Abbey Road is more or less The Beatles' final album1, and it contains some of the group's strongest work – especially George Harrison, who finally gets his day in the sun.
I'm not sure when I got my first copy of Abbey Road. Might have been high school, or it might have been the first release of The Beatles' catalog on CD. This was back in the dark, pre-Internet, ages when knowing exactly what the "official" Beatles releases were was non-trivial.
The vast majority of Abbey Road was in heavy rotation on the local classic rock stations all through my formative years, of course, but it's best appreciated in its entirety.
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Technically, it was the movie Help! that helped turn me into a music junkie, but we'll go with the album here.
Here's how it all started. When I was seven, I came home from Sunday school (yes, really) and turned on the TV. There was usually a movie playing on the local non-network affliate channel around Noon on Sundays, and on one day I cranked the TV just in time to catch Help!.
If you've seen the movie, you know it starts with an attempted human sacrifice that fails because the victim isn't wearing the sacrificial ring. Where's the ring? Cut to a shot of Ringo Starr's hand while he's playing the drums as The Beatles play "Help!"
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Famed Rock critic Robert Christgau called Rubber Soul "when The Beatles began to go arty." Reductive, perhaps, but also true.
Rubber Soul is not as adventurous as Sgt. Pepper or The Beatles, but it brings in elements that the band couldn't reproduce on stage. And it also deals with some more mature themes than previous Beatles albums, albeit obliquely.
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Wings live album Wings Over America is another one of those albums that I pretty much wore out the cassette tape. Thank goodness for CDs and being able to play something hundreds of times without wearing out the media!
As a rule, I'm not a big consumer of live albums, but I'll make a big exception for Wings Over America. I don't recall what year I first picked this one up, but I was somewhere in my mid-teens and still massively obsessed with The Beatles and their solo careers. Paul McCartney and John Lennon in particular.
Wings Over America had the virtue of having a boatload of songs that I loved, as well as (in my opinion) superior versions in many cases to the studio recordings.
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Spike features Elvis Costello's highest-charting single, "Veronica" – co-written with and featuring Paul McCartney. That's just the cherry on the sundae for this album, though.
Spike ("the beloved entertainer," it says on the cover), bangs the door down with "…This Town…" It begins with a powerful drumbeat and then pulls in other instruments one by one, vocals coming in last. It's an angry, cynical number with a catchy tune, a little spoonful of sugar for the medicine to go down.
After an explosive intro, Costello moves on to "Let Him Dangle." This one veers between an almost dirge-like two-step shuffle, to impassioned chorus, then winds down with a heavy guitar jam.
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