Book Review: Still The Greatest

Still The Greatest: The Essential Songs Of The Beatles’ Solo Careers

This book is conducted on an unusual but compelling premise, and that is seeking to create a solid compilation of the solo Beatles recordings that follows the same rules as the Red and Blue Albums that serve to provide the biggest hits of when the Beatles were together. And in selecting these songs, the author manages also to talk about the solo careers of the Beatles, and the music that they made and also how the songs of the solo Beatles are often highly self-referential to others in ways that serves to be compelling. The book also points out how it is that the balance of creativity can be served in dividing up various eras. The author, it must be admitted, has a higher opinion of the worth of John Lennon songs and a lower opinion of the value of Paul McCartney songs than I do, but is also quite savvy at picking out obscure gems in the Beatles’ solo work that is worth checking out. This book turned me on to an obscure but excellent Ringo solo track in “Free Drinks” and the idea of making an official Beatles’ solo compilation set sounds like an amazing idea. Someone needs to do this.

This book is almost 300 pages long and is divided into twelve best-of albums of the Beatles’ solo output from 1970 to 2011, including what the author considers to be the best solo songs of the Beatles. And admittedly, having listened to these, some of these are amazing hidden gems that deserve to be a lot better known. The author divides the Beatles careers into the following years, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1980. 1985, 1989, 1997, 2005, and 2011, slowing down as the Beatles dwindled in their creativity and in their numbers. It is striking to see that these songs include massive hits, B-sides that deserve to be better known, as well as strong album tracks and in one case a bootleg that has never been officially released. The author has dug deep into the Beatles’ solo work to craft albums that any fan of the band would be more than happy to have in their collections as presenting a strong document of a body of work that deserves to be better known and appreciated. The first eight chapters include work by the four Beatles’ solo work, including the material up to Lennon’s posthumous Milk & Honey album, while the ninth album includes pieces from the Traveling Wilburys, and there is even a selection from an experimental group, Fireman, that McCartney was a part of, showing a very diverse collection of strong songs.

One of the more shrewd insights that the author has on the solo work of the Beatles’ is that the Beatles’ in their approach to music are far closer to rappers than they are to the pop singers of generations past. The Beatles’ as a whole appear to be made up of very sensitive people, and so the deep and painful personal lives of the artists, and their legal trouble as well as their beefs with each other are continually coming up in their works, to say nothing of their songs about their long-ago come up. These elements, and others, including an occasional name-dropping about their taste for elite culture, demonstrate that the Beatles served as the sorts of rock stars that rappers often emulate, perhaps even unknowingly. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a substantial number of songs about their come-up and beefs about each other and others make up a sizable portion of these songs, where all four Beatles are represented. Somehow, despite it all, the author makes the compelling observation that the Beatles, for all of their foibles, were still compelling artists as solo artists who have the grounds for some epic compilations going into the 2010’s, which is still selling Paul McCartney’s career short given his 3 top 40 hits in that decade and his work including New, Egypt Station, and McCartney III.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, History, Music History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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