Bruce Spizer previewed the Dolby Atmos mix and outtakes from the new “Revolver” set in Beatlefan #258. Here is an extended version of that article, addressing the complete box set. …
Although quickly over-shadowed in 1967 by The Beatles’ follow-up LP, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Revolver” is now considered by many critics and fans to be the band’s best album.
It was issued at a time before The Beatles gained complete artistic control over their albums and singles released by Capitol Records in America, so the U.S. version of the album only had 11 of the 14 tracks contained on the British release. (The other three songs had been issued previously on Capitol’s “Yesterday and Today” collection, which came out about six weeks ahead of the early August 1966 release of “Revolver.”)
And, while the American version of “Revolver” is quite remarkable in and of itself, the 14-track British release is by far superior, unless you believe that three more John Lennon songs is a bad thing.
With “Revolver,” The Beatles were looking for more color in their recordings, trying new instruments and techniques. But, they were not using studio wizardry to cover weaknesses; they were looking for new sounds to enhance their already brilliant songs.
George Martin and the Abbey Road engineers effectively utilized 1966 technology to record an album unlike any that had preceded it. Each song had its own distinct sound and feel, yet the collection held together as a well-coordinated album.
Unlike today, where digital recording provides an endless number of tracks to separately record each voice and instrument, the Abbey Road crew was limited to a four-track recorder. This forced them to record multiple instruments and/or voices onto a single track, greatly restricting the placement of sounds in the final stereo mix. These limitations increased when two or more tracks were mixed down to a single track to free up tracks on the four-track for overdubs.
For example, if the bass, rhythm guitar and tambourine initially were recorded on separate tracks, but then mixed down to a single track, those instruments had to be placed together in the final stereo mix.
However, digital technology has enabled recordings from the 1960s to be remixed in ways previously not possible. The first big advance came when engineers were able to go back to the initial tracks before they had been mixed down, and then run them simultaneously with the later overdubs that had been recorded onto separate tracks. By going backward and running these separate tracks in sync, engineers often were able to expand the four tracks to eight or more, adding greater flexibility to the mix. But, that didn’t solve the problem of how to separate instruments and voices that initially were recorded on a single track. For example, if the bass, rhythm guitar and drums were on a single track from the start, those instruments had to be placed together in the stereo mix. The three instruments could be placed in the left channel, the right channel or in both channels, which would cause the sound to be heard from the center.
The breakthrough came with Sir Peter Jackson’s work on the “Get Back” project. The film’s soundtrack was recorded in 1969, on mono tape recorders. In many cases, conversations between Beatles were difficult to hear, due to other sounds on the mono tape, such as the band playing their instruments and/or others having their own conversations.
By using artificial intelligence technology to recognize the distinguishing features of different instruments and voices, Jackson’s WingNut Films was able to isolate and separate the multiple voices and instruments recorded on the mono tape, in effect, demixing the contents on the tape. This enabled Jackson to present clean-sounding conversations in the film without the other extraneous sounds.
For the new reissue, this same AI demixing process from WingNut was used on the original master tapes from the “Revolver” sessions. For example, on “Taxman,” the drums, bass and rhythm guitar all were recorded on a single track, meaning that those instruments had to be placed together in the stereo mix. But, after the WingNut AI demixing process, each instrument became, in effect, a separate track. This gave producer Giles Martin and engineer Sam Okell complete flexibility as to their remix, enabling them to place the drums in the center, and place the guitar and bass elsewhere. It was as if someone went back in time to 1966 and had the Beatles record “Revolver” on a 64-track recorder, rather than a mere four-track.
The results of the “Revolver” 2022 remix are breathtaking. The clarity of each instrument and vocal brings an intimacy to the listening experience that previously was not possible. The gritty guitar work on tracks such as “Taxman” and “She Said She Said” sounds even more powerful. The exquisite harmonies on “Here, There and Everywhere” and “Good Day Sunshine” surround the listener. “Eleanor Rigby” places the listener in the middle of a string quartet. The enhanced placement of the sound effects and odd-ball voices on “Yellow Submarine” adds to the song’s party atmosphere, while “Tomorrow Never Knows” sounds even freakier.
The 2022 remix fixes some of the oddities present in the original stereo mix. On the 1966 mix of “Eleanor Rigby,” Paul’s vocal on the first verse briefly is heard in the left channel before panning to the right channel. On the remix, Paul’s lead vocal is straight down the middle. And, in keeping with the policy of basing the stereo mix on the mono mix, the stereo remix of “Yellow Submarine” now has the acoustic guitar and Ringo’s vocal starting simultaneously at the beginning of the song. The 1966 stereo mix delayed the acoustic guitar until after Ringo had sung “In the,” with the first chord coming in on “town.”
