The most famous album of all time. With 'Sgt Pepper' the Beatles effectively completed the transformation of popular music that they had started with 'Rubber Soul' and 'Revolver'. In fact, the big leap forward was 'Revolver' but everyone woke up to the transformation when Sgt Pepper was released.
This was the first 'concept' album, though the idea of being a different band is only partially carried though. Nevertheless, the very appearance of the record was different to all others: two sides of vinyl with no obvious tracks on it. And the cover ... the first ever gatefold. And the words printed on the back. And those funny cut-outs inserted into the sleeve. And all those celebrities on the main picture.
Above all, the music. The Sgt Pepper introduction is still part of Paul McCartney's sets today. Ringo still sings 'With a Little Help from my Friends'. People still debate whether 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' was about LSD. (No, it wasn't: it was a description that John's son, Julian,gave to a picture he was painting). 'Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite' is famously taken from a circus poster. And 'A Day int he Life' is reckoned by many to be the greatest / best pop song ever written (actually it was two, bolted together).
'Sgt Pepper' took the music industry by storm and it is still great, almost fifty years after it was first released. The 2009 remastering is excellent. If you don't have this piece, I recommend you get it without further delay. It is timeless.
Separating the reputation from the music is almost impossible with this album. Everything about Sgt. Pepper is iconic, from its instantly recognisable sleeve, with its Paul Is Dead "clues" to the last note of A Day In The Life. To remove it from the culture into which it exploded and massively influenced is nigh on impossible. Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band stands head and shoulders above any other album by, well anyone, in being an event, a work of art that still has impact now, almost 50 years after its release. Is it the best musical selection that was ever issued by The Beatles? I don't think so- personally I would go for Abbey Road in that regard- but is it the most essential album to own that they issued? Absolutely yes. In fact the songs, the tunes, don't, by any means, fall into the best of category, but it's what was done to those songs in their arrangements and how they were recorded that stands out. Quite honestly I think this album, above all the others, should be credited to The Beatles and George Martin. It's obvious to me, from all the documentaries and books that I have read on the subject over all the years, that without his guidance, interpretive abilities and musical talents Sergeant Pepper would not be such a cohesive, classic work of art. Sure, LSD must have had something to do with it, but someone with a level head had to sit in that control room and make it into music that is just as colourful to the ears for someone listening without the aid of hallucinogens. And it is vibrantly colourful, a sonic turbulation that demands to be listened to in one sitting- This is the original 12" mix. SPLHCB isn't about individual tunes, classics though some of them are:Aching melancholy in She's Leaving Home; Pure Perfect Pop in With A Little Help From My Friends and the pinnacle of cinematic psychedelia in Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. No, Sergeant Pepper is a suite of sound, made even more wonderful as an experience by the utterly brilliant remastering work done on both the mono and stereo 2009 reissues (And I can't choose between those).
When every other album from the last 60 years of Rock and Roll has been forgotten by me, when I'm sitting in Sunnyvale, I am fairly certain that Sergeant Pepper will still be there, colouring my mind in a way that nothing else ever could.
on 8 January 2012
[NOTE: I am reissuing my Amazon.com reviews on Amazon.co.uk. This review was originally released August 21, 1998]
[I originally wrote a seperate review, called "A magical world that has never better", posted August 23, 1998, on Amazon.com. Because it is marked as a private review it is not listed under my profile. As this is the original review, of which the second one from 2000 is modelled after (hence the 2.0 in the review title), I thought I would include it here.
Mike London, October 18, 2007]
"A magical world that has never been bettered" August 23, 1998
This whole album is a masterpiece. Nothing has been done before or since that can equal this one. Of course its been said a zillion times, but its really true. I bought it in Christmas last year (1997), and as I listened to it, it got better and better. For me, The Beatles (at first) took some time getting used too. Then they got stronger and stronger. On this record, they do almost the impossible. They create an entire magical fantasy. Its delishisouly (spelling?) sweet. The First Concept Album was indeed the finest. Everything works well with the concept. The album sleeve works better with the music than any I have seen. They help endear us to this wonderful world The Beatles are taking us too. At first I thought it was a bunch of hype, and the reason I bought it was because I was rapidly sinking (regressing, some of the younger people I know say) into the older music. I wanted Sgt Pepper cause everyone talked about it and had never heard it. This record will never be equalled, I fear. I wish it would, because I would love to do some more exploring. They took us on a Magical Mystery Tour on this one. Ironic, they did exactly that on this record, and though it was a concept album I don't think it was their intention, and then they made a concept movie with this in mind, and they didn't do that well (for The Beatles). If you want a record like no other, go out and buy this right now.
Another great record that came out the same year is The Doors (debut). If it weren't for this, that would easily be the best for that year. But Sgt Pepper has surpassed all others. The Beatles never were able to do it again. They did get it in isolated moments, but never for the whole record like on this. No one else has ever come close. This deserves all the acclaim it gets.
