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Beatles Solo Albums in Chronological Order

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Paul McCartney - The Family Way

Released on January 6th 1967

The way in which each Beatle decided to explore their new found freedom after performing their last concert on 29th August 1966 was varied. Paul’s first instinct was to go on a road safari across Africa with Mal Evans, and on returning announced his commitment to cultural self-improvement. As part of this, before going to holiday to France he wrote 15 seconds of music for the main theme of the film he’d been asked to compose for by the directors of an upcoming film called “The Family Way”, and after his road safari wrote “Love In The Open Air” on guitar. Somehow from these, George Martin not only composed an entire 26 minute soundtrack but a shockingly cohesive and appealing one - perhaps even more shocking is that despite his little contribution, Paul’s name is plastered large on the front cover. The soundtrack sounds like pretty much any other of the period - upbeat orchestral pieces that if you’ve heard the B-side of Yellow Submarine you’ll be more than familiar with. To many, this doesn’t count as a Paul solo album and it’s easy to see why, but despite that it is a charming album that doesn’t overstay its welcome and is composed with care by George Martin.

Verdict: B-


George Harrison - Wonderwall Music

Released on 1 November 1968

Not one to be outdone, George too made a film soundtrack album. As a one-up on Paul however, George actually wrote the entirety of Wonderwall Music as well as performing on it. There is an immense amount of care put into this album, but simultaneously you can tell the fun that George had collaborating with Indian artists, fellow Beatles, Eric Clapton, The Remo Four and others. The contrast of western influences with the Indian influences on here aren’t two opposing sides, but go further than George’s attempts at fusing the two in songs like Within You Without You he had done the previous year, and as a result feel more refined - rather than simply putting English lyrics over Indian instrumentation, there is a conscious effort to blend the two compositionally and instrumentally and it works really well. It’s difficult to make any jokes or rib on this album - George had a huge amount of fun making an album in which he constantly liased with the director to see if pieces fit scenes, and some of the tracks on here are stunning. Despite all that, as a whole I don’t come out feeling particularly wowed, but rather just impressed and with a ton of respect towards George - take what he does on here and compare it to some of the stuff he was writing only a few years before and it’s difficult to disagree with those who argue that George was the Beatle who most improved over the lifetime of the band.

Verdict: B

John Lennon & Yoko Ono - Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins

Released on 11 November 1968

An unintentional document of one of the most important evenings in Beatles history, from the very offset this was going to be a controversial album. An album with a front cover so explicit that fellow Beatles denounced it mixed with avant-garde tape experimentation was going to be a tough sell, but I’m going to be a snob here and say that what John and Yoko were doing on here was nothing new but it was something hugely important and significant.

The story of this album is well publicised and discussed - Cynthia went on holiday to Greece with Magic Alex and Jenny Boyd, and while away on his own John invited Yoko to Kenwood. Apparently awkward at first, John decided to show Yoko some tapes he had been experimenting with and she proposed they work on their own. What we get is a result of that - vocalisations, piano, static, playful back and forths between John and Yoko and other various stuff that the pair found interesting enough to put onto tape. I am once again going to be a snob and say that the consistent hate that this album gets is surely a result of the fact that it was made by John Lennon - had this been from an established musique concrète artist, it would have flown under the radar but discussed in the way it was intended. However, that’s precisely the appeal of the album to me - the fact that it is a living, breathing document of the night where John and Yoko became “John and Yoko”, released on one of the most recognisable record labels of all time by one of the most successful songwriters of all time.

It does also happen to be a pretty enjoyable listen, never resting one idea for too long, occasionally quite funny and its direction remaining consistently unclear throughout (in the best way possible!). As long as you know what you’re in for and are willing to accept that, become part of the Two Virgins Defence League with me.

P.S. The CD re-releases of this include Remember Love, an absolutely wonderful song by Yoko that often gets forgotten due to it being a B-side. It’s genuinely worth seeking out that song alone even if you’re not interested in Two Virgins.

Verdict: B+

Category: Music Lists

Tags: #Beatles