Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 1/8/10
Following the surprising success of Please Please Me in the spring of 1963 where it topped the U.K. album charts for 30 weeks. The Beatles were a band on the rise as their appearances on BBC television and radio was just the start of a new era for British music. The Beatles was also making waves all over the world as their songs were becoming hits everywhere else with the exception of the U.S. where the band hadn't broke through yet. Still, the rise in popularity spurred by hit singles like From Me To You and She Loves You was only just the beginning as the band toured three times around the U.K. in the spring of that year. Another U.K. tour would follow in the fall where the band got a chance to part of a Royal Variety Performance for Queen Elizabeth II in November of that year. Yet, between those tours in the summer of 1963 through October when the band would record their second album with producer George Martin that showed a progression in both their sound and production with the use of some new studio technology.
Produced by George Martin with engineering and mixing by Norman Smith, With the Beatles is an album in which the band takes their sound to new heights. While the record is a replication of sorts of their debut album, the new production techniques with Martin providing more arrangements shows the band broadening their music. With seven original compositions by John Lennon and Paul McCartney along with six cover songs of rock, pop, and soul classics. The album is also the first time that George Harrison would contribute a song of his own where he would later become a prominent songwriter in the band. The result is a strong yet exhilarating sophomore release from the Beatles.
Opening album is the upbeat It Won't Be Long with its fast-paced, driving guitar riffs with twangy melodies, bouncy bass lines, and Ringo Starr's pummeling beats along with a catchy chorus sung by Lennon with McCartney and Harrison. The song's also features Lennon singing double-tracked vocals courtesy of producer George Martin in this song about fun and teenage innocence. The upbeat ballad All I've Got To Do starts off as a slow tender love ballad sung by Lennon with a slow, steady rhythm from Starr's drums with McCartney's driving bass line and the washy guitars of Lennon and Harrison. The song then goes into a swift rhythm with bouncy rhythms and chugging guitars as it shows the band taking on different arrangements as the song changes tempos from slow to fast and so on in this remarkable song.
All My Loving is an upbeat love song with dreamy lyrics as it features a thumping rhythm driven by McCartney's shimmying bass line with Starr's bopping drums and the driving guitar riffs of Harrison and Lennon. McCartney sings the song in his calm, somber vocal with its innocent lyrics while Harrison will later play a country-style guitar solo in the mix as he joins Lennon singing backup. Next is George Harrison's Don't Bother Me is an upbeat, mid-tempo rocker with smooth, driving guitar riffs and bopping beats with Starr providing bongos and McCartney on claves. Yet, the song belongs to Harrison whose vocals are calm with its simple yet desolate lyrics of love as Harrison also plays a twangy guitar solo as it's an excellent song from someone, who has yet to reach his potential later on.
Little Child starts off with a blazing harmonica from Lennon that plays through as he and McCartney sing the song with its playful lyrics driven by washy guitars and bouncy rhythm with McCartney providing an accompanying piano. The song shows the band's ode to R&B with Starr's pummeling yet steady drum fills and driving guitar riffs. The love ballad Till There Was You by Meredith Wilson from The Music Man is given a stripped-down yet polished presentation. With Starr on a smooth yet vibrant bongos while Lennon and Harrison are on acoustic guitars, it's McCartney who sings the song with his calm yet tender vocals as it later includes Harrison on a flourishing guitar solo. Next is a cover of the Marvelettes' Motown classic Please Mr. Postman that is led by Starr's pummeling yet steady drum fills and chugging guitar riffs with McCartney's driving bass line as Lennon sings the song with a few lyrical alterations in this ode to desired love. With George Martin's crisp production, the song features some amazing backing vocals from McCartney and Harrison while Lennon's vocals were double-tracked.
