Sunday, 13 September 2009

“Revolver” by THE BEATLES. A Review of their 1966 Masterpiece Now Ressiued On A 2009 Enhanced Remastered CD.

"…The Day Breaks…Your Mind Aches…"

Did you know that the Beatles don't actually play an instrument on "Eleanor Rigby" (it's a six string ensemble with Paul's vocals)? Or that George Martin plays the piano on "Good Day Sunshine"? Or that George Harrison doesn't play Sitar on "Love You To" (it was a session man) but does on "Tomorrow Never Knows? Did you know that the stereo catalogue number for the original British LP of "Revolver" on which this CD is based is Parlophone PCS 7009?

Well you do now!

All insufferable smartarse remarks aside - why do I mention this - because you're not going to learn any of these interesting and relevant facts from the woefully weak booklet that accompanies this CD...

Let's get this straight from the start – THE SOUND ON THIS 9 Sept 2009 REMASTER OF "REVOLVER" IS MAGNIFICENT - it really is - and for many people that will be enough. But for fans that have waited 22 years for EMI to get this right, the description of this CD reissue as being endowed with 'deluxe packaging' is frankly laughable.

I mean only EMI could forget to include the album's original catalogue number! Or how about supplying the lyrics (too much like hard work boys) or an interview with the Producer George Martin, the engineer Geoff Emerick? Or how about picturing the differing worldwide picture sleeves that accompanied the singles that came off the album? Or even adhering to the original issue of the LP for God's sake! With a playing time of 34:47 minutes and plenty of room, where's the MONO mix as it was originally released? The laughable "historical notes" last 2 whole pages - the recording notes a page and a half - the rest is pointless pictures of the boys that give absolutely no sense of event or any knowledge of the album and its monumental impact. The three-way card digipak is pretty - it is - but it has a matt cover and the second you get it out of the shrink-wrap it starts to mark and pick up grease. Infuriatingly, the BEATLES in MONO box set has the REPRO BRITISH LP SLEEVE in all its laminated hard-card flip-back rear-sleeve glory - a far sturdier and prettier effort - but it's £200 to acquire such a privilege (if you can find one)!

I know it's a bit of a cliché to whine on about packaging, but can you imagine what Ace Records of the UK, Bear Family of Germany, Rhino of the USA or Raven of Australia (proper reissue labels) would have done to a catalogue of this importance and stature? They would have shown this extraordinary band and one of its greatest recorded achievements the respect and affection it deserves - instead you get the distinct feeling of a corporate organisation just doing what it can get away with (there's no download variant of it available as yet either). Four years prepping this! Four years doing what? Picking their noses!

But let's get back to the music.

"Revolver" (their 7th album) was originally released 5 August 1966 in the UK on both Parlophone PMC 7009 Mono and PCS 7009 Stereo. The American issue followed 3 days later on Capitol T-2576 Mono and ST-2576 Stereo. The UK issue had 14 tracks, the US had 11 - the three missing from the American issue were "And Your Bird Can Sing", I'm Only Sleeping" and "Dr. Robert" which had appeared on the June 1966 US album "Yesterday And Today". This issue follows the UK release with the full compliment of 14. The CD label also reflects the black and yellow lettering of the original British LP, as does the rear cover artwork, which advertises the use of an "Emitex" record cleaning cloth! The enhanced CD track called "Mini Documentary" (broadcast last weekend on the BBC preceding the worldwide release of their catalogue) is largely black & white in-studio shots featuring the voices of the Fabs and George Martin discussing songs and techniques on the album - it's directed by BOB SMEATON and is nice, but disappears way too fast (and we've already seen it). There's a link to the official website, but naught else of any real worth... So the supposed bonus track turns out to be two and half minutes of video footage we've already seen and something EMI has blatantly used as a sales device!

Sound - hearing this 2009 remaster is a SONIC BLAST from start to finish. Both GUY MASSEY and STEVE ROOKE have remastered the first generation stereo master tapes and to say they've done a good job is like saying the Great Wall of China is an o.k. building project! Their work here is fabulous – monumental almost - it really is. The sound quality is glorious throughout - clear, warm, detailed - every single track a revelation. My only complaint would be that some songs are very loud - "Got To Get You Into My Life" and "Here, and There & Everywhere" in particular, but George Martin produced them that way. The hiss level is barely audible on any of the songs, but what is subtly audible now is the new instrument flourishes you can hear almost everywhere. The brilliant Harrison guitar playing on the New York Drug Pusher song "Dr. Robert" is at last to the fore, the lone horn work of ALAN CIVIL on "For No One" is suddenly so pretty, while Ringo's superlative drumming on "Tomorrow Never Knows" is now absolutely huge to a point where the clarity and sheer whack of the remaster brought me to tears. If you love this record, you're in for a treat.

So there you have it - an absolute wow 10-out-of-10 on the sound front - but could have done so much better on the rest.

But my God - what a band - and what a recorded legacy they left behind. Float downstream indeed folks...

Recommended - despite little old pacifist me wanting to threaten the pencil pushers at EMI with physical violence...

I need to get out more...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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