Allen Coté Reimagines The Beatles’ ‘Revolver’
Milwaukee multi-instrumentalist and music teacher Allen Coté is no stranger to wearing different musical hats. But when the muse struck last June, in the wake of the deadly shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla., he took the kernel of an idea and turned it into something greater: With his group Lyric Advisory Board, he reimagined The Beatles’ seminal album Revolver.
“This was never even meant to be a recording project. I actually wanted to do a 50th Anniversary show for each of the albums from Revolver onward, and these were going to be demos,” Coté said. But the project grew into something more than lessons for his students.
Two days after the June 12 shootings, Coté found himself affected by the tragedy so profoundly that as a means of coping he recorded basic vocal and guitar tracks in a single night for the entire album. Later overdubs would be added with emphasis on feeling over perfection.
“All the acoustic guitar and my vocals were done live in three takes or less, in a single night in my living room,” Coté said. So in one recording session, with a few microphones and a Pro Tools recording rig he was ready to bring his collaborators.
1966 found the Beatles at a crossroads, leaving behind their mop-top image as 45 rpm chart-toppers and venturing into the mind-expanding sounds of psychedelia. Revolver was the pivotal album of a new day rising.
As the project developed Coté realized he heard The Beatles album differently. “Given the time frame and the way it was recorded, I definitely noticed much more darkness in the album than I had before,” he said.
“Whether that’s because of what I put into it or if I just deluded myself previously, I don’t know,” he continued. “But there is an almost unrelenting heaviness to most of the songs. I always hated ‘Yellow Submarine,’ but now I’m grateful for the breath in the middle.”
As reimagined, “Taxman” is turned from a bass-propelled juggernaut into an intense finger-picked meditation. “Eleanor Rigby” takes on a hymn-like quality. “Good Day Sunshine” morphs into a jugband goodtime blues and the quirkiness of “Doctor Robert” is streamlined. “She Said, She Said” gets laced with a sense of weariness.
Grafting them into a suite, “I Want To Tell You/Got To Get You Into My Life/Tomorrow Never Knows,” Coté smooths the jubilant, jaunty blast of the first two songs and strips the psychedelic aura of the closing tune and fuses them into something akin to Nick Drake circa Five Leaves Left.
At its heart, Revolver as performed by Lyric Advisory Board takes a personal spin. Core-members Jeff Brueggeman played bass, Nathan Kilen played drums, Margaret Stutt (aka Pezzettino) played accordion and John Patek played violin. Coté’s vocals offer a sense of sincerity, especially when harmonizing with Heidi Spencer and Stutt.
Yet for the heaviness that prompted the project, Coté’s daughter Willa Moon Coté offers a wide-eyed sense of optimism and fairly steals the show. Her vocals and commentary on “Yellow Submarine” speak volumes. As her dad sings “As the band begins to play,” she replies “where is the band?”