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.

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