While it is very difficult to make a list of the top 5 Beatles albums, since they are all of fantastic quality, it isn't too hard to do a list of the top 10 solo Beatles records. So, without further ado, here are my personal (note the emphasis on personal) top 10 solo Beatles records:
- Walls And Bridges - John Lennon (1974) - I have always felt that this is the one album that comes bizarrely close to what John had accomplished with The Beatles. If you can assign song 'types' to John's Beatles songs, there is one of everything on Walls And Bridges. There is the fantastic pop single ("Whatever Gets You Thru The Night"), the avant-garde nonsense ("#9 Dream"), the attack song ("Steel And Glass") and the insecure autobiographical climax ("Nobody Loves You...").
- RAM - Paul & Linda McCartney (1971) - RAM works on so many ridiculous levels that it's amazing. Paul's whimsical side is given a steady dose of rock, accentuated by the staggering lead guitar of David Spinozza. The amount of musical styles Paul covers may make one think of the album as inconsistent, but if you can separate the songs, you realize each one has its' rewards.
- John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band - John Lennon (1970) – This album is in a league of its own. Sure, it might be the most emotional album any Beatle, or perhaps, musician has ever made, but the album lacks accessibility and is very hard to listen to on a regular basis. But, that’s what makes it so great – it tells the truths no one wanted to hear.
- All Things Must Pass - George Harrison (1970) – George truly broke out with this album, pouring his heart and soul into it. The trouble is its length – a few songs could have been cut, like the second version of “Isn’t It A Pity” or the unremarkable jam disc.
- Brainwashed - George Harrison (2002) – If you compare this to Double Fantasy, Brainwashed is the clear winner. Every song is fantastic and it makes you realize that George was taken from us far too early.
- Back To The Egg - Wings (1979) – This is probably the dark horse of this list, but I think the album does have a decent amount of fantastic songs that allows it to hang around with the best of the Beatles’ solo records. Its trouble is the lack of completeness in some of the songs – imagine how great a fully developed “Love Awake” would sound? Or if “Spin It On” was more than just an awesome guitar riff?
- Imagine - John Lennon (1971) – The one problem I have with Imagine as an album is that Spector went to town on it. If you thought “The Long And Winding Road” was saturated to the point of sappy, then you’re a person who probably doesn’t care for Imagine too much. (There is NO EXCUSE for “It’s So Hard” to have strings! NONE!) What saves it, though, is the fact that John’s songwriting is top-notch and the fact that the “Wall of Sound” is absent in both the title track and “Oh My Love” (one of John’s most beautiful songs).
- RINGO - Ringo Starr (1973) – I had to get Ringo on the list. The truth is that he made some great albums, but only RINGO deserves to mingle with the best of the best. It’s filled with great singles, wonderful appearances from just about every important rock star in 1973 and you can’t forget Paul’s kazoo.
- Band On The Run - Paul McCartney & Wings (1973) – Band On The Run is a classic to the point of cliché, but you have to admit that it’s great. There are a few bumps in the road (“No Words” anyone? I’ve never been a fan of “Let Me Roll It”, either), but there’s just too much good stuff on this.
- Cloud Nine - George Harrison (1985) – George really swung for the fences on this one. Sure, it’s a Jeff Lynne production, which makes it sound very Jeff Lynne-y, but again, George wrote some great songs that are just so good that Lynne’s production doesn’t get in the way. (I limited myself to just two Jeff Lynne Beatle albums, both by George, because, let’s face it, they're both better than Flaming Pie.) Plus, it’s got “Got My Mind Set On You,” the last solo Beatle #1.
Honorable mentions: Tug Of War (Paul McCartney; 1982)/Mind Games (John Lennon; 1973)/Living In The Material World (George Harrison; 1973)/Flowers in the Dirt (Paul McCartney; 1989)/RingoRama (Ringo Starr; 2002)/Chaos And Creation In The Backyard (Paul McCartney; 2005)/Goodnight Vienna (Ringo Starr; 1974)/Somewhere In England (George Harrison; 1981)/Run Devil Run (Paul McCartney; 1999)/London Town (Wings; 1977)