subway in leather.

5. Pride (In The Name Of Love) (from The Unforgettable Fire, 1984)
It always gives me chills, the fact that these Irish boys embraced such an American figure as Martin Luther King Jr. Obviously his message of peace and freedom rang far beyond the U.S. geographical landmarks he listed in his famous speech.

6. The Unforgettable Fire (from The Unforgettable Fire, 1984)
A ballad that shows early signs of their later experimentation. Plus, you gotta love it when Bono unleashes the falsetto.

7. Where The Streets Have No Name (from The Joshua Tree, 1987)
This is the signature U2 sound. You know, that sweeping, epic, break-free-of-your-earthly-bonds kind of sound.

8. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (from The Joshua Tree, 1987)
See above.

9. With Or Without You (from The Joshua Tree, 1987)
An immaculate performance with a great lyric, but I always wonder about the switch from third person ("on a bed of nails she makes me wait") to second person ("And you give yourself away") on the chorus. Is the song about two different people?

10. Desire (from Rattle & Hum, 1988)
One doesn't tend to think of U2 as blues-based, but they pull off a respectable and energetic imitation.

11. All I Want Is You (from Rattle & Hum, 1988)
Their most unabashed love song, and probably the best they've recorded.

12. Even Better Than The Real Thing (from Achtung Baby, 1991)
A hypnotic rocker. This was a U2 we hadn't heard before, but were obviously ready to embrace.

13. One (from Achtung Baby, 1991)
Is it about a failing relationship, the band itself, peace on Earth or all three? Does it even matter?

14. Mysterious Ways (from Achtung Baby, 1991)
Perhaps winking at their Christian upbringing, this song is either a) comparing a beautiful woman to God or b) calling God a beautiful woman. No matter which it is, the line "if you wanna kiss the sky better learn how to kneel" manages to be Biblical and cool all at once.

15. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me (from Batman Forever, 1995)
Here's a nugget from the band's time in the wilderness. It sounds bit fuzzier and dirtier than most of their songs, but unlike the Zooropa fare that preceded it, it doesn't ignore melody and structure.

16. Miss Sarajevo (from Original Soundtracks 1, 1995)
While I admit it barely grabbed me in its recorded version, I had a whole new appreciation of this song after seeing them do it live in the movie. Even better, there's a live version available for download.

17. Dischotheque (from Pop, 1997)
This song will forever remind me of the first time I successfully connected my Discman to my car stereo. This was the first tune I played. Ignore the remix on Best Of 1990 - 2000, which takes out the stompy "oohh"s from the ending.

18. If God Will Send His Angels (from Pop, 1997)
A gospel song with an electronic tinge. Great line: "It's the stuff of country songs."

19. Sweetest Thing (from Best Of 1980 - 1990, 1998)
This was actually a dusted off 1987 B-Side, which was re-recorded and became a big hit. Though that means chronologically it belongs much higher, but considering its time in the public consciousness and (strangely) its musical and lyrical content, it fits much better with the band's latter day work.

20. Beautiful Day (from All That You Can't Leave Behind, 2001)
I'm still reeling a little bit from it being overplayed, but you couldn't ask for a better "comeback" song.

21. Elevation (from All That You Can't Leave Behind, 2001)
Sure it sounds like Bono grabbed a rhyming dictionary and wrote the lyrics in 5 minutes, but the energy more than makes up for it.

22. Walk On (from All That You Can't Leave Behind, 2001)
A motivational speech set to music. Gets me every time.

23. Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own (from How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, 2005)
Bono's offers a complex tribute to his father, avoiding laudatory cliches and instead focusing on the difficulty of their relationship and his father's stubborn nature. He also admits his debt: "You're the reason that I sing."

24. City Of Blinding Lights (from How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, 2005)
Edge breaks out the piano again for this sweepingly romantic song that harks back to the band's early days.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

162. The Beatles: Help! (1965)

Now we continue our journey through the back catalog of a little-known '60s band I've recently discovered.

Boy these guys were prolific! In modern times it takes a band a good 15 years to release 5 albums. The Beatles issued record #5 in their third year of recording. Creating music at such a breakneck pace, no one would blame them for running out of quality material.

But, believe it or not The Beatles got better, which makes it even more strange that they never got the critical or public acclaim they deserved.

The story on Help! is the growing challenge to John Lennon's singing and songwriting dominance. Not only was McCartney rapidly catching up to his partner, but lead guitarist George Harrison also reveals himself as a promising talent.

Let's start with John, whose songs were becoming increasingly complex. This is most evident in the title track, with its defiance of normal pop song structure (the chorus serves as the intro, and the background vocalists announce some lines before the lead singer sings them). Ticket To Ride (which I had previously mistaken for a Carpenters original) forgoes the traditional verse-chorus-bridge-etc with extra-long verses, two bridges and a distinct outro. Lennon also ventures into ballad territory with an unaccompanied number called You've Got To Hide Your Love Away. Its simplicity is especially effective in light of his other contributions.

