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The Beatles "Revolver" Special Edition (Super Deluxe) Box Set Review

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The Beatles released "Revolver" in the UK on August 5, 1966.

The Beatles released "Revolver" in the UK on August 5, 1966.

A Long Way From "Love Me Do"

From 1962 to 1966, The Beatles’ musical sound progressed dramatically. The Fab Four went from the three guitars, harmonica, and drums of “Love Me Do” to the tambura, tape loops, and Mellotron (a proto-synthesizer) of “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

Revolver, which features the latter song, is the fifth and latest title in the series of remixed and expanded Special Edition (Super Deluxe) Beatles re-releases, As with the other reissues, the groundbreaking 14-track album was remixed by Giles Martin and engineered by Sam Okell.

Box Set Contents

The Revolver Special Edition box set contains 63 tracks on 5 CDs, as well as a 100-page hardbound book, all housed in a 12.56” x 12.36” slipcase. The set weighs a sturdy 4 ½ pounds.

The discs consist of the remixed Revolver, two CDs worth of session outtakes, the 1966 mono recording from the four-track master tapes, and an EP featuring new stereo mixes and the original mono mixes for "Paperback Writer" and "Rain."

1966: A Year of Controversy

Recording for Revolver took place from April through June 1966 at London’s EMI (Abbey Road) studios. The album was available for sale in the UK starting on August 5th that year, with a U.S. release three days later.

The UK record featured 14 tracks and the U.S. and Canadian 11, as the three excluded songs had already been issued in North America on the Capitol label's "Yesterday"…and Today compilation. Since its 1987 CD debut, the UK Revolver album on Parlophone has been considered the international standard edition.

The Butcher Cover

However, controversy was abundant for the band during the summer of 1966. In June, hundreds of thousands of Yesterday and Today albums were recalled, as The Beatles were pictured on the cover posed with dismembered baby doll parts and raw meat.

Then, an unintentional “snub” of Imelda Marcos while in the Philippines for two July concerts led to The Beatles and their associates being roughed up at the Manila Airport.

"Bigger Than Jesus"

Finally, a London Evening Standard interview with John Lennon from earlier in the year was reprinted in the July issue of Datebook magazine. In the article, Lennon was quoted as saying, "We're (The Beatles) more popular than Jesus now," which led to a radio ban and bonfires of Beatles albums in some Southern U.S. cities.

Lennon subsequently issued an apology at a hastily arranged Chicago press conference.

George Harrison

Even six decades later, you can’t beat the outstanding collection of songs in the Revolver lineup. The album opens with George Harrison's first truly great songwriting effort, "Taxman." A lean R&B jam featuring one of Paul McCartney's funkiest basslines—and guitar leads!—"Taxman" is the first time the Beatles got political, skewering the country's progressive tax system, which hit the suddenly wealthy band particularly hard.

Harrison also penned his first and best Beatles tune with an Indian influence, “Love You To,” as well as the deliberately dissonant, "I Want to Tell You."

Paul McCartney

McCartney wrote several classics for Revolver. "Eleanor Rigby" was the rare pop song to starkly explore loneliness, and expertly used a string quartet to convey said emotion. "For No One" is similar in tone, a baroque pop number featuring Alan Civil's mournful french horn.

Like "Drive My Car," "The Word," and "Taxman" before it, "Got To Get You Into My Life" shows the influence of Stax Records on The Beatles, especially McCartney's bass playing.

”Here, There And Everywhere"

But, McCartney's masterpiece on Revolver is ”Here, There And Everywhere" which was clearly inspired by The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows," and he has often acknowledged that it's his favorite Beatles tune.

Ringo Starr

Ringo only had one lead vocal on Revolver, the whimsical sea shanty, "Yellow Submarine," which shot to #1 all over Europe, including at home in the U.K. But, you don't judge Ringo by his vocals. You judge him by his efficient, soulful drumming. His playing was at its peak in 1966 and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Starr is the backbone of core Revolver tracks like "She Said She Said" and "Tomorrow Never Knows," but his playing on the '66 singles—"Rain" and "Paperback Writer"—is equally sublime.

