Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Deluxe Edition)

The Beatles

Capitol, 2017

http://www.thebeatles.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/20/2017

So much has been said about this album that writing about it is a suicide mission. Jason Warburg’s 2006 review on our site captured both the musical and sociological impact of this disc, for example, and many other writers over the years have written much about the Beatles’ finest moment.

For me personally – and many others, I’m sure – the album played a critical role in shaping my musical tastes. I grew up with the Beatles through my parents, of course, but my dad preferred the early days of the band and so I didn’t have as much exposure to anything from Rubber Soul onward as, say, “Don’t Bother Me.” But when I was 11, I picked up a vinyl copy of Sgt. Pepper’s from our local library (this was in 1993, so that was still a thing you could do) and stood in my basement, transfixed, listening to the swirl of color and notes and beauty that was “A Day in the Life” and “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite!” and “Fixing A Hole.”

Certainly, listeners had that experience in 1967, when this album was everywhere playing on endless grooves. It has only gained in stature since then, routinely making the Top 5 of any Best Album Ever list, if not the #1 overall spot. I’d personally put it in my own Top 5, as would many other Beatles fans. It’s just that good, a world unto itself.

There haven’t been many reissues of the disc over the years; everyone had to suffer through the original 1987 CD version until Apple finally reissued the Beatles’ catalog in 2009 and punched up the sound. Now, 50 years after its release, Apple has again reissued the disc in a lavish deluxe edition, with remastering from Giles Martin (fifth Beatle George Martin’s son, who also helmed the Love project) and a plethora of bonus tracks.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Although there are a couple of different editions (including a vinyl set and a huge 4-disc box), the main offering is the two-CD set, and it is definitely the one to pick up for the best sonic edition of the album that invented the reason for remastering in the first place. Not because of the bonus second disc – which I’ll get to in a minute – but because of how fantastic Martin makes the disc sound now. Gone is the somewhat compressed sound of the previous discs; Martin, a modern producer, makes this disc pop in a way it hasn’t before, giving life and vibrancy to an album that demands it.

Witness, for example, how the title track blasts out of the speakers with attitude, or how “Good Morning Good Morning” adds some depth to John Lennon’s voice and the snarling guitar fills, with what sounds like a little bit of extra echo added on the drums to give them life. Similar treatments to volume and clarity are given to the other tracks so that the details come to vivid life – the wordless background vocals on “A Day In The Life,” the jam session on “Lovely Rita,” Paul McCartney’s concert-hall yelps on the reprise of the title track, and the pounded E chord that closes the disc like a gong reverberating in an empty church. Hearing everything come to life like a flower in spring underscores just how amazing the disc really is and even resuscitates some of the weaker tracks (mileage may vary on which ones those are, and far be it from me to cast aspersions on your personal favorite).

The problem with this deluxe edition is the second disc. As with many similar reissues, the disc is full of work-in-progress versions of the songs, with a lot of first takes and instrumental basic tracks. There’s nothing that’s a revelation for anyone who heard Anthology 2, as this is basically the same stuff but just a different version (a Take 2 instead of Take 3, for example). There was a minor to-do about Apple adding “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” to the original disc, but nothing came of that and the songs are included at the end of the second disc in demo form and in new mix form. As with the first disc, the new production brings out the clarity and details of the songs, which in Beatles history were the stepping stones from Revolver to Sgt. Pepper’s.

But Sgt. Pepper’s was a production, not necessarily a raw rock and roll album, and the deluxe editions strip the details out of the tracks to reveal basic cuts…and frankly, the basic cuts really aren’t that special with the curtain pulled back. There aren’t many albums where this would be a problem – most of the Beatles’ basic tracks, based on the Anthology series, were just fine on their own – but on this one it just feels wrong, like seeing how the magic trick works, and it adds nothing to the feeling you get when you listen to the actual album. I can’t think anyone, even big fans, will need to play this very often.

So skip that disc and buy this for the first one and be astounded, even if you’ve heard this countless times and know all the lyrics by heart. It’s the deluxe edition that this album deserves.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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