"A Magical World Never Bettered: V 2.0" January 14, 2000
This whole album is a masterpiece. Nothing has been done before or since that can equal this one. Of course its been said a zillion times, but its really true. I bought it in Christmas back a few years ago (1997), and as I listened to it, it got better and better. For me, The Beatles (at first) took some time getting used too. Then they got stronger and stronger. On this record, they do almost the impossible. They create an entire magical fantasy. Its delishisouly (spelling?) sweet. The First Concept Album was indeed the finest. Everything works well with the concept. The album sleeve works better with the music than any I have seen. They help endear us to this wonderful world The Beatles are taking us too. At first I thought it was a bunch of hype, and the reason I bought it was because I was rapidly sinking (regressing, some of the younger people I know say) into the older music. I wanted Sgt Pepper cause everyone talked about it and had never heard it. This record will never be equalled, I fear. I wish it would, because I would love to do some more exploring. They took us on a Magical Mystery Tour on this one. Ironic, they did exactly that on this record, and though it was a concept album I don't think it was their intention, and then they made a concept movie with this in mind, and they didn't do that well (for The Beatles). If you want a record like no other, go out and buy this right now. Another great record that came out the same year is The Doors (debut). If it weren't for this, that would easily be the best for that year. But Sgt Pepper has surpassed all others. The Beatles never were able to do it again. They did get it in isolated moments, but never for the whole record like on this. No one else has ever come close. This deserves all the acclaim it gets.
As far as personal favorites go, however, I still enjoy the White Album the most. Rubber Soul and Revolver are good also (Rubber Soul is better than Revolver, tho' Revolver is more of a break thru). YOu could see the dircetion they were going with a few of the songs off Help! Some of that material is on level with Rubber Soul. Abbey Road, which I didn't care much for now, I really enjoy now. Sgt Pepper, however, is the cultural milestone to end all cultural milestones.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 April 2015
One of the greatest albums ever made. Later revisionism says this has dated slightly and now the 'White Album', 'Revolver' and 'Abbey Road' are superior, but that fails to take in the fact that Sgt Pepper was the album that made the LP medium an art form in itself, rather than just a collection of songs. For so many, this was the first time they actually bought an LP instead of a single. Just enjoy it for what it is - a pop meisterwerk - and wait for the next round of revisionist criticism.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
In 1966 the beatles decided to end touring the world,they were fed up of the crowd screaming over their songs,fed up of death threats and fed up of being banned from countries after lennons jibe about being bigger than jesus christ.So with that in mind they had longer to concentrate on recording an album,and this in turn allowed them more creative freedom and this their eighth album was the result.
It is first and foremost an experimental album,an album filled with instruments from all over the world,sitars,french horns,violins,violas,cello,harps,clarinet,saxophone,bells,harmonium,in that sense you get the idea of the grand scale of whats going on in the album aside from the two guitars,drum and bass guitar,it could be argued that 1966s revolver was the first psychedelic album the band ever recorded but sgt.peppers was certainly the bands biggest album in terms of ideas,there are psychedelic moments on here regardless but in other ways its a finely tuned rock album with all the variety in the world,hence many regard it as the finest and most complete album of all time.
The album opens with the title track and for those who wonder who billy shears is,i will tell you,its ringo starr himself,as he sings the next track with a little help from my friends,a song covered a million times and never bettered,its an uplifting song that recalls so many good memories.Lucy in the sky with diamonds follows and is a landmark song,lennons voice is at its best and there is so much going on here,a classic if ever i heard one,and still the classics roll on,getting better,shes leaving home,a song that is capable of bringing a tear to the eye,when im sixty four,a classic mccartney number with its eccentric lyrics and classy message,lovely rita who is a meter maid or so they say,a day in the life closes the album and what a song,basically its two unfinished songs thrown together but the result is devastating,immense.I still believe that abbey road is their greatest album but this is another stunner,and who can forget the legendary album cover!
on 30 June 2015
For those who love vinyl this classic 1967 iconic album represents the peak of The Beatles creativity. The LP that broke the mold and left other bands to follow in its progressive wake. Released during the Summer of Love, this album was on the airwaves all over the world at the time of Monterey Pop festival. A very very English record, a concept album combining Rock, Music Hall, and Love Songs. Psychedelic, thought provoking music that really moved the goalposts. With each Beatles album that came out in the sixties Beatles fans expected something and they got it. The buildup to Sgt. Pepper, “Rubber Soul”, Revolver, heralded the coming of this great album. When it came out it was one of the first albums with the lyrics printed on the back. Symbolizing that the lyrics were an important part of the music. The Beatles gave us a lot and I would say should Rock Music last a thousand years people will still look back and say "This was the finest hour”. While many may see "The White Album" by The Beatles as their best work, Sgt. Peppers had a special place in people's hearts back then. A good record for beginners to start with. If they like it they can then go backwards or forwards in the Beatles songbook.
“Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”. Ah, this is where it starts to happen. The band finally seem to have got the hang of mastering and sequencing : it sounds like an album of songs designed to sit together, and not just a bunch of random stuff thrown together, and the songs, oh, the songs! This is their best one so far. “Getting Better” has a driving rhythm (later appropriated by Frank Turner for his new single “Get Better”), but there's a depth in not so well known songs such as as “Lovely Rita” that betray the fact that basically, stopping touring, and sitting at home doing not very much, is probably the best decision The Beatles could ever have made. The whole thing comes to a close with “A Day In The Life”, which is probably the best Beatles song ever.
39 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 2007
What do you say about this truly iconic album, about which millions of words, both intelligent and otherwise, have been written and spoken by millions of people?
As a total package, it's brilliant, from the cover, to the cut-outs (which are much better with the LP version!) to the music itself. The sound, experimentation, the songs and the musicianship are stunning.
If you're at all interested in The Beatles, you already own this and arguments about whether or not it's the 'best' Beatles album (or even 'the best album ever') are irrelevant. But, if you're not that interested, or new to the music, I suggest this isn't the place to start.
Of course, A Day in the Life is probably The Beatles' all time greatest song, but after many hundreds of listens, I really think Revolver, its predecessor, and The Beatles, its successor, are more enjoyable albums and better demonstrate the genius of the band.
Anyway, whatever anyone says, this is still **#@! fantastic.
on 20 December 2013
What is there to say about 'Sgt Pepper...' that hasn't been said before? Quite simply, this is a fascinating and beautifully crafted album which flows superbly from beginning to end; for me there are are a number of outstanding tracks here with Lennon just winning the battle with McCartney for classics - 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds' is inspired as is the crazily psychedelic 'Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite; 'A Day In The Life' (mostly John's genius with an inspired burst from Paul in the middle) must rank highly among the list of best ever Beatles songs. McCartney's 'She's Leaving Home' is a lovely ballad whilst 'Lovely Rita' is a pacy, exciting number. If you've never heard this album, I can heartily recommend it to you.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I won't beat about the bush, because just about everyone in their lives will have heard something relating to 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'. And you won't be short of detailed a detail analysis/review if that is what you're looking for, although for the sake of repetition, I won't both to emulate what others have said. This is because so many factual errors exist within Beatles mythology that many an author will pick up on themes and concoct their own elaborate theories.
My parents had enough foresight to keep all their original Beatles albums in top condition, largely to reiterate to their kids over the years (moi, now in his 20's) that these wonderful pieces of vinyl and their sleeves cost up to a weeks wages back in the day. And now, in 2011, we can buy these CD's for little more than an hours wages. With such in mind I thought it'd be lovely to treat the family to one of their favourite albums again, and gradually build up on a handful of The Beatles best albums so we can play them in our cars and at home.
This is where we get to the most controversial area. We are living in a world of scrutiny, and so much so that people are willing to complain at the 'slightest' frequency imperfection in the mastering, or an inconsistent in levelling between microsecond A and microsecond B. All I care about is how faithful this album actually is, and from my own ear-to-ear tests between the parents original LP and this 2009 CD, I can hear no differences in sound quality. In fact, it is the sound 'clarity' which stunned me. Whereas the high frequencies on the LP peaked with crackling and the lows rumbled about, this remaster offers basically the same experience but with a Day One effect, which is the result not only of digital playback, but from going back to the original tape recordings. This product is stunning - every single element is as clear as a whistle, yet has that analog-recorded depth and warmth that was so typical of Abbey Road recordings. Even the stereo separation is spot on, but again, has a clearer effect.
Although I have always enjoyed every song, listening to 'A Day In The Life' with the lights low and headphones on was simply mind-blowing. The clarity with this particular track is miles apart from the LP, so it was like a brand new and very emotional experience.
In short, I can only pity those that feel the need to criticise this mastering. You may think that's a strong statement, but you have to be realistic and say that individuals who pay too much attention on what 'they' think is correct are only hung up in their own self-importance to appreciate the creative ideas that actually make the album a success.
To top things off, the product is presented in a wonderful Digipak that somewhat represents the original gatefold of the LP - including images and text. A booklet inside recreates many of those attributes from the LP, and I think the packaging as a whole has a classy distinction which sets it apart from standard jewel CD cases. Again, some people have criticised this packaging, but the truth is that it's incredibly difficult to set such a compact medium apart without elaborate and expensive designs that would only drive the cost of the product up.
Sgt. Pepper's is a modern masterpiece, an album that will continue to absorb and alienate listeners all over the world. In the truest sense of the traditional album make-up, it is an experience that should be listened to from start to finish, and appreciated in all its entirely without distractions such the phone or the computer.