Pop & Hiss

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Fab Four Face-Off: What's your favorite song from 'With the Beatles'?

September 4, 2009 |  6:00 am

In anticipation of the official release of the Beatles' remastered catalog next week, Pop & Hiss asks the musical question -- what would go on your Beatles mix tape?

Continuing my picks of the best song from each of the Fabs' 13 remastered albums, this entry considers "With the Beatles," the second album in both the stereo and mono boxes.
Tell me if I'm wrong or right in choosing.....

The album's cover photograph.
It's early in this game to start breaking its rules, but I just listened to both the mono and stereo versions (mono is better!), and no single track jumped out as the best on this disc. Yes, there's "All My Loving," a favorite of many that's made even more chipper with Paul's walking bass line clearer in the mix. And who doesn't feel the lure of Ringo's "loose-skinned Arabian bongo" (as the original liner notes read) on the George composition "Don't Bother Me"?
Still, unlike "Meet the Beatles!,"  the American version of this album -- which ditched several covers and made room for the double-barreled single of "I Want to Hold Your Hand / I Saw Her Standing There," which really launched the band Stateside -- "With the Beatles" communicates best as one big squirmy burst of energy, not through any stand-out track.
That Robert Freeman cover, however, remains one of the greatest glamour pics, right up there with the best work of George Hurrell and Clarence Sinclair Bull. Writer Greg Milner recently tweeted that Freeman's portrait reminded him of Chris Marker's 1962 science-fiction film "La Jetée," and indeed there is something futuristic about the shadowy shot, which seems to announce that the Beatles will be taking pop fans -- and everyone, really -- somewhere unforeseen.
Which, of course, they did.
What, I have to pick a best song? OK. "It Won't Be Long." Like that cover, this taut little number tells us the Beatles have arrived and basically own us now.

-- Ann Powers