Revolver (Special Deluxe Edition)
When The Beatles played their final live shows in August 1966, they wisely chose not to perform any songs from their new album, 'Revolver'.
It's understandable, how could they recreate the tape-manipulated guitar effects of 'I'm Only Sleeping' through a shoddy PA system in a giant US sports stadium? And what of the hallucinatory Tomorrow Never Knows' (inspired by ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead’)? Where would they fit George Harrison's meditative 'Love You To’? into their half an hour-long set? Would anyone even hear them above the screaming crowds? 'Revolver' was too much of a radical new venture, their further dip into the avant-garde. It was best to stick to the hits and the rock’n’roll covers.
Although Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), is the record that is so often cited as the place where The Beatles initially went to town on working in the studio, this edition of ‘Revolver’ tells a different story. What’s important here is that none of the demos on the bonus discs are here for novelty value – they tell a story! Take the evolution of 'Yellow Submarine' from Lennon's melancholic acoustic strum to Ringo's kids-party singalong to see the extraordinary ways that a sketch transforms into the final offering. The fascinating, Bernard Hermann inspired, string section only takes of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ are a strange delight (there’s no Beatles present – just George Martin’s clipped English calls to McCartney) and the frantically fast instrumental version of ‘Rain’ (before it was slowed down for the single version) is exciting. Really, that drummer was quite exceptional.
The biggest draw here though is Giles Martin's taking apart (‘demixing’ apparently), cleaning up and reassembling the parts of the original album. You may quibble that we don't need The Beatles to be mixed so that they can sit alongside contemporary acts on streaming platforms, but that’s an unnecessary grumble – it’s the clarity that all those shoddy CD remasters were supposed to have but didn’t (and the infuriating separation of vocals in one speaker, music in the other is no more!), It's a respectful and necessary update. And, if that's still not to your liking, there's the mono mix of the whole album as part of this edition too.
Even though the album opens with a famous rock star infamously moaning about paying high taxes (George Harrison’s ‘Taxman’), it’s difficult to find fault with ‘Revolver.’ It is the record where the four members of The Beatles were most in sync with one another, bouncing ideas and getting the best out of each other. It's their finest moment as a band. They would never sound that united again.