There is a very real reason why the fanzine Revolver was named after the Beatles seventh LP released on 5th August 1966. It has always been my favourite LP, never did the Beatles look so cool or sound so good … in my view. Since the release of the Pepper deluxe edition in 2017 the thought of a similar treatment being afforded to Revolver has been accompanied by doubt, as the remixing would be hindered by the composite nature of the tracks that comprised each song. The intervention of Peter Jackson’s separation technology that enhanced the Get Back project has been utilised to allow Giles Martin and Sam Okell to separate the core vocal and instrumental elements and remix the LP in its entirety in a way that would simply have been impossible just a few years ago.
As with previous deluxe releases Revolver comes in a variety of formats in my case I bought the Super Deluxe Vinyl version. The quality of the packaging is as high as the other releases with Mono LP, Stereo LP, Sessions LP, EP, book and box looking great and inviting you to peel back the layers and explore all things Revolver.
The new stereo mix levels the playing field, which is deeply instilled in us all. The original stereo mix is riddled with harsh compromises where either vocals or instrumentation is overly weighted to one channel. It’s what we know, it’s what we love. The new mix by Martin / Okell brings balance and enhances the vocal positioning, bass and drums. Yes, there may be some concessions, some elements dropped back into the soundscape but overall this is the best Revolver has sounded in its stereo context.
The mono conversion, where the Beatles at the time of recording the album, were still concentrating their efforts, is as impactful as ever. Punchy and bright and with subtle track variances throughout [particularly, “I’m Only Sleeping”, “She Said She Said” and “Tomorrow Never Knows”] the mono LP is a fabulous addition to this deluxe box and worthy to be presented alongside the stereo version. I love this.
The session LP is revealing in so many ways, and while certain tracks are already familiar from the Anthology project, the evolution of songs is well presented here. The abiding conclusion that is illustrated is that when working through a song, and choosing a direction for a song the Beatles always seems to choose the right path. Case in point, “Got To Get You Into My Life”. The second version with the predominant guitar part sounds great! … but, wow how the brass version with which we are familiar was the right choice. A knack which doesn’t only apply to Revolver but is particularly evident here.
John’s initial “doodling” of “Yellow Submarine” which is stunningly poignant is a starting point for the song which I would never have expected and is a delight to hear. Another revelation is the initial version of “Rain” at its original speed. Ringo’s performance has always left me enthralled but even more so in this context. The backing track to “Paperback Writer” is also superb and demonstrates just how tight as studio performers they were, even though their live performances from this time sometimes illustrated the opposite. This sounds raw, biting and energised.
Paul’s song submissions were at top notch at this time and “Here, There and Everywhere” is marvellous in its achingly sweet vocal performance. The story arc’s of John’s “I’m Only Sleeping” and George’s “Love You To” are both pretty varied starting as simple guitar interpretations and changing considerably before settling on their recognised forms. Both are fascinating insights into the song development process that the Beatles were leading in 1966 as they did through out their career span.
The EP with its period styling is a nice addition too and “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” sound fantastic in both their stereo and mono presentations though I have to admit to leaning towards the punch of the mono versions as a preference.
The book is also superb with its collated period photographs and memorabilia enhancing the story of the album with a foreword by Paul McCartney and an insightful essay by Questlove included and giving a more contemporary viewpoint to how Revolver is considered.
This Box Set only enhances the love I have for this period of the Beatles and this album in particular, and while the cost is as weighty as the box, I would not countenance having a Revolver Box Set sized hole in my record cabinet. It is simply fabulous and a must for us all.
By Gwyn Jenkins.