Rank 'em how you like, Rubber Soul
is an undeniable pivot point in the Fab Four's varied discography no matter where, or how, you first heard it. So many classics: "Drive My Car" and "Nowhere Man" merge the early combustible Beatifics to a burgeoning studio consciousness; "The Word" can be read as a pre-psych warning shot; the sitar-laden "Norwegian Wood" and the evocative "Girl" (the latter written on the last night of the sessions) stand as turning points in John Lennon's oeuvre. George finally emerges too, with the McGuinn-ish "If I Needed Someone". --Don Harrison
Although not the huge stylistic leap forward that their next four albums would represent, Rubber Soul underlined that, for The Beatles, mop-toppery was now over and more serious matters lay ahead for a group who had just spent their second, successive year at the very pinnacle of world-wide success.
Fuelled by their prodigious marijuana intake, the songs – especially John Lennon's – continued on the oblique, introspective course they'd taken since Beatles For Sale the previous autumn.
Recorded in October and November 1965, the punningly-titled Rubber Soul is a transitional album that bridges the gap between its makers’ earlier pop rush and their future experimentation. Its upbeat sides are slightly off-kilter: Drive My Car, You Won't See Me and (previous album) Help! leftover Wait are great, beat-driven numbers that sound slightly kinky, while the peace-espousing The Word predates the summer of love by 18 months.
Paul McCartney follows Yesterday, the penultimate track on Help!, with Michelle, another show-stopping if saccharine standard. George Harrison's jangling tribute to The Byrds, If I Needed Someone, was also a hit for The Hollies, who released their version in the same week as Rubber Soul. However, with Nowhere Man, In My Life, Girl and Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown), this is Lennon's album and arguably the last Beatles record he would dominate.
Key amongst Lennon’s pieces is In My Life. Its childhood reminisces still sound gorgeous, the song carrying far more weight than its writer's 24 years, illuminated by producer George Martin's beautiful piano solo: recorded at half speed and later doubled, the sound is reminiscent of a harpsichord and fulfilled Lennon’s request for something Baroque-sounding.
Rubber Soul demonstrates how The Beatles, with Martin in tow, were beginning to exploit the recording studio – afterwards, boundaries were to be pushed. And where The Beatles led, other rock and pop acts soon followed. --Daryl Easlea
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