Sound — 10
The first characteristic I noticed about Abbey Road's overall sound is the prominence of the bass in many of the songs. The best bass riffs are observed with the albums opening two songs, Come Together and Something. While it is unfair to say that the guitar on these tracks is underwhelming, they are outshined by the bass which really stands out as the backbone of the songs. Unlike most songs, the bass in Come Together is really the focus, playing the melody, while guitar is relegated to an erratic rhythmic position. On Come Together, the guitar is more prominent, and there is even a guitar solo, but the bass is still what is most easily heard throughout the track, minus a few guitar fills. While the bass work on the album is not quite as technical as some of the other songs and albums by the Beatles, Paul McCartney does a great job showing off his ability to write catchy and exciting bass lines. The guitar work on both Octopus's garden and Here Comes the Sun while not the most technical, is extremely catchy. Both songs are very guitar orientated, full of lots off varying riffs and fills. One aspect of Here Comes the Sun's guitar that really stands out is the imagery it creates in the listener's mind. The combination of the acoustic guitar and the mix between finger picking and strumming creates a very powerful organic sounding melody. The strongest guitar on the album, both technically and quality wise is found in The End. The solo is probably the best solo in a Beatles song, very up beat and varied. It is composed of three very distinct sections, each played by George, Paul and John in that order. This arrangement does a really good job of showing off each of their distinct styles. George's section is full of triplets, Paul's with bends and John's section is rhythmic. Another place where the guitar shines is on the tracks Polythene Pam and She Came in Through the Bathroom Window. There is a very upbeat acoustic strumming pattern on both of these tracks that sounds just amazing. As with most Beatles albums, the drumming on Abbey Road is pretty basic. While it may not be the most technically demanding drumming however, it does get the job done and sounds good doing so. The one huge exception to this is the drumming on The End. There is a really outstanding drum solo a short way into the song, and it is the only true drum solo in the entire catalogue. This alone makes the song worth listening to if just for its uniqueness. One thing that I really enjoyed about Abbey Road's sound is the variety of instruments used in its recording. If you listen closely, there are many instruments you can hear besides the obvious bass, guitar, and drums. A string section can be heard supporting the main instruments on a good portion of the album. The work of the strings is best appreciated throughout the B-side medley, where it really carries some of the less guitar oriented songs. Additionally, brass instruments play minor roles on Maxwell's Silver Hammer (tuba), Golden Slumbers (horns) and Carry That Weight (horns). A musical aspect that is unappealing on Abbey Road is the synthesizer. It is only heavily used on one track however, Because, and it does a good job of creating a bizarre (though unappealing) sound. That said, the synthesizer is used to create one of the album's coolest sound effects of the entire album on Here Comes the Sun. The synthesizer is utilized to make a birdsong like effect in the background, which really adds to the sunny feeling and lyrical meaning of the track. Another effect I really like is the crickets used at the beginning of Sun King. While the effect is fairly short lived, I feel it does a really good job of setting up the relaxed ambient atmosphere maintained by the rest of the song.
Lyrics — 7
My overall impression of the lyrics is that they are a very odd mix. A few of the songs are very nonsensical and abstract, while a good chunk of them are easily relatable and catchy. The two songs with the most bizarre lyrics are Mean Mr. Mustard and Maxwell's Silver Hammer. While both songs are very catchy musically, it is hard to take either track seriously when they are singing about a grumpy old man named Mustard who lives on a park bench and a boy named Maxwell who goes around killing people by hitting them on the head with a hammer. My favourite track lyrically is Octopus's Garden. It is a very nonsensical song, but it utilizes a lot of good imagery and really lets the listener envision what the underwater garden would look like. The vocals on Abbey Road are dominated by Paul McCartney. McCartney sings lead on eight of the albums seventeen tracks and harmonies on the other nine. He really stands out over John, George and Ringo. Paul really shows off his vocal abilities throughout the album. Songs that show his range particularly well are Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End. As for the tone of his voice, his performance on You Never Give Me Your Money is incredible and is the vocal highlight of the album. An interesting vocal effect is also utilized on the tracks Because and Sun King. Both songs are sung as three part harmonies by John, Paul and George, and then were overdubbed two times to create a really cool 9 person chorus effect.
Overall Impression — 9
The songs that really stand out on Abbey Road are Here Comes the Sun, You Never Give Me Your Money, She Came in Through the Bathroom Window and Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End. What I love about this album is the great variety between its songs. There is an excellent balance between the number of faster paced songs as well as softer, slow tempo songs spaced throughout the album. One of the album's greatest attributes is the B Side medley. I really like how all the unfinished half songs were combined to form a powerful medley. However there is one major grievance I have with the album, the second side must be listened to as a full medley to achieve its full effect. Due to the nature of the songs this is understandable, but it would be nice to listen to Polythene Pam or She Came in Through the Bathroom Window without having them start or stop abruptly. I feel that as this is an album review however, and these songs were meant to be listened to as a single continuous piece, this pitfall can be forgiven. In my opinion, Abbey Road has the best flow from song to song than any other album I have ever listened to, and the effect created by this flow leads to the overall impression of the album being better than the sum of its parts. I would definitely recommend that you purchase Abbey Road if you are at all interested, or at least give it a listen.