The Beatles first album is an average affair given the heights they would later reach; a mix of covers and catchy pop tunes it was stronger than most records of the day. However now it sounds in parts dated and naïve but is full of the moments which would soon become hallmarks of the most successful band ever. The most important things to note are the energy with which the songs are played and the fact that the music is so good that it covers the simplistic boy loves girl lyrics. The covers on this and a few albums which follow are a weak point and for now the original song writing is fresh but lacks the quality of later Lennon and McCartney classics.
`I Saw Her Standing There’ is as strong an opener as any band could hope for. It is energetic, catchy, and quick and shows off McCartney’s screech which he would become renowned for. A simple, lustful, fun song it grabs the listener and pulls them back into (if listening now) or opens their eyes to (if listening then) the mood of the early 60s.
`Misery’ is another Lennon/McCartney offering the dark opposite to the first song about losing love and the depression which follows. Although this is staple pop theme stuff it still sounds upbeat due to the tempo and is lifted by the little piano inserts throughout. It also marks the first appearance of the scouse harmonies.
`Anna’ is one of the better covers marked by Harrison’s guitar playing and Lennon’s doleful, yearning vocals. Another song to display the darker side of the group which would crop up in later Lennon penned hits.
`Chains’ is one of the lesser songs on the album, lacking the spark of others. The melody is more irritating than catchy but it improves on the original which was never an interesting song.
`Boys’ is a cover of a Shirelles song but I can’t help thinking an upbeat version of Will You Love Me Tomorrow would have been more suited. It shows early signs of the band’s humour though as it is essentially a song for girl bands. Although the band do what they can with it the final result is still forgettable and made worse by Ringo performing it. Personal preference though as I know it was a firm fan favourite.
`Ask Me Why’ is another upbeat sounding number with some cynical lyrics thrown in. Typically catchy with a memorable refrain it nonetheless includes the annoying too high pitched `anything I can do’ moment.
`Please Please Me’ is the title track and highlight of the album. Everything about the song is perfect, from the harmonica intro, the lustful lyrics, the harmonies, the threefold melodies of verse, bridge, and chorus. It is the obvious partner to Love Me Do with the harmonica use and lyrical intent, and it is these two songs which raise the album into greater status.
`Love Me Do’ is perhaps the most famous song on the album and showcases the growing writing talents of Lennon/McCartney even though Paul wrote the majority as a schoolboy. It is a simpler structured song than Please Please Me but perhaps has the more memorable tune.
`PS I Love You’ is another pleasant McCartney number, slower, softer, and more to do with love than sex when compared to other tracks on the album. It is marked by some unusual strumming which just about covers the simplistic and what would be considered today unfortunately as cheesy lyrics. The lyrics are helped by the fact that they seem incredibly personal yet universal as it is the sort of thing all young lovers would write in a letter to their loved one. It is also notable for the lower repetition of certain words in the `treasure’ these three `words’ when we’re `together’ sequence and others.
`Baby It’s You’ is the strongest cover on the album with Lennon’s vocal adding a certain desperation to the feel, and the backing vocals fit in perfectly with the way they were writing their own songs at the time.
`Do You Wanna Know A Secret?’ is another strong song standing out due to its unusual intro before breaking into the main melody. It is well suited to Harrison’s voice and sounds more scouse than any other song. The `oohs’ of the chorus are particularly great and the bridge helps anything from becoming repetitive.
`A Taste of Honey’ is another poor cover and is mainly album filler. It doesn’t feel much like the rest of the album and could easily be chopped or skipped when playing.
`There’s A Place’ begins with the now familiar harmonica of John before kicking into the child like yearning lyrics which sound as beautiful and innocent now as they did then. The dual vocals stretch and sear and make the song an early classic.
`Twist and Shout’ closes the album and luckily it is one of the better covers. The original song is already strong so it was unlikely the Beatles would either ruin or improve upon it. It fits well with the rest of the album as it is upbeat and catchy and shows of the vocal and musical talents of each member. Probably the definitive version of the track
On the whole this is a good album let down by a few dodgy covers. There were other songs that the band had written at this time which never made it on to any studio albums which would have been more suited. A better album than the follow up and a sign of things to come.