(The Rewind Button is a group blogging project.  Every Thursday, we review an album from Rolling Stone’s Greatest Albums list.)  Rubber Soul was the first album that the Beatles were in complete control of creatively.  It was recorded uninterrupted over the course of four weeks, something they had not yet done (they routinely had to work on other projects while also recording albums).

It’s interesting to see that Rubber Soul preceded both Revolver and Sgt. Pepper and that these albums ranked higher on Rolling Stone’s list.  It clearly illustrates a progression in their music, at least according to the magazine.

This album has more of a traditional pop sound, which may be why RS felt it should take a lower place on the list.  As a contribution to music, it is admittedly a little thinner.  It could easily be a soundtrack to a Beatles movie, telling stories about different parts of the film.

Still the Beatles did experiment quite a bit with this album.  Norwegian Wood, it appears, is the first pop recording to use a sitar.  But unlike some of the sitar use that we saw on Revolver, it’s incorporated more comfortably into this album

This album flows as a cohesive piece.  It’s clear that they’ve paid special attention to song arrangement as you transition into You Won’t See Me.  Even Nowhere Man seems to pick up where the last song left off and, while not at all sharing the same tone, it shifts gears seamlessly.

The song length seems tailor made to today’s short attention spans and Cheetos-eating, Red Bull slugging youth (perhaps in a vain battle against the sands of time I include some from my generation in this category – who doesn’t love Chester Cheetah).  The longest song is 3:18, the shortest 2:01, but at no time do you feel shortchanged or as though they were simply spitting out another album.  They come to their rightful conclusion.  Listening to this album following Dylan’s epic song Desolation Row, you get a real sense of how different the two sounds are.

Rubber Soul was released in time for Christmas 1965.  As RS points out, this album came following Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone and the Rolling Stones’ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.  This fact puts a little context around this album.  Take those two songs and then throw in Drive My Car and compare.  Unlike RS, I’m not convinced that the Beatles rose to meet their challenge.  But it hardly seems fair to compare the three. 

It’s also unfair to compare song for song.  This album is a complete work.  To assess its worth, you have to listen to the whole thing.  It doesn’t pack the punch of Like a Rolling Stone or Satisfaction, but how many times have you bought an album for one song and realized that’s all that should have been on the album because the rest were subpar (present company excepted).

As far as this list is concerned, it’s kind of nice to now be five albums in.  I feel like we’re finally getting to a place where comparison is possible.  For instance, I firmly believe that Revolver was a better album than Rubber Soul, but this album still deserves merit.  It’s quite clear that I need to listen to Sgt. Pepper again, now that I’ve attuned my ears to the Beatles sound again, so I’ll reserve judgment on its placement.  As for Highway 61 Revisited, it’s definitely ahead of this album as well.

So here’s my working list so far:

  1. Sgt. Pepper *undecided
  2. Highway 61 Revisited
  3. Revolver
  4. Rubber Soul
  5. Pet Sounds

Oh, and I still reserve the right to change this order as I re-listen to the albums.

The other bloggers participating are listed below (I’ll post their links as they publish their review).

Betty Livin’

Sara Bynoe

Pimplomat

1Throne