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Revolver is the seventh studio album by the English rock band the Beatles. It was released on 5 August 1966, accompanied by the double A-side single “Eleanor Rigby” / “Yellow Submarine”. The album was the Beatles’ final recording project before their retirement as live performers and marked the group’s most overt use of studio technology to date, building on the advances of their late 1965 release Rubber Soul. It has since become regarded as one of the greatest and most innovative albums in the history of popular music, with recognition centered on its range of musical styles, diverse sounds, and lyrical content.

The Beatles recorded Revolver after taking a three-month break at the start of 1966, and during a period when London was feted as the era’s cultural capital. Regarded by some commentators as the start of the group’s psychedelic period, the songs reflect their interest in the drug LSD, Eastern philosophy and the avant-garde while addressing themes such as death and transcendence from material concerns. With no plans to reproduce their new material in concert, the band made liberal use of automatic double tracking, varispeed, reversed tapes, close audio miking, and instruments outside of their standard live set-up. Among its tracks are “Tomorrow Never Knows”, incorporating heavy Indian drone and a collage of tape loops; “Eleanor Rigby”, a song about loneliness featuring a string octet as its only musical backing; and “Love You To”, a foray into Hindustani classical music. The sessions also produced a non-album single, “Paperback Writer” backed with “Rain”.

In the United Kingdom, the album’s 14 tracks were gradually distributed to radio stations in the weeks before its release. In North America, Revolver was reduced to 11 songs by Capitol Records, with the omitted three appearing on the June 1966 LP Yesterday and Today. The release there coincided with the Beatles’ final concert tour and the controversy surrounding John Lennon’s remark that the band had become “more popular than Jesus”. The album topped the Record Retailer chart in the UK for seven weeks and the US Billboard Top LPs list for six weeks. Critical reaction was highly favorable in the UK but less so in the US amid the press’s unease at the band’s outspokenness on contemporary issues.

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. “Taxman” (*) Harrison 2:36
2. “Eleanor Rigby” McCartney 2:11
3. “I’m Only Sleeping” Lennon 2:58
4. “Love You To” (*) Harrison 3:00
5. “Here, There and Everywhere” McCartney 2:29
6. “Yellow Submarine” Starr 2:40
7. “She Said She Said” Lennon 2:39
Total length: 18:33

Side two
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. “Good Day Sunshine” McCartney 2:08
2. “And Your Bird Can Sing” Lennon 2:02
3. “For No One” McCartney 2:03
4. “Doctor Robert” Lennon 2:14
5. “I Want to Tell You” (*) Harrison 2:30
6. “Got to Get You into My Life” McCartney 2:31
7. “Tomorrow Never Knows” Lennon 3:00
Total length: 16:28

Review: All the rules fell by the wayside with Revolver, as the Beatles began exploring new sonic territory, lyrical subjects, and styles of composition. It wasn’t just Lennon and McCartney, either — Harrison staked out his own dark territory with the tightly wound, cynical rocker “Taxman”; the jaunty yet dissonant “I Want to Tell You”; and “Love You To,” George’s first and best foray into Indian music. Such explorations were bold, yet they were eclipsed by Lennon’s trippy kaleidoscopes of sound. His most straightforward number was “Doctor Robert,” an ode to his dealer, and things just got stranger from there as he buried “And Your Bird Can Sing” in a maze of multi-tracked guitars, gave Ringo a charmingly hallucinogenic slice of childhood whimsy in “Yellow Submarine,” and then capped it off with a triptych of bad trips: the spiraling “She Said She Said”; the crawling, druggy “I’m Only Sleeping”; and “Tomorrow Never Knows,” a pure nightmare where John sang portions of the Tibetan Book of the Dead into a suspended microphone over Ringo’s thundering, menacing drumbeats and layers of overdubbed, phased guitars and tape loops. McCartney’s experiments were formal, as he tried on every pop style from chamber pop to soul, and when placed alongside Lennon’s and Harrison’s outright experimentations, McCartney’s songcraft becomes all the more impressive. The biggest miracle of Revolver may be that the Beatles covered so much new stylistic ground and executed it perfectly on one record, or it may be that all of it holds together perfectly. Either way, its daring sonic adventures and consistently stunning songcraft set the standard for what pop/rock could achieve. Even after Sgt. Pepper, Revolver stands as the ultimate modern pop album and it’s still as emulated as it was upon its original release. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Schill Score: 8/10

Listen to Album on Spotify

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