The last couple of days, having exhausted a list of “new” music I was listening to in view of posting on this blog and fell on Abbey Road. I reveled in that and then went back to Rubber Soul. I love this album. It is probably the first Great Beatles album in terms of their coming of age as both musicians and songwriters. When you listen to it and then reflect on other albums out that year (two by the Stones in the Brian Jones era, two by The Kinks, one by The Beach Boys…), the production values and complexities of the songs on Rubber Soul is astounding. They were starting some sonic experimentation with The Word, Think for Yourself and and Run for Your Life to some extent. The classic hits of Nowhere Man and Drive My Car have, when you listen closely, some complex bass and drum bits. The gorgeous Norwegian Wood is pretty revolutionary in its loose sexuality and the music is also light, sensual and yet feels organic – I love the mood shifts throughout the entire piece. If I Needed Someone is one of my favorite songs from the Fab Four. The ballad In My Life is also way up there. So, again, comparing this to the album production at the time that I mentioned before, the Beatles were much closer to what has happening in jazz at the time (The In Crowd by Ramsey Lewis and its funky pre-fusion jazz, Maiden Voyage from the ever-experimental Herbie Hancock, A Love Supreme by Trane) in terms of pushing boundaries than they were to most of their contemporaries. To be fair, it was also in 1965 that Dylan published two of his best all-time albums – Highway 61 Revisited and Bringing It All Back Home – but his strength is primarily lyrical. With the Beatles, you are getting a deeply complex sound despite the sometimes superficial, poppy feel to the songs. Here they are playing some funk (Think for Yourself and What Goes On), some sitar (Norwegian Woods)…As pointed out on the allmusic review of this album, Nowhere Man is the first song that breaks entirely from the romantic themes that previously dominated their song writing. The gap is enormous between Help! recorded early that year and Rubber Soul. And when you realize that just on the heels of this is the explosive revolution of Revolver, you begin to appreciate why the boys from Liverpool were just so big – they had really rock-n-roll a quantum leap forward with Rubber Soul.
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