John Lennon

Americans can be forgiven for initially underselling Lennon's efforts on Revolver because the songs omitted from the U.S. version were all his: "And Your Bird Can Sing," "Doctor Robert," and "I’m Only Sleeping."

"I’m Only Sleeping" is a wonderfully melodic dreamscape, as good a pop song as Lennon ever wrote. "Doctor Robert" was his version of "Mother's Little Helper," a song about discreet drug use amongst the British middle and upper classes. "And Your Bird Can Sing" is an underrated rocker with Harrison and McCartney playing dual lead guitar.

"Tomorrow Never Knows"

As for the Lennon songs that made Revolver, "She Said She Said" is another rocker, and it introduces a heavy psychedelic element hinted at in the "Rain" b/w "Paperback Writer" single. Starr's swirling drums and Harrison's Indian-influenced lead guitar showed that the Beatles were in an experimental place.

But "Tomorrow Never Knows," which incorporated sampling, tape manipulation, tambura, sitar, and The Tibetan Book of the Dead, went from mere experimentation to the birth of acid rock.

New Mix of Original Revolver

Revolver has been released a few times on compact disc. In terms of sound clarity, the 2009 edition was described at the time as if a sheet had been taken off the speaker when compared to the 1987 CD.

Now, Martin and Okell have taken the audio to another level. The original four-track tapes were de-mixed by the duo, using technology developed at Peter Jackson’s WingNut Films Productions Ltd. for the Get Back documentary.

De-Mixing Involved A.I.

“The simplest way I can explain it,” Giles Martin told Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield in its September 7, 2022 issue, “It’s like you giving me a cake, and then me going back to you about an hour later with flour, eggs, sugar, and all the ingredients to that cake, that all haven’t got any cake mix left on them.”

In short, computer and artificial intelligence technology were used to split the vocals, guitars, drums, etc. from the recording, and isolate them. Then, the tracks were put back together to create the new versions of the songs. Of course, robot technology wouldn’t mean anything if you didn’t have the excellent songs to go with it. So it is with Revolver.

Album Has More Punch and Clarity

With this remix, McCartney’s vocal is crystal clear in “Good Day Sunshine" and hand claps are audible at the end of the tune. Lennon's voice stands out in “And Your Bird Can Sing,” and both his acoustic guitar and Starr's bass drum are more noticeable on “Yellow Submarine."

The McCartney, Lennon, and Harrison harmony vocals shine in “Here, There and Everywhere.” McCartney’s bass booms out of the speakers in Harrison’s “I Want To Tell You.” Plus, the Revolver remix gives additional evidence that The Jam’s 1980 hit "Start!" bears a heavy “Taxman” influence.

Studio Sessions (2 CDs)

Two discs of Revolver studio recording sessions provide a fascinating glimpse into the development of all but one of the album’s songs. Each of these outtakes are in chronological order.

“Tomorrow Never Knows” was one of many indications that by 1966, the lovable, quirky Mop Top Beatles were long gone. Take 1 of the track is slow and sludgy, with Lennon’s vocal sounding like it was coming out of a transistor radio. That’s the effect he wanted to achieve.

“And Your Bird Can Sing”

The first proper version of “And Your Bird Can Sing” (Take 2) possesses a distinctive Byrds quality to it, with Harrison playing 12-string Rickenbacker guitar and Lennon on rhythm guitar. It’s followed by the rendition found on Anthology 2 (1996) with Lennon and McCartney giggling during the backing track.

Lennon’s acoustic demo for “She Said She Said” is just over a minute long, and is loose and much more up tempo than the finished number. His wit and humor's there as well. Instead of the line, "It's making me feel like I've never been born," he sings, “It’s making me feel like my trousers are torn.”

“Rain”

Take 5 of “Rain” is a revelation with the actual speed played by the band and no vocals. It also has that jangly Byrds guitar feel, but is much faster than the finished version. I can picture a band like The Bangles playing this in the 1980s.

Starr thinks that “Rain” featured his best drumming on a Beatles record. "I’ve always felt that way, and this version reinforces my opinion," he says in the accompanying Revolver book. “Rain" blows me away ... It’s out of left field. I know me and my playing…and then there’s “Rain.” I feel as though that was someone else playing. I was possessed.”

"Yellow Submarine"

People know “Yellow Submarine” as a happy, children’s type tune. But, it didn’t start out that way. In a surprise, the "Songwriting Work Tape: Part 1" has Lennon singing in a solemn tone, “In the town where I was born, no one cared, no one cared.”

The mood changed when Lennon and McCartney worked on the lyrics together. A couple of work takes are followed by an acoustic, folksy rendition of “Yellow Submarine,” closer to the familiar version, but missing the final verse. And Lennon sings lead on the track, not Starr.

The two Sessions discs might not make for repeated listening for casual music listeners. But for Beatles fans, they're exciting to hear.

The Beatles in Abbey Road Studio during filming of the “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” promotional films. May 19, 1966.

The Beatles in Abbey Road Studio during filming of the “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” promotional films. May 19, 1966.

100-Page Book

The Revolver hardbound book is impressive, and could be a coffee table reference title on its own. It’s filled with rare, unpublished images of the group at Abbey Road, on the set of the BBC’s Top of the Pops, posing for publicity photos, and more.

One picture shows a relaxed McCartney at EMI checking out the back cover of The Rolling Stones Aftermath album. As an aside, it's mentioned that Starr's name suggestion for the new Beatles album was After Geography, but that was nixed.

Klaus Voormann

A nice addition is a seven page excerpt from Klaus Voormann’s graphic novel, birth of an icon: REVOLVER 50, in which he uses illustrations to show how he came up with the Grammy winning album cover.

Beatles author, historian, and radio producer Kevin Howlett supplies thorough history and track-by-track info alongside pictures of Revolver’s handwritten lyrics and tape boxes.

There’s a rare mention in an official Fab Four publication of “And Your Bird Can Sing” being the Season 3 theme song of the 1967 Beatles cartoon. That’s followed by Harrison’s 1999 quote that the animated programs “were so bad or silly that they were good, if you know what I mean.”

Questlove

Questlove contributes an interesting essay describing how his fandom of Beatles music began, and mentions cover versions of Fab Four tracks by Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and even Eddie Murphy.

He also links the psychedelic music revival of the 1980’s by artists such as Prince (Around the World in a Day) and Tears For Fears (Sowing the Seeds of Love) to Revolver and Sgt. Pepper.

Other Reissue Configurations

The Super Deluxe set is available on four vinyl LPs and a seven-inch EP to go along with the book. A two-CD Deluxe Edition contains the new stereo mix on disc one and Sessions highlights and the new stereo mixes of "Paperback Writer" and "Rain" on disc two. A 40-page booklet abridged from the Super Deluxe book is also added.

The new, remixed Revolver is additionally offered as a single CD, vinyl LP, limited edition picture disc, and on streaming sites.

Some audiophile Beatle fans have been disappointed that the box set doesn’t feature a separate Blu-ray audio disc containing the Dolby Atmos mix. That's not been the case with the previous Super Deluxe Beatles releases.

Final Word

Revolver still stands as one of The Beatles top albums. The Special Edition (Super Deluxe) box set confirms this.

Think of these remixes as adjuncts to your Beatles records. The originals are still there if you prefer listening to them. But with this Revolver Special Edition (Super Deluxe) remix, Martin and Okell have used AI and computer technology to make the album sound fresh again.

Recommended.

© 2022 Marshall Fish