"Revolver" On Target Or A Misfire?

Of course Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band was The Beatles' and George Martin's creative and technological pinnacle and the album most cite as their greatest, but there's plenty to be said for Revolver being their best and most consistent collection of songs and performances.

Klaus Voormann's cover alerts fans that Rubber Soul's bucolic country acoustic phase was over, replaced by a harder, electric edge and if the boys didn't exactly wear their dark shades comfortably on the back cover they surely did in the grooves.

The record begins surprisingly with a countdown and a cough and then ramps into George's complaint about the British tax system that's saved from its inherent negativity by Paul's great bass line, crunchy guitar parts and even a well placed cowbell. There's no let up.

Just as you catch your breath it's on to the black and white windy bluff string quartet desolation of "Eleanor Rigby."

Sadly, Americans were deprived of the hazy psychedelic allure of the Lennon dominated "I'm Only Sleeping" with its backwards loops that hinted at what was to come. What kind of chump would deprive us of that? Must have been Bill Miller who took credit on the American jacket for preparing the record for release in the U.S.A. I would have left my name off had I done that but maybe Bill needed to curry favor with his kids.

George follows with his first overtly Indian composition that combines another complaint about people who will "screw you in the ground" with the good advice to "make love all day long" because life is short and you don't get another one.

The gentle ballad "Here There And Everywhere" was one of those songs you could play for "adults" and say "See? These guys are really good!" And when they still said The Beatles were nonsense as they often did, you knew that person was just an a-hole.

The first time I heard "Yellow Submarine" I almost cried. We were growing up to The Beatles, progressing and exploring along with them and here they were taking us back to childhood! Lennon's background repeating of what Ringo was singing was so damn charming.

The psychedelic side ender "She Said" was almost too much creativity for one young brain to absorb. "I know what it's like to be dead"?

If you're of a certain age, and I mean in college and having all of your post adolescent assumptions shattered, you remember the first time you heard this side and how you felt when it ended: you were left reeling. How could so much "new" be packed into one LP side?

Then you turned it over figuring your heroes couldn't top themselves but they did!

McCartney starts with one of his good-timey "grandma" songs as Lennon referred to them but the arrangement manages to make it end on a psychedelic high.

Mr. Miller deprived Americans of the liberating "And Your Bird Can Sing" with its baroque guitar line and some of Ringo's most deft cymbal work. Hardly a throwaway.

"For No One" is sort of the flip-side of "Eleanor Rigby" with its unusual time signature, delicately drawn horn part and melancholic desolation.

Again Mr. Miller deprived Americans of "Dr. Robert." Maybe it was the socialized medicine angle that made him cut it.

Then comes "I Want to Tell You" one of George's best songs, followed by Paul's pro-marijuana soul song "Got To Get You Into My LIfe" ("I took a ride I didn't know what I would find there") and finally the jarring, startling, life-changing, psychedelic masterpiece, Lennon's "Tomorrow Never Knows," where all kinds of studio hell breaks loose spurred on by one of Ringo's best drum parts.

There's flanging backwards loops, the vocals put through a rotating Leslie Hammond organ head, vocal double tracking and more.

Okay, it's official! I've talked myself into it: Revolver is the best album by The Beatles! And so far, this is the best remaster in the box, though obviously I'm far from finished listening.

As on the others the bass line is far more predominant than on the original UK pressing. More bass that's very well-textured just as it was on the CD reissue. It does stick out somewhat, especially on a full-range system. I recall writing that about the box too.

If you have an original U.K. issue you'll hear the reissue's diminution of transparency and three-dimensionality—just compare the strings on "Eleanor Rigby," but it's also apparent that the reissue's EQ is warmer and more inviting overall despite the last bit of hardness on top that produces a flat perspective unlike the original's more even balance and overall cohesiveness.

Listening to "I'm Only Sleeping" the "woo woo's" sound real as if you can imagine the guys standing before the microphones delivering them. They appear in a different space. On the reissue they are flattened into the flat mix and lose impact.

On the other hand the original has a certain metallic cast on top that the reissue removes, along with space and transparency. After enjoying the reissue's version of "Love You Too" for what it is, I played the original and George's sitar is so much more multi-layered and multi-textured on the original. Too bad.