Paul McCartney counters with a mix of rock, country and (of course) balladry. The Night Before is a spirited rocker about how feelings can change in the light of day. Paul also adopts the two bridge structure from Ticket To Ride (or did John borrow it from him)? I've Just Seen A Face is a shuffling, harmony-rich charmer. The showstopper is Yesterday, a rueful ballad with a twist. It's not really The Beatles, just Paul and a guitar, with some strings. I'm surprised no other artists have tried to cover this! I think that would turn out well.

Both John and Paul offer lighter fare in the form of Another Girl, McCartney's country foray and You're Going To Lose That Girl, an R & B workout from Lennon. They also collaborate closely on Tell Me What You See, which showcases a great instrumental performance from all involved.

In addition to this friendly rivalry, George Harrison also shows promise in two original songs. You Like Me Too Much sounds a little bit like The Monkees; it could have been a huge hit with Davy Jones singing it! I Need You is a great love song that satisfies a person's need for more cowbell. Maybe, just maybe, Harrison was becoming a third threat within the band!

The talent show is rounded out by a delightful Ringo Starr turn on the Buck Owens-popularized Act Naturally, about a burgeoning movie star. And it was appropriate because apparently, The Beatles made a film version of Help! I haven't seen it, but by all accounts it is a very introspective and experimental movie which absolutely tanked at the box office.

Despite that failure, one might mark this album as a bright ending to the first phase of this little band's career.

Grade: A
Fave Song: Help!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

12 by P.M.Dawn

Here' the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).

Week 7

A quite misunderstood group lumped in with the early '90s hippie-hop movement (De La Soul, Arrested Development, etc.), P.M. Dawn actually went through a startling transformation over their 5 albums. And of course, their harmony-laden ballads could not be more Valentine's Day appropriate.

1. Set Adrift On Memory Bliss (from Of The Heart..., 1991)
Take a sample of Spandau Ballet's True, add a hi-hat, and Prince Be's laid-back rap and you've got an undeniable vibe. However, if this is all the band had been capable of, they would have disappeared much sooner.

2. Reality Used To Be A Friend Of Mine (from Of The Heart..., 1991)
Honestly, I just picked this one out of love for the title.

3. I'd Die Without You (from The Bliss Album...?, 1993)
Here's where the surprises start. Turns out P.M. Dawn were not truly a rap act, they were a vocal group. This sappy ballad became a huge hit, but were people surprised by the change? It'd be like Soulja Boy suddenly putting out a smoking R & B tune.

4. Looking Through Patient Eyes (from The Bliss Album...?, 1993)
A George Michael sample powers this spiritual cousin to Set Adrift On Memory Bliss. Light rapping combines with harmony-filled singing to create the band's signature sound. And Prince Be's lyrics are just screaming to have a college-course analysis.

5. The Ways Of The Wind (from The Bliss Album...?, 1993)
Another easily-ignored aspect of P.M. Dawn is their strong compositional skills, of which this song is a great example. Lots of different elements combine, but never overwhelm or contradict one another. In another reality, Prince Be could have been a producer-hitmaker on the Babyface/Neptunes level.

6. Downtown Venus (from Jesus Wept, 1995)
On the opening cut from their third (and best) album, the boys rock it up a little bit. I love the self-searching aspect: "I could be into me, but I don't know what I'm like."

7. The 9:45 Wake-Up Dream (from Jesus Wept, 1995)
A very cryptic tune, built on a fuzzy electric guitar line. I wish I could sleep until 9:45...

8. Why God Loves You (from Jesus Wept, 1995)
Though it could easily be mistaken as Bible-beating, this is actually a tune about self-acceptance. At the end it devolves into an awesomely unexpected James Brownish chourus of "Oh My God!"s.

9. I Had No Right (from Dearest Christian..., 1998)
The full title of their fourth album is Dearest Christian, I'm So Very Sorry For Bringing You Here, Love Dad. And so this very pretty song is actually an extension of that, with Prince Be apologizing to his son for bringing him into such a harsh world. "I had no right," he sings, "bringing you here / knowing what I know / feeling the way I feel." I know, right?

10. Faith In You (from Dearest Christian..., 1998)
So the whole album isn't a bummer. This song is also to his son, an affirmation of belief in his ability to transcend and succeed in life. Beautiful stuff. P.S. It can also double as a nice love song.

11. Hale-Bopp Regurgitations (from Dearest Christian..., 1998)
I actually like If I Could Be Your Star better, but in the interest of avoiding too many sweet ballads, I chose this commentary on our fleeting media-driven pop culture. Amidst references to Amy Fischer, AOL, Jeffery Dahmer, O.J., Prince Be proves himself a prophet: "I should have known not to throw away my records / I should have never purchased compact discs." Indeed.

12. Be Bastard (from Fucked Music, 2001)
A fan-only release features a the first bonafide rap song by the group in years. Prince Be is not going to upset Eminem or Jay-Z in any battles, but he knows that: "I ain't the dope, but I'm better than most / I let the butter soak it up like I'm holy toast."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

161. The Beatles: Beatles For Sale (1964)

Now we continue our journey through the back catalog of a little-known '60s band I've recently discovered.

How does that classic old song go? "Two steps forward, one step back"? After the general excellence of the entirely-original of A Hard Day's Night, The Beatles came back the exact same year with an album that replicated the same structure of their first two efforts.

That's right, Beatles For Sale sports only 8 originals along with 6 cover songs. And if the formula was getting stale on With The Beatles, it completely expired on this album.

The record starts strongly with three John Lennon compositions that show a startling growth, considering the band were only a year removed from their debut. No Reply is accusatory and claustrophobic, picking up on the darkness and melancholy of Lennon's A Hard Day's Night contributions. On the chorus he almost screams: "I nearly died!" when his girl ignores him. This is far from your typical pop fare.

Likewise, I'm A Loser is a countryish lament, with the title phrase declared in a curiously sunny voice. And then there's Baby's In Black, which as far as I can tell is about being in love with a woman in mourning for a dead lover! It features an appropriately dissonant solo.

Not a happy beginning, but a great one nonetheless. So what comes next? A cheerful cover of Chuck Berry's Rock And Roll Music. There's nothing wrong with the band's performance, but the song couldn't sound more out of place.

That goes for every cover on the album, from Mr. Moonlight to the Paul-led medley of Kansas City and Hey Hey Hey Hey. George and Ringo get back in the singing act with two different Carl Perkins numbers, the former on Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby and the latter on a loose Honey Don't, but they just don't gel.

The problem is not only the tone of Lennon/McCartney originals, but also the quality. It seems blasphemous to say, but by this point these two were writing better songs than Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins or Buddy Holly. Before you balk at that statement, give a spin to the faded-in Eight Days A Week, a joyful handclappy rocker. Or take a listen to Paul's two strong contributions, the underrated What You're Doing (with an off-kilter piano solo) and the gentle, folksy I'll Follow The Sun.

Though it's far from their best album, Beatles For Sale is an important album. By juxtaposing their modern pop next to classic rock, The Beatles inadvertently showed how far they'd come in theme and sound. One might say it's where in the students became the teachers.

Grade: B-
Fave Song: What You're Doing

Saturday, February 09, 2008

160. The Beatles: A Hard Day's Night (1964)

Now we continue our journey through the back catalog of a little-known '60s band I've recently discovered.

You have to give credit to this little band. Perhaps recognizing the dead-end nature of the cover songs on their previous record, they stocked up their third album with originals only, and the result is that much better for it!

This lightning fast (just under 31 minutes!) platter starts off with the title track, and composers John Lennon and Paul McCartney trading the lead. In another world this song would have been a big hit, I assure you!

Despite the equity on that song, John dominates the rest of the album, from the harmonica-driven I Should've Known Better to the speedy rock of Tell Me Why to the country-leaning Any Time At All. In fact, 9 of the record's 13 songs feature John on lead vocals.

Even so, Paul makes his contributions count! And I Love Her continues his proclivity toward ballads, but doesn't overdo it. Can't Buy Me Love is a rave-up featuring an insanely melodic bass line. I wonder if the Patrick Dempsey movie got its name from this song, or if that's just a coincidence? Finally, Things We Said Today features Paul all on his own, thoughtful and melancholy.

That darkness is actually somewhat of a theme on A Hard Day's Night. If I Fell, while actually a very sweet song lyrically, has a minor key sadness. When I Get Home doesn't sound depressed, but features a narrator whose mind is not in the here and now. I'll Be Back and You Can't Do That are opposite sides of the coin (in the former John vows, "I'll come back again" and in the latter he threatens "I'm gonna let you down and leave you flat") but both show the grimmer side of romance.

Unlike The Beatles' first two efforts, drummer Ringo star doesn't get a song to sing here. Likewise, George Harrison - who showed songwriting promise himself on With The Beatles - is reduced to one lead vocal on the Lennon-McCartney-penned I'm Happy Just To Dance With You. One almost wonders if it was just to placate Harrison, as the song's carefree Latin vibe doesn't suit his voice. One of the darker songs above would have been much more suitable.

