I’m the opposite of an audiophile. My favorite ways to listen to music are in Alex’s 2004 Honda CR-V via cassette deck or CD while driving up/down the I-5, or walking around the city with my crappy old wired earbuds that came with some long-retired iPhone. (It’s less about the medium, I suppose, and more about the setting; I just like listening to music on the move.)
A demonstration of this: the first time I listened to Volume 2 of the new Revolver Super Deluxe reissue—5 days ago—was on BART to Oakland International Airport before catching a $32 flight to Santa Ana for a quick family Disneyland trip. It is not the type of setting most people would consider optimal listening conditions for a highly-anticipated reissue. But! Now whenever I hear “Doctor Robert (Take 7)” I’ll think of riding the BART to OAK connector on a beautiful Halloween afternoon, and that is a very nice memory.
Beatlefans and audiophiles have been eagerly awaiting the new Revolver reissue, for many good reasons. The original stereo mixes and 2009 remasters are generally regarded as subpar, and this is the first Beatles reissue to use Peter Jackson’s AI technology to isolate and remix the instruments that were previously all recorded on one track (alchemy!!). And of course, Giles Martin is at the helm, which is the closest thing to having Big George Martin here to supervise this new era of the Beatles’ catalog.
Even though the subtleties of remixes like this are usually lost on me, this time I did want to sit down and re-listen to the stereo version of the album in a more controlled setting so I could try to appreciate what Giles and this crazy AI technology can do (and also so I could blog about it). Our home system is nothing fancy, but now we have a nice Onkyo receiver—with Bluetooth!—and two vintage Bose tall boi speakers, a good setup that is much appreciated after years of our dying Sony receiver. So after listening to Revolver Super Deluxe through both the speakers and then again with Alex’s fancy (read: non-earbud) headphones, I’ll pretend for a few minutes to know what I’m talking about.
Listening to both the mono and stereo versions of the album, the difference in the new stereo mixes is most noticeable on “Tomorrow Never Knows” (good!) and “She Said She Said” (bad). TNK is outta this world. All that sound and color swirling around, it’s such a wild ride. I can’t imagine not listening to it in stereo. With “She Said She Said”, the guitars are split left and right, which sounds cool at first, but then there’s a jarring drop in the left guitar at 0:11 which makes everything sound strange and unbalanced for the rest of the song. Redditors are tearing this one apart (my favorite comment: “Giles Martin is making me feel like I’ve never been born”) but it’s not actually that bad on speakers, just weird with headphones.
Moving on…OH HI, PAUL. Each Giles reissue makes me realize how many tasty bass licks I’d missed in the lesser versions of these songs. These mixes really bring them forward! There’s some great fills in “I’m Only Sleeping” and “Got To Get You Into My Life”, and I’m really glad the Super Deluxe version also includes new mixes of “Paperback Writer” and “Rain”, which weren’t on the album but recorded at the same time and feature some of Paul’s best bass playing. Something about his tone and articulation is just so clean…it’s truly a pleasure to listen to.
More breathing room in stereo mixes = more fun easter eggs, like the yawn in “I’m Only Sleeping” and John’s response to “she feels good” in “Good Day Sunshine”. My only (petty) complaint is that I wish the snaps at the end of “Here, There, and Everywhere” were more prominent! When I first heard those in the 2009 remaster, my world changed. TURN UP THE SNAPS, GILES.
But enough of the original album, let’s talk about the EXTRAS!!!
- Got To Get You Into My Life (Second Version) is a revelation! I love this version more than the actual track, I think. Why use horns when you have fantastic droning guitar and those punchy chords?? I love Paul’s exposed bass fills and the little vocal interlude (“Get you in, into my life”) too!
- Love You To (Unnumbered Rehearsal) – It’s very cool to hear George practicing sitar in this one – a little glimpse into his work ethic. And his “oww!”s at the end from undoubtedly shredded fingers. There was a time in my life when I could relate.
- Rain (Take 5/Actual Speed) – EXCUSE ME?! This has been sitting in the archives all these years?! I hardly ever think of Beatles songs in terms of individual parts (one of their greatest qualities is how effortlessly the four of them meld together into one), but holy buckets, Paul and Ringo—absolute mad lads—just dominate this take. This feels like the pop rock gods dropped into EMI Studios in 1966 and inhabited the Fabs’ bodies for just long enough to create this transcendental two and a half minutes of music.
- Doctor Robert (Take 7) – Oohhhh OKAY, I hear you, double time bass in the second bridge. How does this not appear in the final cut (which used Take 7)? I don’t know how mixing works.
- And Your Bird Can Sing (First Version/Take 2/Giggling) – Now we can hear John and Paul cracking up in extra hi def! Seriously though, I can hear their silent laughing in this version, and it’s so joyous. A true gift for all Beatlefans.
- I’m Only Sleeping – The rehearsal bits with vibes sound straight out of a SMiLE session. Takes 2 and 5 make me appreciate the finished version of the song even more. The slower speed, backing vocals, and backwards guitar transform it from a somewhat straightforward rock song into a real trip.
- Yellow Submarine (Songwriting Work Tapes 1 & 2) – Yellow Submarine is the skip track of Revolver, but the Yellow Submarine Work Tapes are the HIGHLIGHT of Revolver Super Deluxe. Gosh, no disrespect to Ringo, but I really wish they’d kept the original folksy vibe of this song. John on vocals stretching out “ma-a-an” and “la-a-and” and “ye-e-ellow” give it a nice push-and-pull, and the “look out/get down!” bits in the chorus are lovely, too. What a treat!
- She Said She Said (Take 15/Backing Track) – Groovy guitar. I could listen to an 18-minute version of this.
Final thoughts: Will I buy the Special Edition 5 disc version complete with stereo+mono mixes, demos, 100-page book, and Klaus Voormann art? …strong maybe. But for now, I can highly recommend enjoying the new reissue on your streaming platform of choice, listening to this interview with Giles Martin, and discovering all the versions that might’ve been: