Over the last probably twenty years the impact and significance of Revolver as an album and where it sits in the Beatles canon has grown considerably. It stands as one of the great if not the greatest pop rock album ever recorded and for me it's better than Sgt Pepper which to me has some uneven moment especially on side two. Revolver was the middle album of an incredible creative run in which the band's growing confidence was on display, the songwriting and musicianship reached unheralded heights. The focus seemed to be one of continuous improvement, fearlessness and a sense of how far can we push the boundaries.
The album opens with the blistering Taxman with it's stuttered opening, it's a cynical portrayal of the high tax rate The Beatles were forced to pay on their earnings, it has a fantastic guitar solo from Paul McCartney fast and melodic cascades of notes. To me Revolver was also the album in which Ringo Starr established himself as one of the great rock drummers, his work on this album was a continuation of his work from Rubber Soul, crisp rolls and a strong unrelenting beat, very percussive with his touches on the hi hat. Eleanor Rigby takes the album to another level entirely such a haunting song musically it grips you and drags you in, it also has a story to match, the song permeates a sense of apocalypse,
Father McKenzie wiping his hands as he walks from the grave,
No one was saved,
All the lonely people, where do they call come from,
All the lonely people where do they all belong.
The song conveys a a dramatic sense of isolation and desperation, the strings capture that forlorn sense of hopelessness, it's a song that has never been equalled in quality or effect. I'm Only Sleeping is Lennon at his sardonic best, witty and unaffected by the drama that life presents, escape is the best policy. The song has a gentle lazy feel it seems Ringo is way behind the beat he tones his drumming down and has a flatter sounds that fits the song perfectly. The song finishes with a guitar solo that has been fed through a backward loop which was something the band were experimenting with. Love You Too was one of the three songs George Harrison wrote for the album and was his first in depth experiment into Indian music far from seeming intrusive it highlights the diversity of the album and the uncanny ability of The Beatles to fit different musical styles into a cohesive fit.
Here There and Everywhere slows things down, it was McCartney's attempt at writing a song similar to Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys, the song has some nice chord changes with Harrison providing some nice soft picking. Yellow submarine is a song that polarises opinion but the Beatles created a perfect vehicle for Ringo to deliver a great performance, it sounds like a tribute to British music hall, with it's bombastic horns and loud thundering chorus. She Said She Said was based on a comment made by Peter Fonda that he knew what it was like to be dead. Once again Lennon at his acerbic best, leeringly questioning the validity of such an assertion, with some pounding drumming from Ringo to add the point. George Harrison's role as guitarist in the group was like his songwriting sometimes overshadowed and not given it's fair due. Harrison was capable of melodic and often funky riffs which he demonstrates on She Said.
Side Two begins with the bright Good Day Sunshine which features McCartney on piano and with a more dominant bass sound and some crashing cymbal work from Ringo. And Your Bird Can Sing which Lennon himself professed a dislike of has a wall to wall sound of guitars and features some nice percussive hi hat work from Ringo. It also shows off the groups ability at vocal harmonising which they experimented with on the entire album. For No One is McCartney at his melodic best once again harnessing his ability to create these amazing musical canvases with hints of oboe or trumpet or something else that fits his visions intimately. Doctor Robert is funky and depicts the story of Lennon and Harrisons first brush with LSD a year earlier at the home of a prominent dentist who spiked their drinks. The bridge has Lennon singing in an exaggerated fashion with prominent keyboards creating a shroud of acid like proportions. I Want To Tell You from George Harrison as the same quality as If I Needed Someone but with a little more urgency and the piano really underpins the rhythm. Got To Get You Into My Life is McCartney celebrating soul music with blasting horns and some fantastic chord changes and a nice funky bridge featuring Harrisons blended chords, Ringo provides a more than suitable jazz accompaniment, he really shines on this song. After such a happy ending the album closes with the opening of a psychedelic vortex has Lennon espousing the coming ideal of tuning in and dropping out.
Turn off your mid, relax and float down stream,
It is not dying, it is not dying,
Lay down all thoughts and surrender to the void,
It is shining, it is shining.
Ringo plays a hypnotic rhythm that constantly repeats, the structure of the song melodically is based on tape loops with more than a hint of Eastern mysticism present. The song is audacious in it's experimentalism for the time, no other pop group came close to replicating this sound. Revolver has continued to stand the test of time, it's an album that attracts new devotees probably more than any other iconic album. I was amazed when I first heard it as a kid, I was completely terrified of Tomorrow Never Knows it seemed like the end of the world coming out of the tape player!