A revolver is a small firearm which does not differ too greatly from a common pistol. But rather than a clip which holds the bullets and positions them in the gun’s chamber, which is the mechanism that most pistols use these days, a revolver’s clip is a small cylinder positioned behind the gun’s barrel which revolves clockwise after each bullet has been fired in order to load the next. But while both are small firearms and both semi-automatic, the pistol does not do nearly as much damage as a revolver (with the exception of a .50 calibre and a Desert Eagle). A revolver is a beast of a gun, and powerful as hell. Maybe that is why the British quartet sensation The Beatles chose it to name what is easily considered one of their best albums. The album Revolver is equally as powerful and unique as the gun that it borrows its name from. Other than the fact that it is completely inimitable compared to any other Beatles work (the exotic instrumentation choices are one of a kind), Revolver contains some of the most creative, yet straightforward songwriting Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison have to offer. While many consider the White Album and Abbey Road to be the Beatles’ oeuvre of brilliance, Revolver stands just as, if not, stronger than both of those albums, and still sounds completely different than both Abbey Road and the White Album. Only Abbey Road can hold an edge as jagged and on par with Revolver. And that goes back to the firearm ordeal - Something is small enough to fit in your hands can be more powerful than a 7’1, 350 lb. Basketball player.
Revolver is a fourteen track album that was released in 1965, and remains one of my favourite records. Anything less than ‘classic’ would be considered unruly for an album of this calibre (ha, stupid gun joke) /lame. Anyways, Revolver is unique from other Beatles albums because of the diversity, yet unseen unity between each of the tracks on it. One track might be led by a sitar that evokes Hindu imagery while another might be a Brit mod song, and the next be a classical string orchestra arrangement, whilst they all seem to belong together, and do not seem out of place. While such diversity might seem awkward and sloppy, and it would, in the hands of lesser musicians, but John Lennon and Paul McCartney sculpt it into a masterpiece of miscellany and innocence. But that isn’t at all that there is to Revolver. In fact, beauty and gentleness is a rather active role in the shaping of this album. And the production was very well done. A rather well thought-out feature of the album is how the songs are channelled. About eighty percent of the time, the instrumentation is channelled out through the left ear, while the voices come through the right ear. And any other sound effects or ambiance is channelled cleverly switching between the two. Very cool feature, and makes the album so cool to listen to with earphones.
Rather than provoking emotion and personal experience, as heard on Rubber Soul, or Abbey Road, Revolver is a much more light hearted album. Not only does the band turn nearly every song into a small narrative, but they back away from the ‘desperate lover’ storylines and delve deep into playful, innocently thoughtful themes, as heard on Ringo Starr’s anthemic tale of a man who sailed to sea, on a Yellow Submarine, and even a cynical, sardonic blow at Parliament’s new tax laws. Taxman, written by Harrison, is the Beatles’ greatest opening song ever. With frantic guitar parts and a ‘dance your ass off’ bassline, both courtesy of McCartney, are just the backing track to the mordant lyrical content, shamelessly attacking the tax collectors of Britain with lyrics like ’Should 5% be too small, be thankful I don’t take it all’ seeming rather acerbic, but simply speaking what was on people’s minds. The band doesn’t dwell in political mockery too long, however. The other songs on Revolver are just as good, if not better, for their outlandish personas. Songs like Eleanor Rigby and Love You Too fall brilliantly into the category. Eleanor Rigby is John Lennon’s magnum opus of unaccompanied vocals with a brilliant, dramatic string orchestra consisting of arco-esque upright bass playing and violins, viola, and cello, while Love You Too accounts for George Harrison’s magnificent sitar arrangement, which can also be found on the distorted, upbeat closing song, Tomorrow Never Knows.
Not every song, on Revolver however, is as outlandish as a sitar and orchestra. In fact, a lot of songs are the standard, catchy, rocking Brit pop songs that the Beatles reputation was built on. Both Paul McCartney and John Lennon share the songwriting endowment that make their albums brilliant, and both of their voices are in top form. If you haven’t noticed yet, John’s voice is rather nasal and honky, making it perfect for the more dramatic and unique songs, while Paul’s voice is lower and more pleasant, making it ideal for the poppy, fun songs. Every song benefits from who is singing, and even if you get annoyed at the vocals, it just wouldn’t sound right if the other had taken over. But Paul does sing more often than John, who frequently takes the role of harmonizing with Paul’s voice. Mr. Ringo Starr does not do too bad of a job singing, either. In fact, his throaty yelp beautifully accentuates the sweet Yellow Submarine where he even provides the backup sing-along via megaphone, which is always fun to listen to, even if the song is tiresome after your thousandth listen. The other pop songs on Revolver range from dramatic narratives about love and life and death Catch 22’s, into more upbeat, less dismal, upbeat jangles with short narratives told from a first person point of view.
Something that blissfully elicits Revolver is its instrumentation, and unconventional choice of the instruments involved. Piano, keyboards and even an entire brass section accompany some of the songs, like the trumpet blasted Got to Get You into My Life and the dramatic organ pinnacle on I Want to Tell You. But while pianists and brass winds might seem to be rather familiar to a fair share of pop rock songs, some instruments had never been used in the context of a rock band before Revolver. I have yet to hear a band who’ve used a classical arco-style string orchestra or a fancy sitar in such a theatrical fashion. In addition to the oddities found on the album, the four members’ instrumentation is awesome. Even if you have to really listen, you can hear some of Paul McCartney’s best bass work ever. On almost every song, he manhandles his bass into a source of melodic foundations for which Harrison and Lennon build their guitar lines. And McCartney was really the first bass player who in a sense made the bass into a melodic instrument, even if he did it buried underneath the walls of sound provided by the two guitars. George Harrison is in a sense the musical genius of Revolver. He was the one who provided all the sitar tracks and takes the guitar leads, because Lennon is unable to do so as a vocalist. So give it up for George for being totally awesome on an astounding album. Kudos, George, Kudos.
As if the Beatles haven’t made enough revolutionary music for generations of musicians and fans to enjoy, they really outdid themselves on Revolver. People can argue about which Beatles album is best, but it will not accomplish anything, because either way, every Beatles production is genius. But if you are in a predicament over which Beatles album is most unique, you can narrow it down to two- Revolver and Sgt. Peppers. And which album is better? Chances are, after listening to Revolver, you’ll leave Sgt. Pepper’s out to bite the dust. So just sit back down in your comfy office chair at your computer desk, sit back, and listen to Revolver in its entirety. Your brain will feel anesthetized, just because of how good an album it is. Even if my liking of it may seem exaggerated and embellished, Revolver is really that good of an album. So how do you think I’m going to rate it?
Love You Too
And Your Bird Can Sing
Tomorrow Never Knows