The Beatles and the quandary of the greatest hits.

When anyone asked me what my favorite album was, I always said it was something by The Beatles, usually “Help!”, “Revolver”, or “Abbey Road”. So one lonely day I sat down and tried to settle this question by rating each Fab Four album.

I rated each song of The Beatles from 1 to 5 stars (in reality from 2 to 5, they’ve never had a truly terrible song). I gave the song content of an album 85% of the score. I gave another 10% to the tracklisting. As anyone who’s made a good mixtape (or watched “High Fidelity“) knows, how songs flow together matters. The final five percent is for personal bias. If it was the album that started my obsession (Sgt. Pepper’s), or reflects an era in my life (Help!), it deserves higher marks. If it’s a great album, but also a soundtrack to a dull movie (Magical Mystery Tour), it might lose a point or two.

Then there’s the problem with compilations. If you’re to advise someone on buying a Beatles album, you wouldn’t avoid suggesting “Past Masters 2” just because the songs were recorded and released over a five-year period instead of all-at-once. You certainly need “Hey Jude” and “Day Tripper” in your Beatles collection. (I don’t care that you can buy the songs separately online now — albums still matter — what’s that? I can’t hear you). If you think that allowing compilations will lead to a slippery slope, you are correct! Let’s do this.

 

Album Songs Flow Bias Total
Sgt. Pepper 83.7 10 5 98.7
Rubber Soul 81.4 10 5 96.4
Abbey Road 81.0 10 5 96.0
White Album 80.5 9 5 94.5
Revolver 77.7 10 5 92.7
Past Masters 2 81.4 8 3 92.4
Help! 76.5 10 5 91.5
Please Please Me 76.5 9 5 90.5
Magical Mystery Tour 77.3 8 4 89.3
With the Beatles 75.3 8 4 87.3
A Hard Day’s Night 74.5 8 4 86.5
Let it Be 73.7 8 4 85.7
Past Masters 1 71.8 8 3 82.8
Beatles for Sale 68.0 8 4 80.0
Yellow Submarine 72.3 4 2 78.3

The success of Past Masters 2 on my list, (sixth overall, tied for second for song content) even with lower flow and bias ratings, is alarming to album purists. It only gets worse when you include their best of albums, “Red“, “Blue“, and “1“.

Album Songs Flow Bias Total
Red album 85.0 9 5 99.0
Blue album 85.0 9 4 98.0
1 85.0 8 3 96.0

Now this top Beatles album list is starting took bad. The Red Album, due to being full of great songs, no filler, and has the bias of being the first Beatles album I’ve ever owned, skyrockets to the top of the list. The only detriment that album has is its tracklisting is in chronological order. For the most part, hearing their musical progression makes for an exciting listen. Though sometimes the songs just don’t flow well together from one to the next. It’s no side 2 of “Abbey Road” (otherwise known as the standard of flow).

It’s about to get worse. Here comes a Beatles mix tape! A collection of great songs, each one flowing together perfectly, creating a perfect album to love and cherish. Is this mix tape my “favorite Beatles album of all time”?

1. I am the Walrus
2. Helter Skelter
3. Help!
4. Day Tripper
5. She Loves You
6. Hey Jude
7. Can’t By Me Love
8. Revolution
9. I Should’ve Known Better
10. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
11. Tomorrow Never Knows
12. A Day in the Life

Okay, that’s not a real mix tape of mine. But who knows, it just might be the greatest album of all time.