The Beatles
Rubber Soul
(Capitol 46440)

Rubber Soul is routinely heralded as one of the best albums of the rock era, though I think a stronger case could be made for it being one of the best album covers of the rock era. The music inside is a real mixed bag.

The high points are staggering, yes: John's genuine, lovely "In My Life," Paul's underrated, wonderful "You Won't See Me," the absolutely perfect "Nowhere Man" (one of the Beatles' best songs, though not often cited as such … and maybe their best arrangement ever), Ringo's excellent "What Goes On," and the best non-Monkees Monkees song of all time, "I'm Looking Through You."

Yet look at the low points: two of John's utter worst ("The Word," a rare case of the Beatles writing an instantly dated song, and the just horrible wife-beater anthem "Run For Your Life," which only Eminem could make work … scratch that, Nancy Sinatra did a nice campy version of it).

"Wait" … that's crap. "Girl" … schmaltzy. "Drive My Car" … annoying, although it occurs to me that it's the clear inspiration for the main theme in IntelliVision's "Snafu," certainly one of my favorite video game songs. "Think For Yourself" … not bad, though it's one of George's more forgettable moments.

Middle ground is provided by "If I Needed Someone" (one of George's finest, yet it's tacked on second to last), "Norwegian Wood" (an undeniably great song, though I've heard it way too many times to get excited about it), and "Michelle" (classic faux-sensitive McCartneyism, sure, but that melody!).

The best aspects of the album are Ringo's drumming (consistently inventive on a diverse assortment of styles … listen to "In My Life" and "Nowhere Man" in particular to hear why no one else could have supplied the needed rhythm support … in fact, without Ringo, "Wait" wouldn't even be a song) and George Martin's arrangement savvy (his pseudo-baroque keyboard solo on "In My Life" alone shows why he was the real reason the Beatles' records still hold up, as opposed to those of, like, Paul Revere and the Raiders).

The album is, of all the band's output, the one that sounds most "of its time" rather than "timeless." It doesn't hang together, really, and it's chock full of mid-60s fuzz-guitar clichés. The US version is better ("Drive My Car" is omitted, "I've Just Seen a Face" is added, among other differences) … smoother flow, more symbiotic assortment of songs. Shows the subtle difference to a record's overall impact that can be made by song selection and programming.

Rubber Soul is the sound of a band starting to come into their own, but still writing from craft rather than depth. An aptly named record, then … at least they knew the shit wasn't truly from or for anyone's soul.

Review by La Fée