The Beatles – Beatles for Sale
The black sheep in Beatles’ discography…or is it? In terms of consistency, it definitely loses to A Hard Day’s Night, which featured a non-stop, high-energy pop attack on the ears unmatched at the time. But on the other hand, Beatles for Sale introduces a new dimension in the Beatles’ style, particularly in John’s compositions who seems to do his best to move away from all the cheerfulness. He is in turns paranoid (No Reply), self-deprecating (I’m a Loser), heartbroken (I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party), and isn’t that exactly how we like our John to be? People point to Dylan’s influence for this, but I’ve always thought it had more to do with Lennon finally accepting that “Love, love me do/ You know I love you/I’ll always be true” was simply not who he was.
Chuck Berry – Chuck Berry Is On Top
Contrary to popular belief, some 1950s rock ‘n’ roll albums are worth listening to. Maybe the record label cared more than the artist himself about them, but sometimes this haphazardous approach resulted in mini-masterpieces. Chuck Berry Is On Top is such an example, with classic singles from previous years such as Maybellene, Roll Over Beethoven, Johnny B. Goode or Carol, but also some underrated gems like Jo Jo Gunne. This is the type of stuff that birthed entire bands; Chuck’s impact on guitar-based rock ‘n’ roll is simply immeasurable. But his influence is not the only good thing about him – the catchy guitar lines, the witty lyrics and the all-around charismatic performances make his music still a delight after all these decades.
John Lennon – Rock ‘n’ Roll
For all the hype around it, Lennon’s solo career is one of the most disappointingly uninspired by any major rock/pop artist. This album was born out of John losing a copyright lawsuit and being forced to include 3 rock ‘n’ roll covers on his next release in order to promote them. The 3 eventually became 13 and the finished Rock ‘n’ Roll reads like a journey through the classic songs of artists that shaped Lennon’s musical tastes growing up. Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly and Sam Cooke are all covered, but the performances still feel like Lennon on auto-pilot, with no real desire to put his own stamp on them. His voice still sounds great and I’ll admit that Stand By Me is a well-deserved hit, but otherwise I see no real reason to ever return to this album.
The Notorious B.I.G. – Life After Death
Biggie could’ve used the double album format to tackle more subject matters, expand his production choices and immerse the listener into his vivid storytelling for an even longer duration. Instead he opted to go more…commercial. The beats here are just sickeningly glossy and overproduced; and it’s not hard to antagonize Puff Daddy for this, who is credited with more than half of the album’s production. But more baffling is how Biggie let his artistic vision be overshadowed by the effects of the ‘shiny suit’ hip-hop era. I guess he wanted to be a pop star and in many ways both him and 2Pac achieved that and took hip-hop to the next logical level. But something got lost for me and Life After Death always leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, despite having a few great tracks.
Categories: Mini Album Reviews