The Beatles

Capitol Records, 1966

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


(Editor's note: This review was written when I listened to my old American-released record of Revolver . The CD version presently available is based on the British release, and has songs that aren't included in this review. I didn't forget about them; I just didn't have them to work with.)

Were The Beatles the world's greatest rock and roll band?

I don't claim to have the answer, nor am I willing to expose myself to any possible barrage of flame mail if I voice my own opinion on the subject. But I do know the Fab Four were a very experimental band for their time - one listen to Revolver proves that.

Sure The Beatles could have played it safe and kept recording peppy hits like the opening number, "Taxman." But that would have gotten boring real quick, and the all-out rock numbers are extremely limited on this one.

Instead, you have The Beatles continuing their delve into ballads, as witnessed by "Eleanor Rigby," one of the band's songs I never get tired of hearing. Paul McCartney's vocals create a sense of helplessness the band wanted to convey, but it stops short of calling us to change our ways.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Perhaps the biggest influence is the Middle Eastern flavor injected into the band by George Harrison. "Love You To" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" have a distinct feel unlike any Beatles song to that point, and they are able to carry the melody well. However, as on much of Revolver, I would dare to say that George Martin's production hand slipped a bit - I don't know if it got fixed on the CD, but there is way too much treble on the record. ( Yes, I still listen to records - as Nicolas Cage said in The Rock, "These sound better.")

What also sets Revolver apart from other Beatles albums of that point is the looseness of the songwriting. Not to say the boys were tense in the studio before (they weren't), but that if-it-fails-to-hell-with-it attitude carries over into the songwriting. Who would have expected that they could pull off "Yellow Submarine" - with Ringo Starr on lead vocals, no less - and make it a damn good song? In the mid-'60s, maybe... but it still is amusing and fresh in 1997.

A whole new approach to the music is also heard on "Good Day Sunshine" (which I still tie in with the Beatles cartoon show I used to watch in my childhood) and "Got To Get You Into My Life." The loveable moptops had reached musical puberty, and were aging quite well.

This is not to say there aren't one or two clunkers on Revolver - I just can't get into "She Said She Said" or "For No One," and "Here, There And Everywhere" sounds like a re-write of "In My Life." Still, these flaws are minor.

It really seems like John Lennon took a back seat on this album - he sings lead on only two of the cuts (though it doesn't sound like Harrison on the pipes on "Taxman"). Whether this was intentional or not I don't think we'll ever know.

Someone beginning to get into The Beatles would probably be told to first pick up Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road to wet their whistle. I would argue that Revolver should be a close third. The Beatles abandon safety and begin exploring other areas of the musical rainbow - and they pull it off with remarkable ease.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-



© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.