. I could point out a hundred ways in which the original reveals so much more genuine detail and musicality from Ringo's tom fills on "Hear There And Everywhere" to...well why go on? On the other hand, listen to Ringo's cymbal work on "And Your Bird Can Sing" and it's very well-textured on the reissue and probably a bit cleaner.

So far I'd say Revolver is the best reissue in the box. There's justification for the EQ and it makes for pleasant listening.

Just don't expect the surf in "Yellow Submarine" to appear well in front in the mix or the horns to pop even further forward and don't expect the feeling of being 'aboard' the sub that you feel on the original to translate to the reissue. The reissue sounds like a good recording and mix. The original creates magic.

Or am I just being childish? Given how this was produced for reissue I have to say it's on target.

Music Direct Buy It Now

Share | |
COMMENTS
wao62's picture

The original cover has a tactile magic with Klaus Voormann's famous drawing laminated on the front cover contrasted by the matt textured paper photo on the back by Robert Whitaker.  I would love it if this had been reproduced on the reissue, but the price point @ $23.00 is probably too low to produce the quality of the original issue.  Deluxe reissues range from $30.00 to $50.00 today.   American records is the sixties cost $4.00 to $5.00, which adjusted for inflation it about $30.00 to $35.00.  The white album according to Bruce Spizer retailed for $11.79, which adjusted for inflation  costs about $75.00!!!  Does anyone know what records cost in Britain during the sixties?

Paul Boudreau's picture

...or $78.37 using the CPI Inflation Calculator.  No wonder I didn't have many records at the time!

http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm

Some people who've been out of vinyl or equipment for decades express astonishment at  today's prices, like the former work colleague I had over recently who remarked when I told him I'd spent about $1200 on my current turntable setup "I'd never spend that kind of money on a turntable" (he's a bit rude).  He would think nothing of spending $20-$30k on a vehicle, though.

Michael Fremer's picture

I bought my copies in America during the '60s and as I recall it, single albums were about $12.00 at my local import shop.

torturegarden's picture

This also happens to be my favorite Beatles record as well. I'm glad they didn;t muck it up. I actually prefer it in mono and will most likely be purchasing the mono LP box next year. I haven't purchased the stereo box and might just grab a few titles based on what I've been reading about them. 

Thank you very much Mr. Fremer for these great reviews. 

JC1957's picture

Are apparent on "Eleanor Ribgy" and "Yellow Submarine" and annoying. Those two songs are mixed much better on the mono LP.

I like the mono "Got To Get You Into My Life" better too.

Wisper it quietly but the maracas in the background of "Here There And Everywhere" are missing on the mono mix.

Michael Fremer's picture

It's not clear, (at least to me since I have all of these great Beatles books about the recording of the albums but haven't found the time to read them) that Emmerick was involved in those mixes.

We know that The Beatles were far more concerned with the mono mixes because that's how they felt most people would hear their music. Same with Dylan.

Paul Boudreau's picture

To illustrate that point I use my transcription (properly credited, natch) of an excerpt of your 1998 interview with George Martin as published in "Listener" magazine in 2000.  I had no idea until then how much more important everyone involved thought the mono mixes were (I'd be happy to send you the Word doc if you like).

Michael Fremer's picture

Thanks Paul. The entire George Martin interview is available on this site if you search for it.

BritSing's picture

I have most of the japanese mono pressings on red vinyl (80s pressings?) and a  Japanese EAS Blue box set in stereo. Just wondering how these new reissues compare to either. And how the Japanese pressings stand up vs the UK originals.

Bigrasshopper's picture

I was too young to remember when Revolver arrived, but I did have access to my older brothers Beattles cassettes and player which resided in the room we shared.  My oldest brother, by eight years, played vinyl and actually had  separate speakers and his own room.  I kept my door open so I could listen to what he was playing and felt really blessed if he left his door ajar.  Though I was not granted access to his vinyl.  But he was not a big Beatles fan anyway. For that I had a cassette player and that was enough for me to fall in love.  It wasn't until I was nine or ten that the emotional impact of For No One hit me.  That song could reproduce in me all the aloneness and longing that had been accumulating inside me as a child.  It was almost frightening in its effect on me.  The realization of the power of emotions.  It could stop me in my tracks as I surrendered to a sudden somber prayerful  state.   It was the starkness of the truth of alienation. The directness of the lyrics, the simplicity and purity of the tune, and that single horn that completes the cycle of words is the soul and owner of that song.  The sound seemed to have something on me.  Every time I heard it I felt that if I didn't try to own it, then I had really lost something.  It wasn't until years later that I could articulate what that was.

 I guess my dad must have noticed, because at thirteen I got the White Album for Christmas and later Ram for my birthday, which was really a lot of fun.   Later in life,   I lost touch with those raw emotions, that for better or worse, were the guiding stars of my childhood.  In their abscence spead an atmosphere of hazy disconnectedness. Interestingly, my music collection was haphazard at best.  But for a very small core collection, I didn't collect, except sporadically and was mostly replacing CDs that were lost or unplayable. Emotional inspirations were adrift in the shifting whims of DJ's.  One one occasion I was watching one of the many interviews with Paul and the woman interviewer says something like - So what's your favorite Beatles song, to which he says he dosen't have a favorite.  But then with a little more prodding he admits that-  For No One -is really the  one he thinks is his best.   Dismayed, she points to one or two of his more famous songs, but he says no, those are wonderful but different and mentions something about simplicity.  If she was dismayed I was awestruck.  In a moment Paul seemed to be reaching back into my childhood to point to a truth that we could have shared. He was sharing it again. Well, he shared it and I kept it to myself.  It was bittersweet, like an old lover calling on the phone to say, yes and no, and being right.  It was an acknowledgement of universal isolation.  We are but we aren't.  

If I learned anything, and I'm not saying I have, it's to buy the music that moves you, and take care of it.  Your music is an analog of the hearts and minds and expirences of artists and listeners.  We are one and the same.

 

 

 

 

Michael Fremer's picture

That was most heartfelt!

Rayman's picture

Thanks for that.

The Beatles "Hard Days Night" was my first album. On vinyl of course!!!!!

My mother bought it for me the day after we went and saw the movie with a crew of kids from my street.

We would set the console turntable to repeat.

firedog55's picture

Certainly much better than Sgt. Pepper. Much better songwriting. Unlike Pepper, not a clunker or throwaway in the bunch.

Jim Tavegia's picture

Oh, well. 

Michael Fremer's picture

I didn't remove anything so I'm puzzled!

Smafdy Assmilk's picture

Revolver has one of only two things that truly bother me about the remasters. The EQ on She Said She Said is significantly darker than the rest of the album. I had run it through an EQ to make it fit in with the rest of the album. You'd think the team of mastering engineers at Abey Road would've caught this.

 

The other thing I fixed on the remasters was the opening few muffled seconds of the song Hard Day's Night. I edited in a needldrop of my UK vinyl and added some low end EQ. It flows right into the rest of the track now.

Michael Fremer's picture

I'd say most of what you publish here is truly bothersome.

julio's picture

Hi,

I just wanted to say that this box set was the most anticipated and exciting record related purchase I have made. Having said that, it was also the most dissapointing. The pressings are are noisy and quality control is horrible. I took mine back to my local record store and will stay way from them with the exeption of Revolver. It is the best of the bunch. Also the packaging is sub standard. After being marketed as exact replicas of the originals, I felt that I had been had. I also wanted to say that the 3 Lennon tunes that are not on the American Revolver were not included because they had been previously issued on the Yesterday and Today compilation before Revolver even came out. Which is funny to think about because Americans heard these songs before people in the UK. The one butchered album that I think is superior to the UK version is the American Rubber Soul. "I've just seen a face" will always be a Rubber Soul track to me and that is the Rubber Soul that blew Brian Wilson's mind.

Smafdy Assmilk's picture

I'm not familiar with anyone not agreeing that She Said She Said is darker than the rest of the album. I hope you take the time to listen to that track and the first couple of seconds of A Hard Day's Night to hear the tonality shifts in both.

singhcr's picture

Hi Michael,

I've yet to hear any Beatles on vinyl and I was wondering if I should get the re-issue of Revolver, or grab the original US pressings. I know you've said the UK ones are best but I don't see those at my local stores so I was wondering if you've compared the re-issue to the US orginals. 

