The Beatles: Revolver: Super Deluxe 5-CD Edition (Apple/Universal, 5 CDs). Originally released on Aug. 5, 1966, “Revolver” was The Beatles’ seventh studio album. It built on the musical explorations of the previous year’s “Rubber Soul” with much more sophisticated arrangements and instrumentation. Nearly every track is brilliant, as the album contends for the best Beatles release. The Beatles themselves were becoming more sophisticated, having encountered Indian music, more Motown sounds and the use of drugs. Rolling Stone magazine has twice listed it as the third greatest album of all time.

It marked the start the start of The Beatles’ psychedelic period, especially their use of LSD. The lyrics reflect their interest in Eastern philosophy and addressed the themes of death (“Eleanor Rigby”) and transcendence from material concerns. The quartet made liberal use of reversed tapes, double tracking, and instruments such as sitar, tamboura (both on “Love You To”) and a string octet (“Eleanor Rigby”). “Tomorrow Never Knows” incorporates a heavy Indian drone and a collage of tape loops.

The innovative album produced such classics as George Harrison’s “Taxman” and John Lennon-Paul McCartney’s “Eleanor Rigby,” “Here, There and Everywhere,” “She Said She Said,” “Good Day Sunshine,” “Got To Get You Into My Life” and the Ringo Starr-sung “Yellow Submarine.” The rest are good, if not quite as memorable, including “I’m Only Sleeping,” the ballad “And Your Bird Can Sing,” “For No One,” “Doctor Robert,” “I Want To Tell You” and the aforementioned “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Love You To.” In addition, the session yielded the classic double-sided single of “Paperback Writer” and “Rain,” which are included here as an EP with both mono and stereo versions.

“Revolver” itself is included in both the mono master version and a new stereo mix. Both sound outstanding, with the new stereo mix adding more clarity to the backing vocals, such as on “And Your Bird Can Sing,” and generally moving Starr’s drums into the center of the mix. There is more punch to McCartney’s bass.

There remain two discs of studio sessions, through which one can hear the band working through different arrangements, as well as some jovial studio chatter as they decide which directions to take, and McCartney even learns the difference of the octet playing vibrato from producer George Martin. Martin’s son, Giles, produced the new box set.

The sessions material is very entertaining, starting with the tape loops on “Tomorrow Never Knows.” There are three early versions of “Got To Get You Into My Life,” with very different vocal arrangements and an instrumental version that highlights the trumpets and saxophones. “Love You To” sees three early versions, with the first just Harrison on acoustic guitar and McCartney harmonizing. There also is a rehearsal of the sitar and tamboura parts. There is the backing track for “Paperback Writer” and two “Rain” instrumentals, one at actual speed and one slowed down with vocals for the master tape. The two attempts at “And Your Bird Can Sing” feature some studio chatter and then Lennon and McCartney laughing a lot as they try to match the vocal for double tracking.

On the second sessions disc, “Taxman” has different chorus backing, then there are four versions of “I’m Only Sleeping,” working through different arrangements. Lennon breaks off during one attempt. There is studio chatter before “Eleanor Rigby,” and then an instrumental take with the octet playing more vigorously. After the “For No One” backing track, there are four takes of “Yellow Submarine,” including some chatter on the second. Lennon’s original acoustic guitar version was much dourer, with the line, “In the place where I was born, no one cared, no one cared.” There are Lennon’s demo version and the backing track for “She Said She Said.”

The set has a wonderful 100-page hardcover book that starts with McCartney’s introduction that briefly mentions how each song came about. The liner notes themselves break down the different versions of each song. Artist Klaus Voormann offers an 8-page graphic comic on how he developed the cover drawing. There are marvelous photos from the era, as well as copies of lyric sheets and tape box markings for each song. Drummer Questlove writes a multipage essay about his coming to love the album and there is an overview of the band in the period before the album’s making. A closing essay looks at the album’s reception. Ahead for the band would be “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Grade: box set A+

Bird Streets: Lagoon (Sparkle Plenty/deko, CD). For his second album under the Bird Streets name, John Brodeur has expanded the project’s collaborative foundation, enlisting production by Patrick Sansone (Wilco), Michael Lockwood (Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple), Zach Jones (Sting) and Oscar Albis Rodriguez (A Great Big World). There are guest appearances by Aimee Mann, Ed Harcourt, John Davis (Superdrag), Jody Stephens (Big Star) and top-shelf session players. The mixing is split between Sansone and Grammy winner Michael Brauer (Coldplay, John Mayer), with mastering by Grammy nominee Pete Lyman (Brandi Carlile, Chris Stapleton).

