Wednesday 9 November 2022

Revolver deluxe by The Beatles - a review

I've reviewed the newly remixed and expanded Revolver for Quillette.

A few years ago, I ordered a pint of Stella Artois in Washington, DC. I used to drink Stella quite a lot back in the day, but had fallen out of love with it for reasons I couldn’t quite identify. I ordered it on this occasion because it was the only beer that looked familiar. And oh, what a sensation that first sip was! How the memories came flooding back! It was then that I appreciated something I already knew but had subconsciously ignored. Stella Artois had been reformulated in the UK for tax reasons. The ABV had dropped from 5.2 percent to 4.8 percent and later, monstrously, to 4.6 percent. This was done stealthily. We weren’t supposed to notice and in a sense I hadn’t. I had just gradually gone off it until I was reminded of how it was meant to be.

I mention this because something similar happened with the Beatles’ seventh studio album, Revolver. The music was great but the stereo mix created in 1966 was awful. The only people who owned stereos back then were nerds, and so the Beatles, like other bands, treated the stereo mix as an afterthought. In the mid-’60s, mixing for stereo meant chucking half the instruments in one channel and everything else in the other channel. The result was a thin and incohesive sound that the Fabs only started to improve upon with Sgt. Pepper the following year.

This was the mix that appeared on compact disc in the 1980s and it is the only mix most people under the age of 60 know. It is the 4.6 percent ABV version of Revolver and I hold it wholly responsible for the album’s steady slide down the Greatest Albums of All Time charts in the last 40 years. It hasn’t slipped down the list because bands have made better albums in the meantime. They obviously haven’t. The blame lies solely with that weedy, disjointed stereo mix, the deficiencies of which have only become more apparent as the album has aged.

It was with this trenchant view that I approached the new deluxe edition of Revolver with an unusual degree of excitement. Contrary to what you may have inferred from the previous paragraphs, I am not an audiophile. I can’t tell the difference between a remastered album and an original (in fact, I suspect the whole remastering thing may be a con to part gullible middle-aged men from their money). But I do like a remix, and Giles Martin’s subtle remixes of the Beatles’ 1967–70 classics were well worth the admission fee.

On Revolver, Martin has made use of technology developed by the FBI to isolate the voices of mafiosa on murky wire recordings. This has allowed him to tease apart instruments that have been glued together ever since they were “bounced down” on four-track 56 years ago. Martin has cleaned them up, placed them appropriately in the stereo mix and—boom!—Revolver is finally in 3D.


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