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Lucy Mar 22, 2010 06:22 AM

Ten essential Beatles solo albums
Ten essential Beatles solo albums

It couldn't have been easy, being asked to follow "Abbey Road" without the other Beatles there to tell a person which songs sucked and which songs didn't.

But the Beatles somehow managed - even Ringo Starr, whose first big solo album, "Ringo," sent two singles to the top of Billboard's Hot 100 ("Photograph" and "You're Sixteen").

The other three, of course, released a string of classic albums, the best of which we've featured here, beginning with John Lennon's seminal debut.

1. "Plastic Ono Band" (1970)

John Lennon's dark night of the tortured soul sets the tone with the ominous tolling of a church bell to ring in a song about how his dead mother didn't want him anyway - a song that soon gives way to desperate cries of "Mama, don't go. Daddy come home." No rock artist had ever shared as much as Lennon shares on this, his undisputed masterpiece, inspired by primal scream therapy, the Beatles' breakup and the self-doubt he'd been struggling with, beneath the often cruel exterior, since childhood. Two songs find him haunted by his mother's death, 12 years after the fact, while "God" dismisses everything he once believed in to declare his independence from the past. "I don't believe in Beatles" he shouts, before returning with a hushed "I just believe in me - Yoko and me. And that's reality."

2. "All Things Must Pass" (1970)

George Harrison's three-record masterpiece, "All Things Must Pass" is a deeply felt spiritual manifesto with the great Phil Spector bathing songs the other Beatles had to wish they'd written in majestic Wall of Sound production. You can feel the floodgates being blown right off their hinges after years of competing for album space with the Lennon-McCartney juggernaut. The slide-guitar-fueled "My Sweet Lord" gave Harrison the surprising distinction (and, no doubt, satisfaction) of being the first Beatle out of the gate with a chart-topping single. But the best track here, by far, is that song's epic B-side, "Isn't It a Pity."

3. "Imagine" (1971)

The title track is Lennon's finest hour as a maker of big statements - or a dreamer, as he puts it in this tender plea to just imagine life without certain distinctions that tend to drive a wedge between us, from nationalism and capitalism to religion. He's more confrontational in advancing his social agenda on "Crippled Inside," the anti-Nixon rant "Gimme Some Truth" and "I Don't Want to be a Soldier," while "How Do You Sleep?" takes the shine off his halo with a vicious swipe at Paul McCartney.

4. "Living in the Material World" (1973)

Harrison no longer had the luxury of stockpiling songs while his bandmates were hogging the glory by the time he started working on this underrated follow-up to the chart-topping "All Things Must Pass." But the best songs definitely live up to the promise, from the darkly comic "Sue Me, Sue You Blues" (inspired by the Beatles lawsuits) to Harrison's own "Imagine," the chart-topping "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)."

5. "Ram" (1971)

Having eased into post-Beatle duty with the homespun charms of the "McCartney" album, the "ambitious" Beatle sounded more like he was trying here. And trying clearly suits him. The chart-topping "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" was inspired nonsense of a type that would have sounded right at home on any post-"Revolver" Beatles album. And "Monkberry Moon Delight" was weirder still.

6. "Band on the Run" (1973)

There's a reason this became McCartney's biggest album since the Beatles' breakup, spinning off three classic singles - the chart-topping title track, "Jet" and "Helen Wheels" (which was only included on U.S. versions of the album at the time). Even Lennon couldn't help but say he liked it. Other highlights range from "Mrs. Vanderbilt" to "Let Me Roll It," a gritty gem that would have fit right in on "Let it Be."

7. "Mind Games" (1973)

A clear return to form in the wake of the overly topical mess that was "Some Time in New York City," Lennon's "Mind Games" begins with an anthemic title track that effortlessly picks up where "Imagine" left off. As he sings on the fadeout, "I want you to make love, not war. I know you've heard it before." Other highlights range from upbeat rock and roll to soulful ballads.

8. "Back to the Egg" (1979)

McCartney and Wings hadn't sounded this feisty since "Band on the Run," from the breathless psychobilly groove of "Spin it On" to "Old Siam, Sir" and a leadoff single, "Getting Closer," that made the most of his loopier lyrical sensibilities. And the slow songs are equally solid, from the blue-eyed soul of "Arrow through Me" to "Baby's Request," the "Your Mother Should Know" of the post-Beatles era.

9. "Double Fantasy" (1980)

It's impossible to hear this now outside the context of John Lennon being murdered while the first song he'd released in five years, "(Just Like) Starting Over," was making a run on the charts. But it seems like it's held up surprisingly well (including Yoko's tracks), delivering such highlights as "I'm Losing You" and "Cleanup Time," where Lennon brings the funk like David Bowie's "Young Americans" with a shout-out to "Cry Baby Cry."

10. "Wild Life" (1971)

McCartney's first release with Wings was reviled at the time as more meaningless drivel from a man whose greatest work had changed the world. In hindsight, though, it's pretty damn endearing, setting the tone with the raucous abandon of "Mumbo" and following through with such off-the-cuff treasures as "Bip Bop" and the heartfelt Lennon reconciliation track, "Dear Friend."

