Abbey Road

The Beatles

Apple / Capitol Records, 1969

http://www.thebeatles.com

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/21/2007

“Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight…carry that weight a long time.” Truer words were never sung like they were on The Beatles' epic final masterpiece, Abbey Road.

Initially, I had picked up this album for the grand finale medley that contained “Carry That Weight” and the appropriate “The End.” Not having grown up during the time period, and not being exposed to the Beatles very often as a kid, little did I know at the time just how many other amazing songs were to be found here

Even though Let It Be was already in the can (more or less) and would be released a year later, Abbey Road was the actual last recording that all four Beatles made in the same studio together. It was not a particularly easy time for any of them, as they were all grappling with personal issues such as relationships, drugs, the financial mess of Apple Corps and the side effects of overwhelming fame.

That’s why you can’t help be in awe of a song like “Because,” which proves that the Beatles hadn’t lost the ability to harmonize and pull out a clutch performance when they really needed to. How they were able to maintain their level of focus, shut out all distractions and create such an impressive piece of work is quite remarkable. Even the album cover photograph of the Beatles walking across Abbey Road in unison is a classic. 

I like to describe Abbey Road as a darker sequel to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Each Beatle has ample opportunity to shine here. John Lennon is as consistent as ever, especially on the opening "Come Together," though the biggest surprises come from the other three. It’s no-holds-barred for Paul McCartney on “Oh! Darling,” from his shredded blues vocal to the reverb effects. It’s great to see him finally pushing himself as far as he can possibly go as a singer, the way John did on “Twist And Shout” all those years earlier. nbtc__dv_250

With his weeping guitar in tow, George Harrison’s two singles, “Something” and “Here Comes The Sun” are the most popular of all the Abbey Road tracks. The juxtaposition of the dark acid rock of“I Want You (She‘s So Heavy)” followed by the light and gentle “Here Comes The Sun” is the equivalent to waking up from a bad dream. As the very last song to be recorded, the bluesy, heavy “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is so oppressive that it ranks right up there with “Helter Skelter” as one of the Beatles' scariest tunes ever -- and to kill the tension, and perhaps symbolize the band's career, at the height of the noise the track just stops (because Lennon instructed the engineer to cut the tape there). It's quite a trip.

The lighter moments certainly provide the listener with plenty of breathing space. There are some Technicolor moments that are memorable for their fun tone, which help in keeping things well balanced. Ringo Starr takes a psychedelic trip through “Octopus’ Garden” and shows just how far he has come as a drummer on “Polythene Pam.” and the solo on "The End." Even lightweight fare like “Mean Mr. Mustard” contains some fresh sounds and should by no means be considered as disposable filler.

The two moments of true bliss arrive just before the section of Abbey Road considered to be the best medley in rock music history. The very emotional ballad “You Never Give Me Your Money” is among the Beatles' most heartfelt and poignant moments, while “Sun King” is a quieter number (crickets included) that is a marvel of production and laid-back reflection, despite its nonsensical lyrics. And of course, "The End" is one of the more perfect album closers in history, featuring not only three guitar solos and a drum solo but a return to the rock that made the band famous in the first place, as well as the immortal line "And in the end / The love you take / Is equal to the love you make."

With such a dazzling and captivating array of songs on Abbey Road, it is easy to see why the Beatles remain as the greatest and most successful music act of all time. No other band, past or present, could ever hope to achieve the level of professionalism and creativity these four lads from Liverpool did.

For Abbey Road to have “Come Together” during such a tumultuous time was nothing short of a miracle. It’s one of those albums where each and every song is a classic.

Rating: A

User Rating: A-


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© 2007 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Apple / Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.