Sunday, August 3, 2008

CD Review: Rubber Soul

1) Drive My Car
2) Norwegian Wood
3) You Won't See Me
4) Nowhere Man
5) Think For Yourself
6) The Word
7) Michelle
8) What Goes On
9) Girl
10) I'm Looking Through You
11) In My Life
12) Wait
13) If I Needed Someone
14) Run For Your Life
The Fab Four still had its mop tops and clean-shaved faces, but had become more adventurous than they were in the Please Please Me days. They had a little more experience and maturity in writing and performing, and started to take inspiration from things other than love - like drugs! Many tracks still have that early 60s feel, and some are the filler common to early Beatles albums, but the good outweighs the bad more than enough.
Paul had just broken out with "Yesterday", and was slowly becoming the band's second leader. His songwriting and vocals shine on the groovy "You Won't See Me", the English-French amalgam of "Michelle", and the riff-driven rocker "I'm Looking Through You". Meanwhile, George began to grow as well, with the funky "Think For Yourself" and folk-y "If I Needed Someone", not to mention his sitar's debut on "Norwegian Wood", while Ringo bangs the drums, shakes the tambourine, and continues to bring the country with "What Goes On".
John was still the star, but earned his spotlight by giving the disc its best moments. He mixed the Beatles' style with those of Indian musicians and Bob Dylan to create "Norwegian Wood" and proved that Beatles songs didn't have to be about love with "Nowhere Man".  Not to mention one of the greatest songs of all time - the introspective and retrospective "In My Life".
Tracks like "Drive My Car" illustrate the teamwork that became rare in later albums - that song and "Wait" can't be easily labeled as "a John song" or "a Paul song".  The latter track is a hidden gem - John initially sings lead, with Paul taking over in the middle, then they alternate.  It's a collaboration in the style of the later "A Day in the Life", with a more explicit theme.
Rubber Soul is, arguably, the band's first truly great album - the earliest work that some could seriously consider their best.  After quite a few previous albums, the guys had developed into more mature musicians.  The disc showcased more creativity than ever before, and the next few albums just got even better.
****1/2 out of five

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