A mere 8 months after The Beatles first album in November 1963 Parlophone released the bands 2nd album.
With The Beatles would displace Please Please Me at the top of the U.K. album charts and end its 30 weeks at the summit.
I have, again, never heard this album in its entirety until today. With an almost identical running time (32 minutes) to the debut – had things advanced?
Well, on the strength of the first song, you’d have to conclude – Yes.
It Won’t Be Long (Lennon / McCartney) is a great 60’s sounding pop blast. The duo vocals of “Yeah” make for an almost frantic harmony. More urgent than any song on the previous album it recalls what must have been the sound of Beatlemania.
All I’ve Got To Do (Lennon / McCartney) is slower and less immediate than the album opener. Of course it sounds like The Beatles, I have never heard it before and it’s fair to say is a weaker Beatles song.
All My Loving (Lennon / McCartney) is a much more widely known song. Shuffling pop with lyrics most people will know. More great pop.
Don’t Bother Me (Lennon / McCartney) almost sounds like it would not be out of place on a Russ Meyer soundtrack. Sparser instrumentation and shuffling drums. A nice guitar progression / break and a very strong song that again is new to me.
Little Child (Lennon / McCartney) is short and brings a piano to the mix. Not an overly familiar song but one that sits well on the album.
Till There Was You (Wilson) is the first non-Beatles penned song on With The Beatles. Paul McCartney’s vocal and a much more laid back sound hint at the sound of later period Beatles already – even if it sounds less accomplished.
Please Mister Postman (Dobbins, Garrett, Gorman, Holland) is again a song most people will know. Listening to this song now it does sound much less urgent than I remember.
Roll Over Beethoven (Berry) is more rock n’ roll than any track so far. Hardly surprising considering it is written by Chuck Berry. It does sound dated and almost laboured at times.
Hold Me Tight (Lennon / McCartney) delivers that double / echoing vocal that does work well. The song does offer charm and an earnest pop rattle.
You Really Got A Hold On Me (Robinson) brings the Mersey sound to a Motown song. Slow but it works. For a song half a decade old it hints at timelessness and ups the ante when it breaks down.
I Wanna Be Your Man (Lennon / McCartney) has a hook vocally / lyrically. When the shouty vocals give way to brief guitar runs again the sound The Beatles would develop is teased out.
Devil In Her Heart (Drapkin) is a song I have heard before if not by The Beatles. Fitting the album if not stopping it dead and screaming out essential Beatles at you.
Not A Second Time (Lennon / McCartney) just plods away really. A strong vocal but not an awful lot going on musically.
Money (That’s What I Want) (Bradford / Gordy) is a song that will always make me think of the sublime deadpan version by The Flying Lizards. Of course this version came first and John Lennon does deliver a strong vocal performance over that shuffle / beat.
Having only listened to With The Beatles for the first time in its entirety literally just now it really continues the sound of Please Please Me and not that much more. The first song offers massive promise (It Won’t Be Long) to really develop the sound but this is not capitalised on fully at all. The production, to me is not as clear as the bands debut album, yet somehow it is a better album, just.
Whilst The Beatles were a phenomenon that will stand the test of centuries let alone decades their better material clearly came later in their discography…