Of the trilogy of Beatles albums which feature many covers this may be the best. It is certainly better than With The Beatles, and about equal to Please Please Me, depending on whether you prefer upbeat songs, or darker, introspective ones. While their first album was full of optimism and energy, this one is their fourth in two years and shows all the signs of a band almost broken by touring. The energy may be dulled, but the song writing has greatly improved in all areas. Luckily the covers they choose here are better than on those other albums and the original material is becoming more varied.
`No Reply’ starts the album, and is their darkest song yet. Starting soft, before the heavy guitar and percussion comes in symbolizing the surprise of seeing the girl through the window it shows further signs of the band’s growing intelligence. Indeed the song grows in intensity with more instruments building throughout before softening towards the end. It speaks of paranoia, unfaithfulness, and pain and is a typical Lennon lyric. The next two songs follow suit, dark, self-deprecating, introspective and showing the influence of other more poetic artists of the time such as Dylan. It is a splendid opener.
`I’m A Loser’ interestingly starts with the refrain before blasting into the verse. It is bleak lyrically, but sounds wonderful musically filled with nice guitar parts and a return to harmonica days. Lennon sings quite deeply in parts with McCartney filling in the high harmonies. It has a quick tempo and is equally strong with `No Reply’.
`Baby’s In Black’ ends the opening dark trilogy, a mournful song with a waltz feel to it. Probably darker than the first two songs the lyrics are reminiscent of a woman mourning a lost love. The guitar parts are original, with single notes bent, and lots of tremolo used.
`Rock’n’Roll Music’ is the first cover on the album and an obvious choice given the band’s love for Chuck Berry. It isn’t wildly different from the original or any other version, a decent song with lots of energy, but filler nonetheless.
`I’ll follow The Sun’ is a sweet yet melancholy McCartney ballad with lyrics about an unappreciative lover, leaving someone only for them to realize what they pushed away. It is soft and soothing with lulling guitars.
`Mr. Moonlight’ for some reason has been derided by fans and critics alike, but it is my favourite Beatles cover and my second favourite song on the album. The organ may feel out of place but it still feels like a Beatles song. Lennon does a great job with the vocals, Harrison’s guitar is fine, I like the drum pauses, and melodically the song is perfect. For people to say that it is the worst thing they ever recorded is quite frankly embarrassing.
`Kansas City’ on the other hand is a weak cover. Yes it is full of energy and I like the way `Hey hey hey’ is blended in, but it’s just another boring up tempo rocker with shouty McCartney lyrics. I’m sure this song would have worked better live but here it is filler and can easily be skipped.
`Eight Days A Week’ keeps the tempo and energy high and subverts the typical fade out pop song by having a fade in intro. It is a simple, joyful song celebrating how much love one feels for another. It has a nice melody but isn’t particularly outstanding.
`Words of Love’ for a modern listener sounds a bit like The Kinks or The Bangles, something about the tone of the guitar. It is a good cover of a Buddy Holly song and sticks fairly close to the original. Luckily the background claps aren’t very loud or irritating.
`Honey Don’t’ is a Ringo vocal, a cover of a Carl Perkins song but don’t worry it isn’t too bad. The song can probably be classed as filler, there is nothing wrong with it but nothing too exciting either. Ringo’s spoken words during the song though are annoying.
`Every Little Thing’ is my favourite song on the album, and really should have been a hit. Melodically perfect, sweet, lyrically fine it is a highlight of early Beatles albums. I particularly like the Timpani which jumps in, in the middle of the chorus.
`I Don’t Want To Spoil the Party’ returns to the darker mood with lyrics about alienation and self hatred. It sounds fairly upbeat due to the sweet harmonies, memorable melody, and soft guitars. Again there is self deprecation as Lennon admits `though tonight she’s made me sad, I still love her’.
`What you’re Doing’ is unusual not only for the drum intro but mainly because it is a McCartney song dealing with feelings of despair and sadness. Lyrically it is quite clever, and structurally the words and music are complex. Naturally it sounds as upbeat as any other McCartney song.
`Everybody’s trying to Be My Baby’ ends the album fittingly- a high tempo song dealing with the mania of fame and groupies, recorded at the time they were most tired and alienated by touring. It is another good cover and closes the album well.
This album has not been a critical or fan favourite but it does include some classic moments. It was still better than most of what was around at the time and even through time and energy constraints, pressure, exhaustion the group managed to record a pretty good album.
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Updated with the Nightman Scoring System(c):