Saturday, March 15, 2008

166. The Beatles: Revolver (1966)

Do you remember Ringo Starr, that one-hit wonder who won our hearts (and creeped us out) in 1973 with You're Sixteen (You're Beautiful and You're Mine)? Well, he had a band in the '60s! I'm right in the thick of reviewing every single one of their albums. Check it out:

I dropped hints and foreshadowed that it was coming. And here it is is. Revolver is the album where The Beatles grew up sonically and lyrically.

There's clear evidence of that from the very first song, Taxman. For one, it's the band's cleverest song to that point, and for another George Harrison proves capable of, gasp, bettering Paul McCartney and John Lennon, if only temporarily.

McCartney's Eleanor Rigby quickly ups the stakes again, with its staccato strings and mysterious lyrical detail. However, Lennon's I'm Only Sleeping is not quite at the same level, though the backwards guitar is a sign of things to come.

Harrison's growing fascination with Eastern sounds and thoughts is showcased on the tabla-driven Love You To. Despite the interesting grammatical choices, the song comes off more as an experiment than anything else.

The middle of the album finds things a bit more predictable, especially from the McCartney camp. Paul offers two sweet, bright throwback songs, Here, There And Everywhere and Good Day Sunshine. Got To Get You Into My Life is spirited and similarly toned. I could see an R & B outfit covering this one quite effectively.

John also gets in the happy-go-lucky game with the lively And Your Bird Can Sing, even if it is a bit more lyrically shady than Paul's offerings. And George adds I Want To Tell You to the mix, thus shattering his own record by placing 3 compositions on the same record. As on most Harrison songs, the backing vocals by John and Paul are very strong, as though they didn't want to let George have too much spotlight. Is it me, or is the piano flat on this one?

The Ringo Starr-led Yellow Submarine is a whole different animal. It's almost a children's song, and like most of those, contains some trippy imagry. And speaking of trippy, take a listen to Lennon's She Said She Said, with its psychedelic lyrics about the great beyond ("I know what it's like to be dead") and nostalgia ("When I was a boy, everything was right"). It begs the question, were The Beatles on drugs?

Well, no need to wait long for your answer. Check out the Byrdsian Dr.Robert, an ode to a pharmacist, or the album's crowning achievement, Tomorrow Never Knows. The latter is ultra-rhythmic, full of strange noodles, Eastern instrumentation and backwards loops. It's a credit to producer George Martin that the song never loses focus amidst the business. John's voice is far away and full of mystical searching.

Meanwhile, The Beatles had finally found what they were looking for.

Grade: A+
Fave Song: Taxman

1 comment:

shakspur said...

The titles of the songs are Love To You, and I'm Only Sleeping, but yes, hooray for George, and Tomorrow Never Knows is the song for the Ages. You know, the US release was short a few of the Lennon songs.