Overall, an excellent, excellent record. I even heard a rumor that they made a little film to go along with the album, but I haven't been able to find any hard evidence to corroborate that. Too bad. It would be interesting to see, I'm sure.

Grade: A+
Fave Song: If I Fell

Thursday, February 07, 2008

12 by Fiona Apple

Here' the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).

Week 6

Three albums in 12 years is hardly prolific, but no one can accuse Fiona Apple of not making each one count!

1. Sleep To Dream (from Tidal, 1996)
The initial shocking thing about Fiona for me was not her lyrics or her underwear, but her voice. So throaty and soulful, and all the more shocking for her big-eyed waifish looks.

2. Shadowboxer (from Tidal, 1996)
In some alternate or parallel reality this is a bonafide jazz standard.

3. Criminal (from Tidal, 1996)
Yes the dirty video brought it fame, but this was a rare case of the song being bigger and better than the hype.

4. Fast As You Can (from When The Pawn..., 1999)
Jon Brion brings his carnival atmosphere to Fiona's tales of woe. This is a sort of sequel to Criminal, basically saying, get out before I turn on you.

5. Limp (from When The Pawn..., 1999)
Fiona flips the script. She's the victim this time, and she's pissed. Great line: "You fondle my trigger then you blame my gun."

6. I Know (from When The Pawn..., 1999)
Featuring jazzy brushed drums, this is sort of a love song. A bruised one, toward a person who isn't readily available, but still a love song.

7. A Mistake (from When The Pawn..., 1999)
Nearly everybody has felt this way one time or another. There's something you know is going to be bad for you, but you rush headlong into it anyway. Fiona adds the appropriate level of defiance. "I'm gonna fuck it up again," she declares steadfastly.

8. Paper Bag (from When The Pawn..., 1999)
A throwback would-be showtune, once again about how much trouble she is. What's refreshing are the touches of humor: "He said, 'It's all in your head,' and I said 'So's everything' but he didn't get it."

9. Tymps (The Sick In The Head Song) (from Extraordinary Machine, 2006)
As strong as When The Pawn... was, there's more clarity on the songs from her follow-up. She grew up in the meantime. This is a perfect example, with Fiona showing some narrative distance. The clockwork strings are a great addition.

10. Better Version Of Me (from Extraordinary Machine, 2006)
Though there's definitely introspection here, one gets the idea that Apple was mostly just having fun with words, almost like a rapper. Witness: "I don't want a home, I'd ruin that / Home is where my habits have a habitat."

11. Extraordinary Machine (from Extraordinary Machine, 2006)
The full realization of the showtune tendencies she displayed on Paper Bag, this self-empowerment song desrves to have a musical built around it. And I sure dig the falsetto!

12. Waltz (Better Than Fine) (from Extraordinary Machine, 2006)
And thus, having sucessfuly conquered her demons, she danced off into the sunset (for now).

Sunday, February 03, 2008

159. The Beatles: With The Beatles (1963)

Now we continue our journey through the back catalog of a little-known '60s band I've recently discovered.

I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing The Beatles first album, Please Please Me, made a small splash, because they rushed out a sequel the very same year!

And like a film sequel, it follows the same structure with less satisfying results. Once again, there are 14 songs, 8 originals and 6 covers. Once again, each band member takes his turn in the spotlight. But there's something missing, almost as if the band purposely refused to include their best songs.

That's not to say that there are pleasures to be had on With The Beatles. Where their debut album was a star turn for guitarist John Lennon, it's his writing partner Paul McCartney that really shines on this one. Witness All My Loving, a harmony-laden long distance letter that would set any heart swooning or Hold Me Tight, a call-and-repeat rocker. He even justifies his own weakness for showtunes with a charming cover of Till There Was You, from The Music Man.

Lennon offers up the opener It Won't Be Long, which is powered by a series of back-and-forth yeahs, and the carefully constructed All I've Got To Do. He also attempts to out-ballad Paul on a energetic version of The Miracles You Really Got A Hold On Me.

And not-to-be-forgotten, the other two members also contribute. Lead guitarist George Harrison chimes in with his first attempt at composing. It's a misanthropic little ditty called Don't Bother Me. Fittingly, it is mostly free of the band's trademark harmonies. He also gets in on the cover business, offering a rollicking take on Chuck Berry's Roll Over Beethoven. Drummer Ringo plays it loose on the blusey Lennon/McCartney original, I Wanna Be Your Man.

Still, overall, the album pales when compared to its predecessor. Whereas on Please Please Me the boys attacked all of their covers with glee, here they seem slightly tired of them, especially Please Mr. Postman, and the languid closer, Money.

It can't help but appear that, by the end of 1963, The Beatles were already running out of steam.

Grade: B-
Fave Song: All My Loving

Stay tuned for more reviews of albums by this great lost band.