JonnyLytnin Mar 22, 2010 08:26 AM

I think that this person's picks for John and George were pretty good, but Back to the Egg and Wild Life for Paul? I can think of quite a few Macca releases that I would throw down before I would pick these two. Memory Almost Full would have certainly been one of my picks for McCartney.

maribeatlecrazy Mar 22, 2010 08:33 AM

Yeah, the choices for Paul could have been better...

And I think they only chose "Living in the material world" in order to make George have more than one album on the list... :rolleyes:

Brainwashed Mar 22, 2010 09:08 AM

All Things Muss Pass, should of been number 1

FPSHOT Mar 22, 2010 09:54 AM

The article from this 'professional' writer is not so much different than the polls and rankings we do here.

Difference is, we know more about the music :dance:

I bet we will have dozens of views on the albums selected, which may become a nice conversation here :smoking2:

The writer seems to combine albums to chart success of singles.

Also, when I see the comments for instance to All Things Must Pass and Living In The Material World it even looks like he puts the comment of one - 'Harrison no longer had the luxury of stockpiling songs while his bandmates'- which he writes for Living In The Material World whereas it might have been more in place for All Things Must Pass ands at the same time his comment for All Things Must Pass saying a deeply felt spiritual manifesto I believe fits more to Living In......

And, I miss RINGO.

Dr Winston Mar 22, 2010 10:54 AM

Two Virgins should be NO.1.

Maia 66 Mar 22, 2010 04:59 PM


Originally Posted by FPSHOT (Post 1006065)
The writer seems to combine albums to chart success of singles.

Lol ~ He does use the term "chart-topping" at least 5 times.

But I do tend to agree with this list, amazingly enough. Except I'd put Band on the Run at #4 and Double Fantasy at #5. I think "chart-topping" singles are what Paul does best, and BOTR has the best collection of 'em.

I find it interesting that the top two are both from 1970... with the pent-up emotions and angst of Beatledom being set free, John and George came up with their "masterpieces."

darkhorse Mar 23, 2010 07:51 AM

Ringo should have been there; to me it is as essential as the others, and it features the four of them.

For Paul I would have certainly picked other albums, but then again it is all a matter of taste. It does seem interesting that two often heavily-attacked albums like Wild Life or Back to the Egg, receive some attention, and perhaps in the form of a reevaluation after all these years. More interesting, to me, though, are Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, Flaming Pie and Tug of War... and from the 70's, even Venus and Mars is more representative and consistent, IMHO.

Mind Games was also an odd choice. Walls and Bridges is my third-favourite Lennon album.

And George did not stop making albums after 1973; so Cloud Nine and Brainwashed are as "essential" as it gets, in my view.

It is an interesting starting point for a discussion.

UncaDan Mar 24, 2010 07:12 PM

Well...if you had no solo Beatles albums and someone said to pick ten to start your collection, these would be my recommendations in no particular order;

Plastic Ono Band
Double Fantasy

Band On The Run
Memory Almost Full or Flaming Pie

All Things Must Pass
Cloud Nine
(but if I could slip one extra in my pocket, 33 1/3 was my first George album and is very dear to me)

And last but certainly not least...


And yes the author's Paul picks seemed a bit odd.

LennonStarrFan Mar 24, 2010 09:13 PM

I would add Goodnight Vienna, Vertical Man, and Y Not for the Ringo list.

bobdude Mar 24, 2010 11:00 PM

I always thought of Wild Life as being one of Paul's unessential albums. Yeah, how can Ringo not be on this list with it's/his 'chart-toppers'? Oh well, Got one, got one everybody's got one!

JonnyLytnin Mar 25, 2010 04:57 AM


Originally Posted by LennonStarrFan (Post 1006394)
I would add Goodnight Vienna, Vertical Man, and Y Not for the Ringo list.

Just for kicks LSF, let me ask: To keep the list at ten, which of the aforementioned JP&G albums would you pull from the list to fit in any/all of these Ringo albums, if any?

LennonStarrFan Mar 25, 2010 08:03 AM


Originally Posted by JonnyLytnin (Post 1006424)
Just for kicks LSF, let me ask: To keep the list at ten, which of the aforementioned JP&G albums would you pull from the list to fit in any/all of these Ringo albums, if any?

Why should it just be 10? As a fan, I've been collecting all their solo albums.

JonnyLytnin Mar 25, 2010 11:55 AM


Originally Posted by LennonStarrFan (Post 1006438)
Why should it just be 10? As a fan, I've been collecting all their solo albums.

LSF: In keeping with the theme of the topic, I just thought it would be interesting know which JP&G albums you might replace. I also have been in the process of acquiring all of their solo stuff, but if I had to start someone off with just 10, I'd probably do 3 albums each for JP&G and then throw in 1 of Ringo's.

Here's my picks:

Plastic Ono Band
Double Fantasy

Band On The Run
Memory Almost Full

All Things Must Pass
Living In The Material World or Cloud Nine (it's a toss-up)


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