Roll over, Sgt. Pepper. The Beatles’ Revolver is way beyond compare. Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield declared it “the best album the Beatles ever made, which means the best album by anybody.”
And thanks to a lavish new reissue overseen by Beatles producer George Martin’s son Giles Martin, Revolver has never sounded better. It’s got extras (28 early takes, three home demos, remastered mono and new stereo mixes of “Paperback Writer” and “Rain”). You can buy a 63-track super-deluxe special edition (five CDs, four LPs, a 7-inch EP, a 100-page hardcover book); a deluxe special edition (two-CD digipak and 40-page booklet); or the standard special edition (the original 14 tracks, digital and on CD, LP or vinyl picture disc).
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So why does 1966’s Revolver outplay 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which used to be widely considered the band’s finest hour? Seven Beatles authorities offer their explanations:
Ken Barnes, former USA Today music editor
Sgt. Pepper was impeccably timed, Barnes says, at a point where pop music fans had “a nearly unshakable conviction that a favorite band progresses in an ever-ascending line, when the pattern is just as likely to be a bell curve. In that mindset, Pepper had to be better than Revolver.”
So what turned the tide of opinion? “Starting with the CD era, the original British version of Revolver became widely available in the U.S., for the most part replacing the amputated American release, which had sacrificed three John Lennon songs: ‘I’m Only Sleeping,’ ‘And Your Bird Can Sing,’ ‘Dr. Robert’ — among his best creations, period.” Revolver had three George Harrison tunes, a first. “His mantra mash-up ‘Love You To’ is far livelier than Pepper’s stolid, preachy ‘Within You, Without You.’ As for McCartney, ‘Lovely Rita’ and ‘Fixing a Hole’ are patented pop delights on Pepper but don’t measure up to the haunting melancholia of ‘For No One’ and the brassy soul of ‘Got to Get You Into My Life.’
“Sgt. Pepper’s ‘A Day in the Life,’ the welding of separate Lennon and McCartney creations, may be the single greatest achievement of the Beatles. It cements Sgt. Pepper’s status as a superior summation of state-of-the-art 1967 pop-rock. But the experimental foundation had already been dug, the boundary-pushing already accomplished, by its predecessor.”
Faith Cohen, founder of Global Beatles Day
“For the first time, the Beatles had relieved themselves of their grueling touring schedule and sequestered themselves in the studio to follow every creative impulse. Their attention was no longer on just girls. They were dealing with more adult themes. ‘Taxman’ is about money. Love is dealt with but in the context of lasting love in ‘Here, There and Everywhere,’ and the death of love in ‘For No One.’ Loneliness in ‘Eleanor Rigby,’ LSD and death in ‘She Said She Said.’ Consciousness and the transition from life to death and beyond in ‘Tomorrow Never Knows,’ arguably the most elaborate and shocking aural surprise.”