We pick our ten favourite Beatles solo albums.
The Beatles are still regarded by many as the greatest band in the world ever. But after an incredibly prolific and relatively short eight-year recording career they went their own ways, and all of them made – and continue to make in the case of Paul and Ringo – solo albums. Unfortunately, it is fair to say that all of them have had patchy solo careers, and even the more obviously successful Paul McCartney has veered from the path of quality with worryingly regularity.
Hit and miss though all four of their solo albums have been, there have also been some absolute gems. And choosing a top ten was more a case of what we leave out, than what we should include. These are our favourites, all of which also sound fantastic in their own wildly different ways. Okay, so very few of them are sparkling from start to finish – but the undeniably great tracks in there more than make up for that.
John Lennon – Imagine
Lennon’s second solo outing is dominated by the title track – not only his most famous track, but one of the most instantly recognisable songs in the history of popular music. But there’s a lot more here to love including the sensational Jealous Guy, the bombastic Gimme Some Truth and of course the McCartney-aimed bitterness of How Do You Sleep. And the whole thing is wonderfully recorded, with a collection of top-class musicians performing at their best.
Stand out track: Imagine
Paul McCartney – Band on the Run
McCartney’s fifth post-Beatles outing is without doubt his most successful album – critically and in terms of sales. And it is easy to see why with the opening double salvo of the title track and the excellent Jet – both of which found chart success as singles. However, there’s rarely a duff moment on this album, something of a rarity in any of the Fab four’s solo outings.
Stand out track: Jet
George Harrison – All Things Must Pass
To our mind this is the very best, most complete solo recording by a former Beatle; no mean feat considering the competition and the scale of this triple album. Harrison was often pushed to one side in the band, and this breath-taking album shows what could have been had he been allowed more input – the title track itself was rejected for Let It Be. Well recorded, superb musicianship, and an amazing array of songs – what’s not to love?
Stand out track: All Things Must Pass
John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band
The sensational Mother opens this wonderful album – Lennon’s first ‘proper’ solo recording after the trio of ‘Unfinished’ art projects. Featuring mainly Lennon on his own – with the help of Beatle family members such as Billy Preston, Klaus Voormann and Ringo himself – this exceptional recording may be rough at times, but it is all the better for that. Not as played as Imagine, but to our ears John’s best solo work.
Stand out track: Mother
Paul McCartney – McCartney
This was the final nail in the Beatle’s coffin – at least it was if you took John Lennon’s side. Released before the band’s Let It Be swansong, McCartney is just what it says in the title – McCartney. Recorded at home, on his own in turbulent times, it is an incredible document of an artist in flux, and a fantastic lo-fi listening experience.
Stand out track: Every Night
John Lennon – Walls And Bridges
This album is a snapshot of Lennon’s life and mind at a particularly troublesome time. Separated from Yoko, drinking heavily and on the verge of depression, it swings from that bleak mind-set to the manic fervour of his LA party life. The result, while occasionally patchy, is a powerful listen, with some of his best solo work – #9 Dream is much better than Revolution #9!
Stand out track: Whatever Gets You Thru The Night
George Harrison – George Harrison
This is a highly personal album – as demonstrated by its name. George was definitely in a happy place here, and it shows. Well recorded in George’s home studio in LA, the album feels and sounds very Californian summer, which is no bad thing. Some great guitar work from George and Eric Clapton also make it a hit with fans of exquisite fret work.
Stand out track: Not Guilty
Ringo Starr – Ringo
This is Ringo Starr’s most complete solo album, and it’s an actual album, rather than a themed collection or all-star jamboree that become his signature. The stars are there though, including on opening track I’m The Greatest the only time three Beatles (Starr, Lennon and Harrison) recorded together after the band split.
Stand out track: I’m The Greatest
Paul McCartney & Linda McCartney – RAM
Clocking in at close to an hour. This album is a pretty accurate snapshot of where Paul McCartney was at the time of its recording: in love with Linda, falling out with the Beatles, unsure about his future musical direction. The result is a varied album, with lots of recording styles, but one that is bursting with creativity and great tunes.
Stand out track: Too Many People
George Harrison – Cloud Nine
George’s final studio album showcases his considerable song-writing talents. Created in collaboration with Jeff Lynn – of ELO fame who was also heavily involved in The Beatles Anthologies albums – Cloud Nine ably demonstrates George’s pop sensibility. There are some fantastic tunes on here, including the incredibly catchy Got My Mind Set on You and the Beatles’ tribute When We was Fab.
Stand out track: When We Was Fab