The remixed album also gives the listener greater appreciation for all of George Harrison’s songs on the LP. While “Taxman” still is the standout, “I Want to Tell You” and “Love You To” shine, as well.
In addition to the 2022 stereo remix, the “Revolver” Super Deluxe Edition contains a 2022 remaster of the mono album. The mono vinyl was cut directly from the original analogue master tape from 1966, with cutting engineer Sean Magee guided by cutting engineer Harry Moss’ mastering notes from 1966. The mono CD was mastered by Thomas Hall from a 24-bit/96kHz digital recording of the 1966 master tape guided by those same notes.
The collection also includes an EP with 2022 stereo remixes and mono remasters of the two songs pulled from the sessions for exclusive single release, “Paperback Writer” and “Rain.”
But, for most fans, the most interesting part of the box set will be the two discs of outtakes and demos.
While curious fans and music historians always want more outtakes, the two discs provide several revealing and memorable moments, as well as an enjoyable listening experience.
Fortunately, Apple has moved on from its policy of not repeating outtakes that previously appeared on “Anthology.” This is a welcome decision, as fans do not want to pull out “Anthology” to hear essential outtakes not included in the reissue box sets.
Although the outtakes were not put through the WingNut AI demixing process, the 2022 mixes of the outtakes take advantage of the latest technology and are superior to the earlier “Anthology” mixes, some of which were edited. Apple also has allowed more studio banter to accompany the outtakes.
The running order of the outtakes in the box set is chronological, according to when the track was recorded. This gives the listener an opportunity to hear how the remarkable recording session progressed.
The book included with the vinyl and CD box set discusses the tracks in the order of their appearance on the album, followed “Paperback Writer” and “Rain.”
As was the case with “Anthology,” the box set contains Take 11 of the album’s opening track, “Taxman.” This has a guitar bit not in the finished master, as well as the “Anybody got a bit of money, anybody got a bit of money?” falsetto refrain that would be replaced by the more stylish references to Mr. Wilson and Mr. Heath. The new version is remixed in the same style as the 2022 album remix, and is vastly superior to the “Anthology 2” version. It also has a little bit more of banter at the beginning and a sliding bass note at the end.
After the recording of the first take of the string octet backing for “Eleanor Rigby,” George Martin had a discussion with Paul McCartney regarding whether the musicians should add vibrato or play it straight. At Martin’s request, the musicians play the same segment with and without vibrato. After Paul admits he can’t really tell the difference, Martin makes the right call, telling the musicians to play the song without vibrato. This fascinating discussion is included in the box set prior to Take 2, an instrumental backing that has subtle differences from the take selected for the master. “Anthology 2” contains the instrumental string backing of the master take.
The new box set contains the same rehearsal fragment of “I’m Only Sleeping” found on “Anthology 2,” but with a little bit of added banter and notes at the end. “Anthology 2” also contains Take 1 of the April 29 attempted remake of “I’m Only Sleeping,” with John on lead vocal and acoustic guitar, Paul providing a harmony vocal, George on electric guitar and Ringo on tambourine. John’s presong announcement of “I’m Only Sleeping, Take 1” is actually from the April 27 session. While the box set does not rerun Take 1, it does contain Take 2 from the April 29 session, which breaks down at about the 1:15 mark, although the tape runs for another minute, capturing Martin’s discussion about the balance of the guitars, banter from John and instrumental noodling.
The box set also contains Take 5 from April 27. The group, knowing that the tape of the song would be slowed down to give the track a dream-like effect, played the song at a fast pace, with John on acoustic guitar, Paul on bass and Ringo on drums, all recorded on a single track of the four-track recorder. John is heard in a few places with off-mic vocals to mark the place in the song.
Finally, the box set includes Mono Remix 1 (“MR1”), which was sent to Capitol for inclusion on its “Yesterday and Today” album. Martin later remixed the song for the British mono release.
While “Anthology 2” has no outtakes of “Love You To,” the “Revolver” box set contains three. First up is Take 1 of the song, with George on vocal and acoustic guitar, accompanied by Paul on harmony vocal. At this stage, the song was in the key of D minor (considered by classical composers to the most melancholy of the keys). The box set also contains a rehearsal with George on sitar and Paul on tamboura (a four-string Indian drone instrument). The later takes of the song were played in C minor.
The box set also contains Take 7, complete with Paul’s harmony vocal, but without the song’s instrumental introduction, which was edited to the front of the master take. Kevin Howlett’s notes in the box set’s book confirm that George did indeed play the intricate sitar part on the song. Harrison also overdubbed a fuzz guitar part. The track does not have bass guitar.
Also in the box set is Take 6 of “Here, There and Everywhere,” which is one of only two complete takes of the song. The track features Paul’s electric guitar and lead vocal, backed by George on electric 12-string guitar and Ringo on drums. Even without the three-part harmony backing vocals of John, Paul and George, the song’s beauty comes through strongly, although Paul’s lead vocal is more tentative than on Take 13, which was selected for the master.
