With the Beatles
With The Beatles follows the same formula as the band’s debut – a mixture of original compositions and covers. In some ways it’s a step forward, ‘All My Loving’ is a more sophisticated and stronger original than anything on their debut.
But it’s less infectious and enjoyable than the debut – it feels unbalanced, as it’s dominated by the two more melancholy Beatles. Apart from ‘All My Loving’, McCartney is often in the background, while even Starr’s vocal showcase ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ is darker than usual. Lennon is the dominant vocalist and writer, while Harrison gets his first song credit with the unremarkable ‘Don’t Bother Me’
‘It Won’t Be Long’ is a strong opener, and along with ‘All My Loving’ is the most notable original here. There are some enjoyable covers as well; ‘You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me’ is a tasteful take on Smokey Robinson, Lennon’s sardonic voice is perfectly suited to ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’, while the acoustic show tune ‘Till There Was You’ is a perfect vehicle for McCartney, with some nice guitar work from Harrison.
There’s enough of note on With The Beatles to make it interesting for fans. Like a lot of LPs from this era, the lack of attention on the album as an art form is its main problem – in 1963 the single was the dominant format for pop music, and that’s where The Beatles’ efforts were largely concentrated.