The Beatles 1967–1970 (2023 Edition) [The Blue Album]
One thing to note about the so-called Blue Album—beyond the quality and innovation of the music itself—is how well it manages to encapsulate a period of The Beatles that isn’t that easy to encapsulate. Part of their legacy lies in helping invent our concept of the Rock Album: a continuous, unified experience closer to a novel or film than a collection of independent songs. Albums had a logic; they might even—in the case of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or the second half of Abbey Road—have a narrative. One might even call it capital-A Art. Of course, tracks like “A Day in the Life” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” would be astonishing in any context. And as much fun as it is to ride the contrasts of the White Album and the loose flow of Sgt. Pepper’s, the band’s late period also produced some of their best stand-alone songs, including “Don’t Let Me Down,” “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” and “Hey Jude.” (This version of The Beatles 1967-1970 also includes The Beatles’ very late-period final song, “Now and Then,” which Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr began assembling in 2022 from a late-’70s John Lennon demo.) Hardcore fans might find most of the Blue Album kind of redundant, but to anyone looking for answers to bigger questions of who The Beatles were and what cultural changes they helped set in motion (not to mention in such a short time), 1967-1970—along with its red companion, 1962-1966—is a good start. This is when the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed innocence of pop meets the premonitions of the psychedelic underground (“I Am the Walrus”) and the rock ballad tilts toward heavy metal (“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”), when the fabled idealism of the late ’60s (“All You Need Is Love”) hits the chilly reality of what comes next (“Get Back,” “Revolution”). They didn’t write the story alone—but it’s hard to find another band that summarized it so well.