“Yellow Submarine” always has been viewed as a children’s fantasy song written by Paul for Ringo, but a two-part songwriting work tape included in the box set demonstrates that the verses evolved from a deeply personal and stark song that John was working on. Backed only by his acoustic guitar, John sings: “In the place where I was born / No one cared, no one cared / And the name that I was born / No one cared, no one cared.” Toward the end of tape, John changes the opening line to “In the town where I come from.”
However, what started as a Bob Dylan/Woodie Guthrie-type song magically was transformed into a song for children of all ages when John’s fragment (keeping the same melody) was merged with Paul’s catchy chorus about a yellow submarine. The second part of the tape features a new set of lyrics that replace John’s somber words with lines retrofitted to go with Paul’s upbeat chorus. When John suggests that Paul sing the rewritten verses, Paul tells him: “No … you know how to sing it.” After John responds, “oh yeah, OK,” Paul asks him: “Can you read that?”
This implies that John will need to read the lyrics that were handwritten by Paul. John then strums his acoustic guitar and sings the new set of words over his original melody: “In the town where I was born / Lived a man who sailed to sea / And he told me of his life / And the land of submarines.”
This is followed by the same second verse as the finished version of the song. The chorus, sung by John and Paul, isn’t yet in its final form and contains a silly call-and-response: “We all live in a yellow submarine (Look out!), yellow submarine (Get down!), yellow submarine.” After the song breaks down, Paul does an impersonation of George Martin: “Now, come on, chaps. Cut it out! We gotta get a song done.” They then do the song again, this time repeating the same verses and chorus two times, except John sings “And he told us of his life,” instead of “told me.” At this stage, only the first and second verses had been written.
This fascinating work tape is followed by Take 4 of the song, featuring Ringo on lead vocal, prior to the addition of the sound effects and extraneous vocal shenanigans. The final piece of the story is a mix that showcases the sound effects, preceded by a spoken introduction, similar to the version of the song contained on the “Real Love” maxi-CD that was released in conjunction with “Anthology 2.”
By the time John recorded a demo tape of “She Said She Said,” he had changed his original lyrics from “He said” (referring to Peter Fonda) to “She said.” The box set contains John’s demo, complete with the temporary line, “it’s making me feel like my trousers are torn.”
The box set also contains Take 15, which is an instrumental backing with John and George on guitars, Ringo on drums and Paul on bass, putting to rest speculation that George overdubbed bass after Paul stormed out of the session. (Paul did leave prior to the superimposition of the vocals, so only John and George are heard singing on the finished master.)
In the box set, the track is preceded by John encouraging the lads: “Keep going. Last track! Last track!” (This studio banter actually took place before an earlier take.)
Although the “Revolver” box does not contain any outtakes of “Good Day Sunshine,” Howlett’s notes provide some previously unknown information regarding the recording of the song. While the tape box and recording sheet for the session show three takes of “Good Day Sunshine,” the tape reel contains six takes, with the one designated as Take 1 marked as “BEST.” Track 1 has the instrumental backing, consisting of Paul on piano, George on bass, John on tambourine and Ringo on drums. The overdubbed vocals and additional instruments were recorded on the remaining three tracks.
The box set contains three outtakes of “And Your Bird Can Sing,” which originally was titled “You Don’t Get Me.” The first version of the song, recorded on April 20, features John on rhythm guitar, George on his 12-string Rickenbacker, Paul on bass and Ringo on drums. The box set contains Take 2, with its instrumental backing and the first set of backing vocals. The song has a Byrds-like quality. “Anthology 2” has a version of this take during which John and Paul got a case of the giggles when recording their second set of vocals over the backing track. The box set has this same take, but with the straight vocal track mixed out to enable the listener to better hear John and Paul cracking up.
The group recorded a remake of the song on April 26. The early takes consisted of John on rhythm guitar, Paul on bass, George on lead guitar and Ringo on drums. Take 5 initially was considered the best, and was given overdubs, including vocals by John and Paul. This performance is included in the box set. John jokingly describes the song’s tempo as “moderato foxtrot.” It has a totally different feel than the earlier version and the finished master, sounding more like a very talented bar band, with Ringo bashing his drums and cymbals. The group wisely recorded additional takes with a different sound before settling on Take 10 as the new “BEST” recording.
The box set contains the instrumental backing of “For No One” prior to the addition of Paul’s vocal and Alan Civil’s French horn solo. This stripped-down version enables the listener to hear more clearly Paul playing clavichord (mixed left).
