The Beatles

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The Modern (Not Mod) Beatles

Revolver is the big hinge in the discography of the Beatles. Their previous album, Rubber Soul, offers a program of wistful love songs. The next one, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, begins the band's headfirst charge into experimentation. Revolver connects the two. It has the plaintive earnestness of the early band, and the radical curiosity—about sound, subject matter, composition—that defined everything after.

Although the band had already been exploring, this time they're brazen and much more thorough about it: "Tomorrow Never Knows," which finds Lennon reading excerpts from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, plays like a test to see how far into terrifying dissonance pop can go. Similarly, "Taxman," the bitterest song George Harrison ever wrote, voices a cynicism then unusual in pop. "Good Day Sunshine" is its opposite—a grand attempt at the flamboyantly rococo, pure pop joy for its own sake. But wait, there's more. Revolver contains another foray into classical Indian music ("Love You To"), and the band's first acid-trip cartoon ("Yellow Submarine"). It's the home of a feather-pillow McCartney ode, "Here, There, and Everywhere," that schooled Burt Bacharach and a generation of tunesmiths, and also "Eleanor Rigby," the odd still-life that is richer in character development than many three-hour movies.

Every track lives in its own sonic wonderland—here's where the Beatles expand the toolbox, with clever implementation of sitar, brass band, harpsichord, and string quartet. And yet, characteristically, none of the exotica seems ostentatious: The Beatles and producer George Martin seek what the songs demand and not a note more. This sense of honoring the material is what makes Revolver utter perfection, at once the wildest and most cohesive listening experience the Beatles ever created.

Genre: Rock
Released: 1966, Capitol
Key Tracks: "Love You To," "Taxman," "For No One," "Got to Get You into My Life"
Catalog Choice: Rubber Soul; Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Next Stop: The Zombies: Odyssey and Oracle
After That: XTC: Skylarking
Book Pages: 59–60

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#1 from Steve Petrica, Bethesda, Md - 10/28/2008 5:11

You’ve got to make “Revolver” a featured recording.  The Beatles were clearly the most significant performers in popular music history, and this album is their creative genius in full flower.  “Rubber Soul” just before it, and “Sgt Pepper” just after may be equally brilliant, but “Revolver” is *the* quintessential Beatles album.

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