The album starts off with a terrific trio of tracks. Strings open “Sleeper Agent,” which finds the singer with total paralysis, contemplating that his “first move could be my last.” It is the second single released from the album. Drums kick in midway, lifting the song to greater heights. “Machine” finds Brodeur haunted by the loss of a friend, although the song is upbeat throughout. The more brooding “Burnout” is about trying to get high in various ways to get by. The song has a winning arrangement. Brodeur is currently 10 years sober from alcohol, but “Disappearing Act,” which features trumpet and saxophones and is a song of regret, is about his past drunken days. It is one of the stronger songs here.

“Lagoon” is a step forward for the artist who has been hailed for his evocative storytelling. Sansone helmed sessions in Nashville (“Burnout,” “Leave No Trace,” the bossa-flavored “The Document”) and later in Memphis, where he and Brodeur were joined by guitarist Davis and drummer Stephens, forming a power-pop fantasy band. “Machine,” “Go Free” and “SF 1993” come from the Memphis dates. Back home in Brooklyn, Brodeur cut several tracks with the production team of Jones and Rodriguez, including “Ambulance,” “Let You Down” and the soul-rock of “Disappearing Act.” When the pandemic threw a wrench in the works, Brodeur turned to Los Angeles-based producer Lockwood to remotely helm the final stretch.

The album’s songs are about dealing with change, how time does not truly heal all wounds, and the lies we tell ourselves to deal with our shortcomings. Some songs, such as “The Document,” appear to be about the dissolution of his marriage. “SF 1993” is full of regret over the ending of a relationship and “Unkind” says it is his fault for a relationship ending, while the big-sounding “Ambulance,” whose final vocal is a scream, is about screwing up again. Grade: B+

The Damned: A Night of a Thousand Vampires: Live in London (ear-music/Edel, 2 CDs + Blu-ray, 96 min.). The Damned, a pioneering British punk band, was formed in London in 1976. The five-piece performing in this special live show, Oct. 28, 2019, at the London Palladium, includes original members vocalist-songwriter David Vanian and guitarist Captain Sensible, plus drummer Andrew Pinching, bassist Paul Gray and keyboardist Monty Oxymoron. All but Gray, who rejoined the band in 2017, have been together since 2004, but this show was Pinching’s last. During the mid-1980s, with the release of their sixth and seventh studio albums, the band moved towards a gothic rock style. With Vanian’s baritone singing, dark lyrics and vampire-themed costume, the band was a major influence on the goth subculture.

The horror theme is prevalent throughout this 17-song concert. Not only are the band members dressed for the occasion, including Vanian with facial makeup and fake ears, but actors prowl the stage on several occasions, even dragging an “audience member” onto the stage to have his throat sliced during “Eloise.” There are two dancers throughout the show, with the ladies sitting on an elevated perch during “Tightrope Walk.” One twirls by a head rig and even throws off sparklers during “Absinthe.”

Musically, Captain Sensible is the standout, with several good solos. Song highlights include the opening “Beauty or the Beast,” “Plan 9 Channel 7,” the bouncy pop of “Grimly Fiendish,” the pop of “Under the Floor Again,” “I Just Can’t Be Happy Again” and their covers of The Doors’ “People Are Strange” and Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” the later paired with “Neat,” The Damned’s 1977 single. A string quartet joins the band for the latter part of the show, as well as two solo violinists, while a trumpeter is featured throughout the show. Grade: B+

Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has reviewed music since 1972, just after graduation from Northwest-ern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has reviewed videos/DVDs since 1988.

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