THE BEATLES: Revolver super deluxe edition


All the rules fell by the wayside with Revolver, as the Beatles began exploring new sonic territory, lyrical subjects, and styles of composition. It wasn't just John Lennon and Paul McCartney, either -- George Harrison staked out his own dark territory with the tightly wound, cynical rocker "Taxman"; the jaunty yet dissonant "I Want to Tell You"; and "Love You To," George's first and best foray into Indian music. Such explorations were bold, yet they were eclipsed by Lennon's trippy kaleidoscopes of sound. His most straightforward number was "Doctor Robert," an ode to his dealer, and things just got stranger from there as he buried "And Your Bird Can Sing" in a maze of multi-tracked guitars, gave Ringo a charmingly hallucinogenic slice of childhood whimsy in "Yellow Submarine," and then capped it off with a triptych of bad trips: the spiraling "She Said She Said"; the crawling, druggy "I'm Only Sleeping"; and "Tomorrow Never Knows," a pure nightmare where John sang portions of the Tibetan Book of the Dead into a suspended microphone over Ringo's thundering, menacing drumbeats and layers of overdubbed, phased guitars and tape loops. McCartney's experiments were formal, as he tried on every pop style from chamber pop to soul, and when placed alongside Lennon's and Harrison's outright experimentations, McCartney's songcraft becomes all the more impressive. The biggest miracle of Revolver may be that the Beatles covered so much new stylistic ground and executed it perfectly on one record, or it may be that all of it holds together perfectly. Either way, its daring sonic adventures and consistently stunning songcraft set the standard for what pop/rock could achieve. Even after Sgt. Pepper, Revolver stands as the ultimate modern pop album and it's still as emulated as it was upon its original release.

[Perhaps it's fitting that what's arguably the Beatles' greatest album gets the greatest Super Deluxe Edition released since the campaign kicked off with the 50th anniversary edition of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Revolver follows a similar template to that 2017 box: a new stereo mix by Giles Martin that uses the original mono mix, which is also here, along with two discs of session outtakes and a bonus EP featuring a groundbreaking non-LP single -- in this case, "Paperback Writer" and "Rain," also presented in new stereo and original mono mixes. The new stereo mixes are right in line with the work Martin has done with Sgt. Pepper's and the White Album, retaining much of the vibe of the mono mix while giving it a vibrant restoration. The real news lies in the outtakes, with 80 minutes of sessions where the Beatles and producer George Martin discover all the possibilities lying within each of the Revolver songs, along with its accompanying single. Occasionally, the results don't deviate much from the finished album -- notably the chamber pop numbers "Eleanor Rigby" and "For No One" are in recognizable form -- but most of the outtakes offer an insight into the Beatles' creative process in the studio. Ideas are tested and discarded, songs mutate and grow, and are as stripped back as much as they are expanded. It's possible to hear the Beatles take inspiration from their peers: the first take of "And Your Bird Can Sing" is a dead-ringer for the chiming jangle of the Byrds, "I'm Only Sleeping" unfolds with a bit of the stately English eccentricity of the Kinks, and there's a version of "Got to Get You Into My Life" where a fuzz guitar plays the horn line -- a trick the Rolling Stones pulled off with "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." On each of these songs, they sculpt and whittle until the finished product is unmistakably the work of the Beatles, an evolution that can also be heard in how "Love You To" and "Yellow Submarine" both started as simple folk tunes. Sometimes, the outtakes reveal the magician's illusion, as on the original version of "Rain," which gallops forth at a breakneck pace -- all the better to have it sound warped and narcotic when slowed down. These outtakes don't present the Beatles as infallible -- they have bad ideas, like the manic backing vocals that clutter "Taxman" -- but rather show their remarkable ability to collaborate as a unit, always seeking a fully-realized version of the song. They achieved that with the finished Revolver, but that doesn't mean that listening to the journey isn't worthwhile. Quite the opposite: It's a thrill of its own.]

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