It’s the time of year for saving money!
By now you’ve probably heard that there’s a exciting new super deluxe edition boxed set being released this month celebrating The Beatles landmark 1966 recording, Revolver. We received an advance copy of the digital version of the set and today begin to explore it.
While some casual fans are divided on the notion of when the Beatles’ psychedelic period began — many consider 1967’s Sergeant Pepper the beginning of that time — most serious Beatle-philes know that the band’s maturing creativity really began to flow a year or so before coming out of Rubber Soul and into the groundbreaking Revolver.
And that concept has never felt truer and more evident than in this new expanded multi-disc edition of Revolver which features amazing new Stereo mixes of the entire album as well as a wealth of incredible studio outtakes. All of the exuberance of Pepper is in full flower here, perhaps even more so…
Prepared with the use of exclusive Artificial Intelligence driven technology created for/by film producer Peter Jackson (who produced the wonderful new version of The Beatles’ Get Back film), the new Stereo mix offers wonderful new perspectives for this music.
The proprietary “de-mixing” extraction programs used to make this new Stereo mix enabled release of the individual instrumental tracks from previously permanent mix-down limbo. The Beatles would often record entire segments of music together as a band on one track, notably drums, bass and rhythm guitars. This was great for making a punchy Mono mix but many of the early Stereo mixes made back in the day were not always as appealing.
It is a bit involved to explain and beyond the scope of this review to go into that sort of detail, but in lay terms this new technology is akin to a program that could take apart the different color layers of a painting to reveal how the work was assembled. And then the producers are able to reassemble the work in a more three dimensional manner so you can see increased detailing of the colors, exposing the multi-layered thought processes which went into creating the masterwork.
But even that analogy isn’t 100-percent on target, I admit, but I hope you get the idea…
Since its original release, there has long been a Stereo version of Revolver but due to the limitations of the recording technology of the period, the sound design of the 1966 Stereo mix is not quite as enjoyable as the punchier and more balanced Mono mix. In 1966, Mono was still the dominant format for records and radio so The Beatles put most of their effort into that mix.
Old early Stereo mixes would often put drums in one channel while vocals and other instrumental overdubs might appear in the other channels. This often made for an awkward listening experience as high fidelity equipment matured over the years — especially if you were trying to listen on headphones or on a car stereo. Those mixes grew tiresome — for me, it never made sense to me having a drum kit banging away in one channel while the bass guitar was in the other. In that sense, when it comes to listening to rock and pop music in Stereo, it is often much more appealing when the drums and bass are locked in dead center.
While this new de-mixing technology is no doubt painstaking and time-consuming to execute, at the end of the day the results are what matters. And the new Stereo remix Giles Martin has created for Revolver is overall wonderful. Most importantly, it sounds like Revolver should sound, presented in a much more pleasing Stereo sound stage than previously was possible with greater detail and presence of individual parts.
The instruments are clearer and balances are generally very much improved. One caveat I have to acknowledge for hardcore Beatle-philes: in keeping with most of the other remixed Beatles albums, the vocals are mostly more up front, a wee bit higher in the mix (if you will). That isn’t a bad thing from my perspective as the goal here is not to replace the originals but to offer new insights into the music within. In some ways, this new Stereo mix strives to be as enjoyable as the Mono mix (which will always be the definitive version of the album — a fresh new mastering off the original tapes was included in the set!).
Everything in this new boxed set is presented on standard at 16 bit, 44.1 kHz compact discs. Overall, the CDs sound as good as CDs go. Certain songs sounded a bit bright to my ear — particularly “Taxman” and “Got To Get You Into My Life,” especially when you turn up the volume. But in general the CD version sounds very good indeed, especially tracks like “Eleanor Rigby,” “Here There And Everywhere” and “Yellow Submarine.” “She Said, She Said” rocks madly in this new mix. There are many instances of increased detailing through out.
For those of you who purchased The Beatles In Mono boxed set from some years back, I briefly spot-checked compared the new Mono CD of Revolver included in the set and it stands up favorably to that earlier version. Again, the new CD sounds a bit brighter but other wise it sounds pretty much like Revolver should sound in digital form.
The four disc Revolver boxed set includes two CDs of session outtakes which are amazing in their own right. I’ll explore those session in part two of this review series upcoming.
If I have any disappointment about this new digital edition of Revolver super deluxe edition set is is that it did not include a high resolution transfer of this great new Stereo mix on a physical Blu-ray Disc. However, the set will be streaming in high resolution (including a Dolby Atmos mix on some high end services). As soon as those are available I will be sure to update you all on them.
Of course we have the new vinyl version of the Revolver super deluxe edition box set to look forward to as well (I will be covering that for another site). But for now I am quite happy with the new Stereo mix of Revolver and am glad to have it on CD. While I can certainly enjoy it at home on my Oppo universal disc player, the truth of the matter is that I still have a CD player in my car so it is great to be able to easily take all this new Beatles music on the road without having to rely on a streaming service.
And, yes, the new Stereo mix of Revolver sounds great in the car. I drove up to Sacramento over the weekend listening to it along the way and it rocked on the road!
The Revolver super deluxe edition boxed set comes out next week on October 28th and is available for pre-order. You can click on the album title anywhere in the review to jump to Amazon but it no doubt will be available wherever great music is sold these days.
Stay tuned for my exploration through the session outtakes…