The idea behind this ‘series’ is that once every two weeks another year will be brought into attention, starting with 1963 and moving onward chronologically. One and only one album will be selected and written about from each year, the criteria being a mix of personal preference and historical relevance. If you stumble upon this article by any chance and end up not clicking the ‘x’ button in disgust, keep in mind that I would love to hear your choice for the respective year – from a simple comment stating the album’s name, to detailed analysis that will destroy my argument and make me reconsider my reasoning. Remember, one of the main reasons I’m doing this is to get a better perspective of what albums I’ve missed out on, from each period of time.
Today’s Pick: The Beatles – The Beatles (The White Album)
Sometimes, what’s even more interesting that listening to one band’s established masterpiece is seeing how they manage(d) to follow it up. Over the years, great artists proved us that possibilities are many – one can abandon experimentalism altogether and turn to a more traditional, conservative approach (Bob Dylan, The Doors), one can shift the focus to the ‘personal’ (The Who, The Band) or one can simply offer an encyclopedic, unedited image of himself at the time (Aerosmith, Velvet Underground, Jefferson Airplane).
The White Album, released at the height of the Beatles’ critical and commercial popularity, features all this approaches at one point or another and maybe even more. Presented under the form of a double album, this is a journey not only through each Beatle’s state of mine at the time, but also, dare I say it, through popular music up to that point. Rock ‘n’ roll, blues, folk, pop, ska, country, music hall, hard rock and avant-garde among others feel completely at home here.
Place this concept in the hands of your average band and they’ll most likely be bound to come up with one big, confused mess. But this is The Beatles we’re talking about, and their sense of melody as well as humor is as good as ever, providing more than enough accessibility. Another aspect that ties and sews the album like no other is the absolutely perfect sequencing – with every single one of the 30 songs is in its exact right place. And the contrasts that some of the transitions provide are just breathtaking: roaring madness turning into silent contemplation, noisy avalanche of sounds followed by a sappy lullaby, goofy story-telling morphing into meticulous guitar-weeping or biting social critique into a cute, inoffensive throwback. And that’s just naming a few.
What The Beatles have achieved here transcends the idea of what an album should be, just as much as Sgt. Pepper did so the previous year. If there is one particular aspect about 1968 that always fascinates me, it’s how music went into a million directions. But, out of the all the bands we have to thank for that, only one managed to capture that very essence onto their record. To me, The White Album isn’t just the best album of 1968. It is 1968.
Do you agree? What’s your favourite album from 1968?
Categories: Album of the Year