The Beatles
With the Beatles
(Capitol 46436)

Listening to this infectious and energetic disc, I wonder why the hell it is I don't cut the Beatles any slack. What has made me so cynical? These guys did more for human youth than a thousand Benjamin Spocks. (?)

I must admit, it's been years since I put on this album, the American mutation of which (Meet the Beatles) was a staple on my PlaySkool™ My First Hi-Fidelity … actually, I don't think I had one of those, I always had a real turntable … which I suppose says something about the intensity with which I've always approached my music. Too much intensity, probably. Latching on to music with the fervor of a Christian martyr, burrowing deep inside it like a micro-organic spacecraft, knowing it completely, inside and out, and ultimately coming to dismiss it … that's bullshit, man. Any dismissal of the early Beatles is as much a dismissal of the early me.

For the work of four kids in their early-20s, this record stands taller than it should. The playing is tight, the singing is confident and strong, the original songs are excellent, the covers uniformly beat the originals on which they're based. And the guiding hand of George Martin keeps things interesting and tight. His arrangement sense is perfect, and his sound is so much cleaner than virtually anything else from the era outside of jazz.

Paul's winsome schmaltz is purer here than later on … "Till There Was You" is unabashedly pretty, giving something to the parents who might worry that the "rock" of "I Wanna Be Your Man" or "It Won't Be Long" might be a corrupting influence. And "All My Loving" … endlessly inventive, still hard to top for pure pop delight.

The crack in John's voice in "You Really Got a Hold on Me" … the handclaps during George's trying-my-best solo in "Roll Over Beethoven" … the low piano in "Not a Second Time" … listening to this is like going through a box of old postcards from all my best friends. "Whoaw, yeahh! I wanna be free!" Ah, good old John.

"Little Child," "All I've Got to Do," "Hold Me Tight" … certainly these are some of the more formulaic Beatles tracks, but no one in 1963 was doing this kind of thing any better. As a whole, the album is truly the sound of Beatlemania in motion, capable even forty years later of creating a tremble in the knee and a heart melted down to its childish core.

I've been too hard on the Beatles. I've been too hard on myself. From time to time, I should put this album on and remind myself what thrilled me about music in the first place. I get lost in the cold of being cool sometimes, and this is an emotional hot tub to bring me back to the womb.

Review by Bald Stan