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Smug critics say that "Revolver" is the Beatles' best album. That Sgt Pepper is a too obvious choice and overrated, the White Album is too indulgent and Abbey Road is too prog-rock. I think it's also a case of the young and fresh days of a cultural movement, in this case peace-love-'n'-psychedelia, being the most highly regarded. Well I think it has its moments, quite a few moments in fact, but it's certainly not their best.
There's no arguing with the greatness of "Eleanor Rigby". When people say music "sounds like the Beatles", quite often they mean the sound of this song. It's richly-textured pop, with bright-eyed clear singing, luscious harmonies and packed full of strong tunes. "For No One" is another, underrated, example of this refined "classical pop" sound here. But it's probably the hippyism and psychedelic stuff that was original about this at the time, as well as the clever new production techniques. John's "Tomorrow Never Knows" is the classic turn-on-tune-in-drop-out themed piece, with some nifty early tape trickery. Much more tasteful than "Revolution 9". The other of John's songs that stands out here is "I'm Only Sleeping" - simple and great lyrics that people will always be able to relate to. George finally goes the whole way with his love of Indian classical on "Love You To", aided by Ravi Shankar. Good, but it's only a warm up for "Within You Without You". Ringo gets some ribbing, but "Yellow Submarine" is enjoyably dumb and demented, with a beat like a (gentle) repeated bash over the head. I must see the film some time in all its druggy splendour.
I'm sure it was different in its context, but there's still too much Sixties fluffy pop here for it to sound fresh to my ears now. Bit-songs like "Good Day Sunshine", "She Said She Said" and "And Your Bird can Sing" are fun and summery but too dated to make this album a lasting classic.
February 12, 2004