Top 100 Album Review: #3 – Revolver, The Beatles (1966)

Best Beatles’ Album of All-Time

I’m officially part of the movement to usurp Sgt. Pepper as the apex. 

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #3/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550

Revolver is when things got “weird” for the Beatles. They sped recordings up, layered multiple tracks on top of one another, and hid secret messages that could only be discovered by playing the album backwards. It was also released under some tenuous circumstances, with John Lennon comparing the band to Jesus and some drug-referenced singles being withheld from the American release.

After their break up, many claimed that Sgt. Pepper was the pinnacle point of Beatles goodness. I am going to have to disagree; Revolver beats it out track for track, and if not for the drama, would clearly be cemented as the top work they ever did.

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[OVERVIEW] The Beatles’ previous work was Rubber Soul. It, along with Pet Sounds by the Beach boys, are considered watershed moments in music. They moved the focus  from trying to crank out singles to actually making complete albums. The Beatles were also being pushed towards the studio instead of live performances. With a three month break due to canceling a filming project, the group lived in the studio exploring ways to create new sounds.

There are two main influences for Revolver: drugs (particularly LSD) and new technology. Lennon and Harrison at this point were fully committed to experimenting with psychedelics, and it had an impact on content and composition. To try and reflect these experiences in their music, The Beatles recruited sound engineers and new recording techniques to try and emulate their drug-induced expressions.

The end results was an album where everyone participated. There are equal parts Lennon, Harrison, and McCartney (and I guess Ringo was there to sing A Yellow Submarine 😶). The album’s title was a nod to this collaboration since each track focused on a different front man, going to the next chamber with every song.

The album was edited for the United States, which was standard practice at the time, removing three tracks. This, and Lennon saying the band was bigger than Jesus, led to an album that was viewed more terrestrial than it actually was.

[TRACK LISTING]

1. Taxman 2:39
2. Eleanor Rigby 2:07
3. I’m Only Sleeping 3:01
4. Love You To 3:01
5. Here, There And Everywhere 2:25
6. Yellow Submarine 2:40
7. She Said She Said 2:37
8. Good Day Sunshine 2:09
9. And Your Bird Can Sing 2:01
10. For No One 2:01
11. Doctor Robert 2:15
12. I Want To Tell You 2:29
13. Got To Get You Into My Life 2:30
14. Tomorrow Never Knows 2:57

[BEST TRACK – FOR NO ONE]

Majestic, relatable, and for god’s sake there is a French Horn solo, For No One is peak McCartney combining pop, emotion, lyrics, and avant-garde in such a digestable way that you almost forget how high art it is.

Your day breaks, your mind aches
You find that all the words of kindness linger on
When she no longer needs you

[BEST TRACK RUNNER UP – AND YOUR BIRD CAN SING]

A rock out song, Lennon’s And Your Bird Can Sing is the perfect foil to McCartney’s down-tempo pop with ripping guitars and pointed lyrics.

You tell me that you’ve got everything you want
And your bird can sing
But you don’t get me, you don’t get me

[BEST ORIGINAL SONG THAT ANOTHER BAND DID BETTER – GOT TO GET YOU INTO MY LIFE]

After seeing Stevie Wonder, McCartney decided to try and take a stab at a Motown-sounding ode to pot. Earth, Wind, and Fire would come along with a cover in 1977 and revamped his version with horns and funk. Let’s just celebrate the better version, okay?

I was alone, I took a ride
I didn’t know what I would find there
Another road where maybe I
Could see another kind of mind there

[BEST TUG AT THE HEARTSTRINGS: ELEANOR RIGBY]

A lot of people just think this song is weird, but I really like it. The musical backing is done by a stringed octet which reflects perfectly the content of the song: lonely people feeling their actions serve no purpose. It is a devastatingly raw song.

Father McKenzie, writing the words
Of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working, darning his socks
In the night when there’s nobody there
What does he care

[CONCLUSION] 

So why do I think it is the best Beatle’s work of all time? I think for two reasons.

One, this is the last time everyone really worked together on equal footing. McCartney, Lennon and Harrison were forming their own styles, but they were ready to help one another out with lyrics and music. This just isn’t the case on later albums, particularly The White Album where it feels like you are listening to three different people work against themselves. Also, McCartney hadn’t taken over yet. While I have no problem with his musical influence, this album doesn’t end on an 8 song, 16 minute medley that is mostly McCartney’s doing like Abby Road. 

Second, track-for-track, this album just has better material. Sgt. Pepper has quality songs across the board, but I don’t find myself humming Fixing a Hole, She’s Leaving Home, Being the Benefit for Mr. Kite!, or Good Morning, Good Morning. This album has all the ear worms, songs that pop into your mind when you start to day dream and refuse to leave.

It might not have the cultural impact of Sgt. Pepper, the theme for the Summer of Love, but it sure is the better album. It’s time for it to get its due recognition.

Other People’s Takes:

  • Slice the Life: “The thing to me that makes Revolver superior over Sgt. Pepper is the the album sounds as modern as when it was released.”
  • The Ultimate Music Library: This album changed the way people looked at popular music culture. No longer people had to set boundaries on the sounds that they made.”
  • The Avocado: Revolver, the Beatles’ seventh album, is their greatest overall achievement and the dividing line between their Early and Late periods of work.”

 

 

 

Author: Casual But Smart

I review the top 100 books, movies, albums, and games of all time.

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