It was 50 Years ago today, (give or take), that Sgt. Pepper’s taught the band to play. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has reached the half-century mark and the Capital label has released a massive 4-CD + DVD + Blu-ray set that contains everything you could ever want to hear or know about one of the most influential albums in music history.
The summer of love and the expansion of the Vietnam War were about to change American culture and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was about to change the music industry. It was an impeccably produced album where the songs blended together into a creative whole. While the music has been an accepted part of the musical landscape since its release, there is still a fascination to it that invites constant exploration.
The highlight of the release is the new stereo mix. It brings out additional textures and invites the listener to explore unheard layers of the music. A prime example of this enhancement process is “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” which now has an almost sonic quality. This re-imagining of the album makes the set worthwhile by itself.
Discs two and three may not be played as much as the first disc but are important for their historical significance. They contain 35 tracks and over 100 minutes of demos and songs in progress, which give a look into the recording process. The intimate studio chatter adds a dimension that that will be appreciated by fans of the band. The real bonus is most of the music is being released for the first time. How many times someone will want to listen to these discs will depend upon the level of one’s desire to explore the Beatles music in depth.
The members of the Beatles always preferred the mono version of the album. The fourth disc contains the complete mono version in all its glory. In some ways, it pales next to the enhanced version but it presents the album as it was originally envisioned.
The DVD and Blu-ray contain the 1992 documentary The Making Of Sgt. Pepper’s. While the film takes on some new life through the enhancement of its clarity, it still has been available for 25 years. The interviews with Paul, Ringo, and particularly George are worthwhile, as is the studio footage with commentary by George Martin. While it does not have the impact of the CD’s, it does form a good foundation for the set and it is nice to actually see the Beatles.
The 140 page book is highlighted by song information, recording info and a number of in depth essays. It all adds up to a good companion piece to the music.
The new stereo mix and the original mono release deserve the highest rating with the unreleased in progress discs and the book just a little below that level. The set provides a lot to absorb and ultimately to experience.