Not my subjective favorite Beatles album, but an unequivocal masterpiece. The argument could even be made that it is objectively their best.
On the latter note, I’m manage the first fool’s errand. Mythology infused, this is The Beatles’ last album, coming back together after the chaos of the Let It Be sessions to make one last great record. The singles are perfect. The production is tuned to bliss. Every member of the band gets moments to shine- both alone and as a group. The cover image is iconic. From good old rock songs, to the progressive long medley, the album balances simplicity and innovation on a razor’s edge without fault.
The, what can I criticize? On that one hand, nothing. On the other, it’s kind of a lighter, pleasing record that you could even say has a lot of over-produced, throw-away songs after a few hits. Hold your horses- I’m really just playing devil’s advocate here for a minute. Knowing the outtakes/alternates, I prefer some of the jammier takes rather than the super-polished original release. The Anthology version of “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”, for example. To accomodate the altered length, I’d cut “Sun King”. That being said, I’m glad I have two hands, because we do have the album and (some) of the outtakes. You don’t have to choose. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with ‘lightness’ and pleasing production, either.
I have owned this album multiple times and in different formats (all Stereo). The LP from the 70s (I think) still sounds fine but a bit crackley. The late 80s cd was the standard for quite a while. The Remaster does sound brighter but brickwalled. The 50th anniversary, on the other hand, is a bit better and has an aditional disc of outtakes. No ‘new’ songs, but alternates with less production and looser feel. I’d mostly recommend the newest version, for simplicity.
But make no mistake. This is an essential album. If you have never owned a Beatles album (and no, I won’t ridicule), grab any copy, even if it’s a used CD from the 80’s in the bargan bin. These songs need to be heard.