Wednesday, December 06, 2006

All Time Top Ten - #5 - Abbey Road

It's the perennial question. Which Beatles record? Which of course raises innumerable other questions. Are they really the greatest band of all time, the modern day Mozarts? If you struggle to choose between, Abbey Road, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt Peppers and A Hard Day's Night, and you put Abbey Road at #5, should 6-9 be taken up by the others? John or Paul?
So first of all, yes, they're truly great. Mozarts? Maybe, only time will tell. the best ever? No. No-one ever will be. But they were great. And this (perhaps) is their greatest.
This was the record The Beatles truly recorded as a group of individuals. The final recording they made (Let it Be, while recorded earlier, was released in 1970 due to Phil Spector's production schedule), it was made at a point when the band were arely on speaking terms. As a result, it allowed the long-supressed talents of George Harrison to come screaming to the fore, with 'Something' and 'Here Comes the Sun' two of the most gorgeous arrangements the Beatles ever laid to vinyl.
Opening up the now utterly iconic cover, laden with 'Paul is really dead' clues, as many others were before it, side one doesn't reveal anything that significantly sets it apart from previous releases. There's the beautiful ballads, such as the aforementioned Harrison numbers, the children's song 'Octopus's Garden', the 7 minute long wig-out 'I Want You (She's so Heavy) and the slightly forward looking weird funk of 'Come Together'. Quality was never an issue, and it wasn't until side 2, when the 16 minute suite, made up of unfinished bits and pieces, blows all they had done before out of the water. Be it the startling 'Mean Mr Mustard', the melodic, floating 'Sun King', the achingly beautiful 'Golden Slumbers' or the hidden Beatles' classic, 'She Came in Through the Bathroom Window', and closing with 'Her Majesty', arguably music's first ever secret track, this was The Beatles: fractured, broken, dysfuntional, and yet still triumphant, powerful and magical.
A band as wonderful as The Beatles deserved a sensational swansong. It's hard to imagine a more glorious one than this.

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