The Beatles

Capitol Records, 1966

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Much has been made about the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the album that many consider to be the band’s very best. Certainly, the sleeve and packaging were quite original and groundbreaking in 1967. However, I’ve always wondered what the album would have been like had “A Day In The Life” and “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” not been included in the mix. To be frank, those two songs were really what made Sgt. Pepper such a popular classic.

It’s not the first album to take the Beatles in a new direction either – that distinction goes to producer George Martin’s favorite Beatles album, Revolver. Released one year prior to Sgt. Pepper, it was the first Beatles album to feature a weightier tone and edgier sound. Its patchwork feel is due in part to the wide array of musical genres – from soul, to fizzy guitar rock, to psychedelia, to Indian music.

Yes, this is one impressive and kaleidoscopic album. After this, the Beatles would never quite be the same. On first listen, it would appear that Ringo Starr is under-represented and John Lennon seems to be sleepwalking his way through the proceedings. Lennon even has a song entitled “I’m Only Sleeping” to back that assertion. But both Lennon and Starr manage to turn in at least one mind-altering performance before all is said and done.  Ringo’s sole contribution, “Yellow Submarine,” is perhaps the most recognizable track to be found here, which was the very first Beatles song I had ever heard as a child. My entire first grade class used to sing this song on the playground during recess! As for John, he wakes up at just the right moment to create a swirling masterpiece that is way ahead of its time, “Tomorrow Never Knows.” As far as bursts of dumbfounding creativity, it would seem that nobody could ever hold a candle to John Lennon.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Paul McCartney and George Harrison seem to carry the heaviest burden on Revolver, however, and they succeed in their efforts. Harrison in particular shows just how much he has grown and demonstrates the range he was now capable of. He also gets the rare opportunity to actually open a Beatles album, with the rocking “Taxman,” before slipping into something more comfortable on the sitar-based track “Love You To.” Indian music was quickly becoming something of a George Harrison trademark, learning from the Maharishi all he could about music and meditation during the Beatles brief yet potent sojourn in IndiaHarrison’s other offering, “I Want To Tell You,” is a solid, straightforward tune that seems to have every other instrument, but no sitar.

Which brings us to Paul McCartney, who simply glows on this record. I could just stop and say the words “Eleanor Rigby,” but that would only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how many amazing, effortless songs he puts forth here. His fuzz bass is used in the best of all possible ways on the edgy “She Said, She Said,” while “Good Day Sunshine” is a close cousin to Harrison’s “Here Comes The Sun.” Another choice McCartney cut is “And Your Bird Can Sing,” where it’s all about the timeless harmonies.

And like Lennon, McCartney saves his biggest surprise for the end of the album, namely “Got To Get You Into My Life,” a soul song of the highest order that sounds absolutely nothing like the Beatles whatsoever! How the hell did Paul McCartney pull something like that off without the help of someone like Billy Preston? It really goes to show how important influences are in developing one’s own sound. When Earth, Wind & Fire covered “Got To Get You Into My Life,” it wasn’t much of a stretch to see it become a hit, since it is the type of funky song that fits them like a glove.

It’s no wonder the Beatles chose the word Revolver as the title for this album, because they really ended it all with a bang, and the album’s resonance would literally be the shot that was heard around the world for decades to come.

Rating: A

User Rating: A-


My $.02:

"And Your Bird Can Sing" and "She Said She Said" are Lennon's tunes, not McCartney's. "Dr. Robert" is John's, too, so (along with the referenced "I'm Only Sleeping" and "Tomorrow Never Knows") he composed and sings lead on five of Revolver's cuts. That's just one fewer tune than Paul, who composed six numbers and sings lead on five (having handed off "Yellow Submarine" to Ringo). So the business about John sleepwalking through this session doesn't really register.

Saying Ringo only contributes one song is goofy, since he plays drums throughout.

The Beatles as a group didn't go to India until 1968, two years after Revolver's release, and the Maharishi didn't know squat about music. (His chief influence on the Beatles canon was unintended; he appears in disguise as the White Album's "Sexy Sadie," who "made a fool of everyone.") George visited India with his then-wife Patti in early 1967--also after this album's release--but he got into Eastern music in 1965 when then-Byrd David Crosby turned him on to Ravi Shankar's sitar records; the first fruit of George's budding interest was his sitar work on Rubber Soul's "Norwegian Wood".

"Got To Get You Into My Life" is the only song I skip when I play this otherwise stellar album; Earth Wind & Fire kind of killed it for me.

And for my money, Paul's most magical moment on this disc is the mind-bending lead guitar solo on "Taxman".

© 2008 Michael R. Smith 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.