Next is a blazing cover of Chuck Berry's Roll Over Beethoven where the song belongs to Harrison with its country-style guitar twang solo and shimmying yet bouncy rhythms from Starr's bopping drum fills and McCartney's bumping bass lines. With chugging guitar riffs from Lennon and Harrison, the song belongs to Harrison who sings the song with its ode to the new rock sound as the Beatles pays tribute to Berry in this old-school rock classic. Hold Me Tight is led by chugging, driving guitar riffs with fast-paced rhythms led by Starr's swift drum fills. With McCartney singing the song with its lyrics of teenage love as he also plays a driving bass line with Lennon and Harrison joining him on backing vocals. The song later features a bit of a tempo break in the bridge where Starr plays a steady, thundering fill as it is a song that balances the energy of rock with the innocence of pop.
Next is a cover of Smokey Robinson's You Really Got A Hold On Me that features George Martin on a pounding piano for this mid-tempo version as Lennon and Harrison sing the R&B classic. With Starr's smooth yet vibrant drum track and McCartney's slow, pounding bass line and washy guitar tracks, it's a remarkable cover that includes a break with Starr's bass-pounding fills with snare hits. I Wanna Be Your Man is an upbeat rocker where Starr sings the song with his low, warbling vocal style with its cool, playful lyrics. Featuring washy guitars and a steady, bouncy rhythm, the song is a cool rocker with George Martin playing a sliding organ in the background while Harrison plays a country-style guitar solo that blazes through.
Devil In Her Heart is a cover of a Donays song by Richard Drapkin, that is led by spurting, jangly riffs by Harrison as he sings the song its playful, dark lyrics. Featuring a smooth, steady mid-tempo rhythm with a cool drum fill by Starr and McCartney's low bass line as it a superb cover that puts more of the spotlight on Harrison. Not A Second Time is an upbeat song with washy, acoustic guitar tracks accompanied by a smooth, steady rhythm from Starr's pulsating drums and McCartney's bouncy bass lines. Along with Martin on an accompanying piano where he plays a melodic solo, the song reflects on melancholia over heartbreak as it's sung by Lennon with his calm, somber vocals. The album closer is a cover of the Motown classic Money (That's What I Want) with Martin on a melodic piano riff with Harrison and Lennon playing rough, droning guitar riffs with Starr's hard-hitting drum fills and McCartney's driving bass line. With Lennon singing the song, it's a remarkable cover that recalls the Beatles' early raw sound with Martin's polished yet crisp production.
Released on November 22, 1963, the album was an immediate success in Britain as it would displace its predecessor on top of the U.K. album charts from December of 1963 to late April of 1964. Following the release of the album, the band released the single I Want To Hold Your Hand that would become another number one hit single for the band in December of 1963. With the band's popularity on the rise in Britain and all over the world with even music critics taking them seriously. It would be a few months until the band broke through in the U.S. The single's success in the U.K. prompted EMI's American label Capitol to release the song through radio after several months of struggles from small labels to break the band through the U.S. In February of 1964, the song finally hit number one as the Beatles arrived to play the Ed Sullivan Show where they played to the biggest television audience of its time. After that, history changed as the Beatles have now hit the U.S. as American kids were introduced to a whole new scene.
The 2009 remastered edition, which is also part of the stereo/mono box sets reissues, presents the album in a far more layered fashion. The sound is broader than its original 1987 CD reissue where more instruments are heard in the background while the vocals are much clearer. Even in the performance aspects where it's presented in a greater light with its production. The remastering is another great example of why the reissuing of the album among everything else is a must for Beatles fans.
With the Beatles is a remarkable album from the Beatles with some great production work from George Martin as the band broadens their sound. Though it's not as superb or as exciting as its predecessor, Please Please Me. It's still an album that shows the band progressing in their sound while taking on new ideas to expand their sound. The record for new fans isn't a bad place to start as it is still a stellar release in itself. In the end, With the Beatles is a brilliant sophomore album that shows the Beatles growing as they refine their sound with new techniques.
The Beatles Reviews: Please Please Me - A Hard Day's Night - Beatles for Sale - Help! - Rubber Soul - Revolver - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - Magical Mystery Tour - The White Album - Yellow Submarine OST - Abbey Road - Let It Be- (1962-1966) - (1967-1970) - Past Masters - (Live at the BBC) - (Anthology 1) - (Anthology 2) - (Anthology 3) - (Let It Be... Naked) - (Love)
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