As the latest installment in the band’s deluxe series of box sets, the Beatles’ “Revolver” is a revelation for the ears, a bravura experience befitting an album that will eclipse the ages. And when it comes to outtakes and unreleased demos, the “Revolver” box set may be Apple’s finest effort yet.
As with previous installments, Giles Martin and Sam Okell’s remixed version of the LP not only does the album justice, but succeeds in creating a richer sound palette characterized by clarity and separation. Fans will no doubt enjoy the opportunity to hear the Beatles’ magisterial performance with an enhanced sonic spectrum. Martin and Okell’s disaggregation of the bandmates’ instruments, for example, affords listeners a new appreciation of their unparalleled musicianship.
But the real gems among the box set involve the studio outtakes. Frankly, when it comes to the Beatles’ deluxe repackagings, they’ve simply never been better. The additional takes of “Eleanor Rigby” offer an unforgettable window into the production of one of the band’s most essential compositions. Fans can follow along as members of the classical octet refine their parts. In a memorable exchange, producer George Martin asks the string players to try performing his arrangement with vibrato as the song takes shape.
Paul McCartney’s “For No One” enjoys a similar treatment, with listeners being treated to the evolution of his painstaking keyboard work in bringing the song to fruition. In perhaps the most revealing instance, the box set takes the creation of “Yellow Submarine” from ideation through studio production. John Lennon’s original demo, laden with loneliness and regret, marks a far cry from the final version, overdubbed with an array of sound effects that imbue the recording with childlike appeal and wonderment.
If the box set has a flaw, it’s a truly minor, albeit slightly mystifying one. The four-track “EP” disk devoted to “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” seems like a strange, even wasteful exercise, just as the EP did with the “Let It Be” edition. All of that digital real estate might have been better deployed with even more outtakes and studio chatter, which is where these deluxe editions really shine.
Love the Beatles? Listen to Ken’s podcast “Everything Fab Four.”
It was no less than novelist Kurt Vonnegut who once remarked that “the function of the artist is to make people like life better than they have before,” adding that “when I’ve been asked if I’ve ever seen that done. I say, ‘Yes, the Beatles did it.'” The “Revolver” album — as with the band’s late-period masterworks — offers powerful testimony about how the Beatles have made our lives irredeemably better. And these deluxe box sets, especially because of the studio outtakes, provide us with a vital window into how these miracles came into being in the first place.
about Beatles albums, remixed: