This article was a collaboration between Senior Staff Writer Ben Brodsky and Contributing Writer Ari Segal.
One of the most engaging aspects of important cultural moments, specifically in the realm of sports and arts, are the debates they spark. Michael Jordan or LeBron James? Prince or Michael Jackson? “The Godfather” (1972) or “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994)? But amid these debates, the most pressing question was always, across genre, what is the greatest album of all time? Not an easy question, but there are two answers. The first, Stevie Wonder’s monumental 1976 “Songs in the Key of Life,” is a beautiful and critical R&B/soul staple. The second is “Revolver.”
The Beatles’ 1966 masterpiece, “Revolver,” is a culmination of a discography full of evolution and maturity. An all but perfect piece of art, “Revolver” was rereleased in full on Oct. 28, featuring never-heard-before mixes and studio takes from the greatest group of musicians ever assembled. Giles Martin, son of “fifth Beatle” George Martin, puts it best in the video introduction to the rerelease, claiming, “If you get tired of listening to ‘Revolver,’ you get tired of life.” Well, Mr. Martin, we’re not getting tired anytime soon.
Rereleases are always a contentious topic, as many see an alteration of historically significant albums as revisionist. This new version of an all-time-great album came with a degree of skepticism, as many listeners were worried that the changes would feel like someone rearranged their bedrooms without asking.
Tracks from the first leg of the deluxe rerelease sound generally identical to the original, and after the first two tracks, the music barely sounded like they had been mixed in 2022. However, upon playing the third song, “I’m Only Sleeping,” the recording of a yawn played over the bridge, shockingly. They put a yawn in “I’m Only Sleeping”! Such intricate additions are symbolic of the beauty of modern remasters. The introductory “Taxman” is also different than the original master. On the 2022 version, the sound effects are turned down, amplifying the first vocals we hear on the record. In this case, the original was preferable. Conversely, on “Eleanor Rigby,” the 2022 strings are amplified and split between the left and right stereo even more drastically, a delightful change. With edits in sonic experience, the album can be listened to in a completely new way.
Bringing an album to “today’s standards,” as nebulous as this sounds, really only means preserving the integrity of the original art while subtly reinforcing it for a different audience. It is a tight balancing act of deliberate alteration that, when done correctly, does not disrupt the creators’ original intention. Despite the Beatles’ impact on popular music and American culture as a whole, younger listeners can have a hard time connecting to the production style that at times sounds dated, tinny and poorly mixed by today’s standards. This reissue of “Revolver” undergoes this process tastefully, all the while paying homage to the original LP. By utilizing new technology not present in 1966, “Revolver” has successfully evolved to our 21st century standards.
This new method of remixing and remastering heavily employs artificial intelligence (AI). Before, separating individual instruments on tracks would have been nearly impossible. Utilizing AI, we are able to hear how each musician sounded, offering completely new insights into the Beatles’ brilliance. Giles Martin, using the example of John Lennon’s guitar, related that, like most AI processing, “the more information you can give it, the better it becomes.” This unprecedented technology shines more light on just how experimental and fearless the Beatles truly were in the ’60s.
While the Beatles were known as revolutionary in their time, their radical production choices have only become more respected with time. Songs like “Here, There, and Everywhere” and the outro “Tomorrow Never Knows” fit into the contemporary landscape seamlessly as a result of their wide range of influences and sound. On “Tomorrow Never Knows” specifically, the vocal embellishments and effects were far ahead of their time, leading the way for sonic evolutions. Additionally, to say this is an upgrade from the ’80s stereo mixes would be a gross understatement: There have been literal memes about how amusing these isolated stereo mixes sound.
Giles Martin employed new studio technology pioneered in the 2021 documentary “The Beatles: Get Back” to completely reimagine the original 14 tracks of this record. The documentary was heavily built around Peter Jackson’s WingNut Films Productions Ltd. technology that brought attention to previously unseen rehearsal footage of what would become their final joint effort, “Let It Be,” as well as their famous rooftop show. Giles Martin’s new remixes, or rather, “de-mixes,” allowed him to retroactively isolate individual tracks that were previously recorded directly to tape, a process that has been impossible up until now. This is not just a typical remastering of a classical album: It is a whole new experience. Now, with a completely different feel and aesthetic, “Revolver” can be enjoyed in a remarkably different way, even 56 years later.
Some Beatles purists scoffed at these new mixes, calling them a “rewriting [of] history.” Giles Martin did not run away from this criticism, but rather embraced it when he said, “They’re absolutely right … It’s not like I’ve deleted anything.”
The remaster of “Revolver” points to truth in both nostalgists and modernists. While slight changes and new tracks have been added to the 2022 rerelease, the ’60s version remains available for streaming, an option for those disapproving of the extended album. A positive reality of our current system, the old head and young buck are both satisfied. After all, why pick one?