Revolver vs Revolver

When it was decided we should tackle The Beatles re-issues as a team I was all for it. “Go team!” said I. The group hug was intense, yet manly. Team spirit was high. That was until the box of discs arrived and my individual desire to get to Revolver before the others saw team ethics (and maybe the odd body) swiftly out the window. Despite a few black eyes and broken ribs there are few hard feelings.

For me Revolver is the pinnacle of The Beatles' career. With the exception of 'Yellow Submarine' (sorry Ringo fans), it’s their finest body of work. Sandwiched between Rubber Soul (great songs, less studio trickery) and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (great studio trickery, less great songs) Revolver has the perfect blend of solid song writing with studio trickery.

Having lived quite happily with the existing CD version for many years I was intrigued to see what the re-mastered version brought to the table. And if you want to stop reading now, it isn’t really that much. One of my biggest fears in getting one album from the boxset was that the difference would be like night and day and I’d be out buying the rest upon hearing the opening guitar stabs of ‘Taxman’. That isn’t the case.

The changes are there, but they are subtle: the bass is fuller, the vocals are cleaner and the guitars are punchier. But I’d be lying if I said there was ever more than a 10% improvement. Considering the quality of the source materials you’ll have to ask yourself if that 10% is worth the investment. For some people it will be: if you listen to little else other than The Beatles you’ve probably bought the boxset already.

The white coat went on and a workout under varying conditions was undertaken. On average quality headphones with no ambient noise there is a very subtle difference. In the car it’s impossible to tell which is which and it's only through a top end stereo with no background noise the changes become more pronounced. The album is more alive under perfect conditions, but I am listening to lossless copies on random in the background as I type this and have to check the screen to tell which version is playing. I’m only spotting changes if I listen hard and that’s not how I enjoy music. I’m often leaping about singing along rather than sticking egg-boxes to the walls and plugging in the oscilloscope.

It has been a pleasure to live with this album in such an intensive manner - a pop master-class and a landmark in recording techniques. Maybe the quality of the original recordings make it hard to improve upon? Some of my colleagues at TMF are looking at other aspects and albums in the box-sets and I’m intrigued to see where in the catalogue the major differences are.

So, in summary, if you don’t own Revolver (WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU!!) now is the time to buy. If you do, I personally wouldn’t be rushing out to buy this re-master, but I would just put it on again today to reacquaint yourself with an old friend.

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