I have been filling out my collection with as much classic rock, jazz, etc as I can. I have my favorites like Journey and Eric Clapton and the Bee Gees and I've been adding stuff that I haven't heard much of like the Eagles and now it's time to move into the real classics like the Beatles. To me they are one of those bands where you've heard their music from time to time on TV or on the radio but have never sat down and listened to an entire album. I was hoping to rectify that with this new box set but I am hesitant to do so after reading your review.

Alex's picture

singhcr ,

 

I can't speak for Michael, but I like the Remasters very much. They sound very musical to me and a big step up from the cd's. This is the first time since I was a teenager that I've been listening to them non-stop. When I bought the cd's a few years ago, I've only listened to them once, and two of them are still sealed! Forget the U.S. release, unless you can get it at a fraction of the cost and that money is an issue. Personally, I didn't get the box set since I don't subscribe to such a philosophy. Buy them one at a time, and enjoy them one at a time - as they were meant to be smiley

wgb113's picture

Mike,

Following your album-by-album account with great interest.  By the time I came around all of the Beatles' solo careers had already had their prime so like singhcr I'm wondering if the new reissues are worth pursuing.  Perhaps in your wrap-up of the box set you could give an opinion in that regard?

As it stands I've got both the stereo and mono CD sets in addition to the '87 CDs.  I've heard the USB stick on a friends system and it sounded quite good.

 

Bill

MusicNut612's picture

As someone without the OG UK presses of these have to say it's nice to see someone with them rate these open minded. Seems to many "purists" just know these sound like trash without even giving them a listen. Revolver for me is where my love of The Beatles really starts. Eleanor Rigby is one of my favorite songs of all time. I'd love to hear it on OG UK press but for now I'm more than happy with this press. Could have a bit less surface noise yes, but the mastering sounds top notch. Thanks again for giving this set the proper review it deserves.

Alex's picture

Pressing quality aside, I'm loving these new releases. I don't have the box as I don't believe in that box set consumption philosophy. Many of us, myself included, have never had the opportunity to hear the original UK or Japanese pressings. I live in Montréal and grew up listening to the Capitol releases. I now compose instrumental music and owe most of my inspiration from those juvenile days listening to crappy versions of the Beatles and excellent versions of classical music. My inspiration was never lessened as a result of this. Then came the 1987 cd's and I replaced all of my vinyls. I realized right away that something was wrong. Though the Capitol releases were thin and ''dirty'', I was listening to the Beatles. It wasn't the Beatles that were on the cd's, it was something else. I wanted my vinyls back...but it was too late. Then two ago, the Remasters came out! I was impressed at first, but not one cd got a second spin. Everything was there - and more - but it made me feel uncomfortable. Now these vinyls. They sound much better than the cd's. In fact, these are the best recordings available barring the UK and Japanese versions. Not only that, I can't stop listening to them. I've already spun Abbey Road 5 times this week - that's 4 times more than the cd in the past...cough cough...20 years. So yes, maybe they are not as good as the aformentioned versions, but for the everyday person, these are a Godsend as they are much better than all cd releases and the Crapitol releases. More importantly, the present release may well determine the future of vinyl. Of course, they could have used the 24bit 192KHz version...

green circles's picture

Great review as always, but go easy on poor Bill Miller. The missing songs had already appeared in America on 'Yesterday and Today'.

DJ Huk's picture

Mike, you give Pepper's a 10 for sound, but Revolver a 9, but say it's the best remaster of the box.  Is that because Pepper's may be a bit more controversial to discerning ears?  Anyway, your review convinced me to buy this edition of Pepper's ... which is still, after all, the best Beatles album (none of the others has A Day in the Life, so that settles that!).

Davetruestory's picture

I have three versions  of Beatles Revolver, first 70 Capitol version, 90 digitize version and 2000 Japanese version tha I understand it also digitize. For me the capitol version sound superior to the other two.

X
Enter your Analog Planet username.
Enter the password that accompanies your username.
Loading