The box set also contains Take 7 of the unedited version of “Doctor Robert,” which clocks in at nearly 3 minutes. When the instrumental backing for Take 7 was recorded, the group accidently played the middle eight three times instead of two. John realized this mistake and the following notation was made on the tape box: “On remix 3RD 8 to be cut out.” The version appearing on the “Revolver” album, with the third middle eight edited out, runs slightly over 2 minutes.
The box set offers very little insight into the recording of “I Want to Tell You,” although we do get to hear studio banter from the start of the session, regarding the name of the song. The track starts with Martin asking, “What do you call it, George?” John responds with “Granny Smith Part Friggin’ Two,” in reference to the initial “Granny Smith” title given to “Love You To.” Engineer Geoff Emerick suggests another brand of apple, “Laxton’s Superb.” This is followed by Take 4, which quickly breaks down.
“Got to Get You Into My Life” is represented by three tracks. The first is the same outtake of the first version of the song selected for “Anthology 2” (Take 5), but with studio banter preceding the performance of the song, which fades earlier on the “Anthology 2” mix. This is followed by a mono mix of the second version of the song, made prior to the brass overdubs that were recorded over tracks that contained fuzz guitar riffs (replaced by the horn riffs), a second bass part by Paul and falsetto backing vocals by John and George. This fascinating mix enables the listener to hear yet another phase in the evolution of the song.
Finally, the box set contains Take 8, with the original horn overdubs over two tracks before they were mixed down to a single track. This instrumental backing also contains a guitar part that was not transferred over during the reduction mix that was made to free up a track for the superimposition of Paul’s vocal.
“Tomorrow Never Knows” is represented in the box set by two tracks. First is Take 1, which was one of the highlights of the “Revolver” tracks selected for “Anthology 2.” This fascinating early version of the song appears in a superior mix, with the drums in the center. The box set also contains Mono Remix 11 (“MR 11”) of “Tomorrow Never Knows,” which appeared only on a limited number of the first pressings of the mono album before Martin had the master for the album recut with MR 8. (It has been estimated that only 3,000 to 4,000 copies of the mono LP were pressed with MR 11.) The inclusion of this relatively rare mix is a nice bonus for completists and collectors.
The sessions discs also include outtakes of the single pulled from the sessions. First up are Takes 1 and 2 of the backing track for “Paperback Writer.” After Take 1 breaks down, the boys quickly move on to Take 2, which was used for the finished master. This backing would be given numerous overdubs to form the finished master.
Although many fans were aware that the instrumental track for “Rain” was recorded at a fast pace and then slowed down, to give it a heavier sound, the box set’s inclusion of the unaltered Take 5 (augmented by Paul’s overdubbed bass at the same speed) lets listeners hear what the backing originally sounded like. The song’s rapid tempo is jaw-dropping. While Ringo’s drumming on the single is one of his finest moments, it is even more impressive when one hears how fast and precise he was actually playing.
This is followed by Take 5, after the tape was slowed down from 50 kilocycles per second to 42 kilocycles for the superimposition of John’s lead vocal. The unaltered Take 5 of “Rain” runs for 2:35, while the slowed down version is 3:07 long.
The “Revolver” box set’s incredible selection of outtakes and demos will, of course, leave many fans and music historians (including me!) wishing that even more such tracks were included on the discs. While each of the two CDs easily could have accommodated several more tracks, I suspect the reason this was not done was to have the content on the two CDs match the content on the two vinyl discs, which cannot contain as much music as CDs.
Unlike the earlier releases in the Beatles album reissue series, there is no Blu-ray disc in this box set, which means there is no 5.1 mix included, although an Atmos mix is available separately for download.
The box sets in the album reissue series have been evolving, as those involved find ways to tweak the packaging and content. Apple Corps seems to have settled on a full album-size box for both the CD version and the vinyl version, with the number of CDs matching the number of vinyl discs. The use of an EP for the related singles also seems here to stay.
Howlett’s notes also are getting more comprehensive, which is a good thing.
The super deluxe edition of “Revolver” rates another solid “A” grade for Apple and all involved. The book is both informative and attractive. It contains a forward by McCartney, an introduction from Giles Martin, a guest essay from Questlove, an extract from cover artist Klaus Voormann’s graphic novel on the creation of the album’s famous cover, and extensive notes from Howlett on the recording sessions and reception of the album. The illustrations include several studio and time-appropriate images, including tape boxes from the sessions.
The CD sleeves for the outtake discs feature Robert Freeman’s unused design for the front album cover on the front and alternate Robert Whitaker photographs on the back. Freeman’s cover design is particularly impressive on the full-size album jacket in the vinyl edition of the box set, which is recommended highly for those who appreciate quality vinyl releases.
Overall, the reissue’s musical content — the 2022 remix, the 2022 mono remaster and the discs of outtakes — creates an enjoyable listening experience, as well as providing a fascinating history lesson on the making of an incredible album.