Apple Corps Ltd./Capitol/UMe (5-CD Box Set)
By Gillian G. Gaar
The 2017 reissue of Sgt. Pepper, with its remix of the classic album, might’ve initially seemed like it was going to be a one-off. But once it was followed by the reissue, and remix, of The Beatles in 2018, it became obvious that other Beatles albums were being positioned for the same treatment. But while the reissues of Abbey Road and Let It Be had anniversary tie ins, the Revolver breaks that pattern (2022 marks the 56th anniversary of its release, not a “big five” anniversary). When the album was first released on CD in 1987, George Martin, said it wouldn’t be possible to remix it. Thirty-five years later, due to new developments in recording technology, Martin’s son Giles found that he finally did have the tools to allow us, in his words, “to hear the album in a new way.”
Thus we get a stereo remix of what many consider to be The Beatles’ strongest work (and, in the Super Deluxe set, a new mono remaster as well). The differences are immediately apparent on the opening tracks, “Taxman” and “Eleanor Rigby”; there’s no split with the instruments on one channel and most of the vocals on the other. That alone gives the song a more full-bodied sound. Indeed, overall the album has a more robust sound compared to the 1987 and 2009 reissues.
Some may feel it’s too robust. From “Here, There and Everywhere” to “She Said She Said,” from “And Your Bird Can Sing” to “Got to Get You Into My Life,” vocals and drums/percussion are pushed to the forefront. Louder isn’t always better; in the new mixes, the louder drums were distracting at times (at least to these ears). The remix does give the songs more space to “breathe,” but perhaps at the cost of a more cohesive blending. You can pick out the individual elements in “Tomorrow Never Knows,” for example, but the 2009 edition (again, to these ears), feels more all-encompassing. It’s certainly subjective; from the moment the new remix of “Taxman” was shared on social media, the debate began, which will only increase once the full album is available.
The mono mix of Revolver has always been especially strong. And while there’s minimal difference in the 2009 and 2022 mono versions (though the latter does have a cleaner sound), including it in the Super Deluxe set is a nice bonus for those who didn’t pick up the mono box in 2009 (the mono CDs weren’t released individually).
The previously unreleased material has always been a highlight of these reissues, and it’s particularly interesting when you can hear a song’s evolution. The earliest track on the set is a demo of “She Said She Said.” Comparing the spare quality of the demo to a rehearsal of the backing track illustrates just how imaginative the group was in transforming something so simple into the hauntingly mysterious creation that it became. It’s similarly illuminating listening to “I’m Only Sleeping” emerging from rehearsal to early takes to final version. Take 5, for example, shows what the track sounded like in its original recorded state, when it was recorded at a faster speed to sound slower on normal playback, giving it a languorous sound. “Got to Get You Into My Life” becomes increasingly bold as The Beatles move from accentuating the track with vocal harmonies to using a brass section. Take 1 of “Tomorrow Never Knows” is a phantasmagorical treat, and it sounds better here than it did on Anthology 2.
The song that gets the most extensive before-and-after is “Yellow Submarine.” While probably not most fans’ choice for this treatment, it’s nonetheless entertaining to chart the song’s progression. There are work tapes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney assembling the track (a quick peak into how they’d “play at each other” in shaping a song); surprisingly, it’s Lennon who seems to be the dominant force, at least judging by these clips, for what’s been thought to be largely a McCartney song. It’s followed by a version of the song sans special effects, giving it a somewhat more serious character, making it less of a novelty song. That said, it’s delightful hearing the track come to life with a version highlighting those very special effects, as well adding the opening recitation from Ringo Starr that was later cut from the track.
There evidently wasn’t enough in the vaults deemed worthy of release for some songs; there’s only one early take each for “Taxman” and “Doctor Robert,” and nothing at all for “Good Day Sunshine.” Given that an entire CD is used to hold just four tracks — new stereo mixes and the original mono masters for “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” — you wish some of that extra CD space could have been used for additional material.
And there’s the usual accompanying beautifully compiled album-sized book, taking you through the sessions track by track, with many photos plus a new cartoon by Klaus Voormann, detailing his process of creating the album’s cover. As with the other sets, the book, with its in-depth look at the album’s recording, adds tremendous value to the package.
The set’s available in single disc and 2-CD editions. But it’s definitely worth springing for the Super Deluxe set (also available on vinyl) for more bonus tracks, the mono mix, and the book. It’s an excellent collection celebrating an album that’s retained its potency over half-a-century on.
Read all you need to know about the rerelease of Revolver in Goldmine's Dec-Jan edition (below), ON NEWSSTANDS by November 1, 2022, and in the Goldmine Shop soon: