on January 8, 2013
This is the second album that I've purchased from the remastered 180g vinyl LP Beatles' discography, after having been thoroughly satisfied with the Abbey Road album in that series. I was once again bracing for the worst, based on some of the previous reviews of Sergeant Pepper's here.
This vinyl LP will be played back on a Linn Axis Turntable fitted with a Linn Ittok LV-II tone arm, a Shure V15 V-MR cartridge and a JICO Super Analogue Stylus (SAS).
There was no damage to the outer album cover or any bent edges. I carefully inspected the actual LP for any obvious signs of damage such as scuffs, gouges or warps, as well as for the much talked about "non-fill" defect - which can appear as a "string of pearls". I could find no visual evidence of any such damage. There is only a slight unevenness that can be observed when the LP is in rotation on the turntable platter, but it is not warped. The LP is also properly centered, as the tone arm does not sway from side to side during playback. When held up to a light, the LP shines nicely. There was a "shushing" sound on the lead-in track on Side 1 just before the title track, but it only lasted for a little more than a second - then it disappeared completely. There were also various points when a slight crackling could be heard during playback and it was somewhat more noticeable during "When I'm Sixty-four". At no time, however, was any of this annoying or did it detract from the overall sound quality. Despite some of these artifacts, I feel that this is a good pressing. It is not, however, as quiet as the Abbey Road LP I had purchased earlier. I do wish to emphasize, however, that the overall sound quality that I have heard from my copy of Sergeant Pepper's differs significantly from that described by some of the previous reviewers here.
As in my previous review of Abbey Road, I feel that the remastered Sergeant Pepper's LP has a very natural analogue sound despite the fact it was cut from a 24-bit, 44.1 kHz digital master tape. There are some tracks that sound as though they have excessive treble (especially "With A Little Help From My Friends" and "Lucy"), but that was precisely the artistic approach taken and the sound that the Beatles, producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick had intended back in 1967. I feel that the detail, depth, soundstage and placement of vocals and instruments throughout the album is quite impressive. In this regard, the string arrangements on "She's Leaving Home" and the hand percussion on "Within You Without You" were delightful. In fact, the latter track's combination of George Harrison's sitar and other traditional Indian instruments created a profound sense of musical depth. Of course, "A Day In The Life" - my favorite all-time Beatles single - with John Lennon's haunting vocals is sublime.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this LP and can confidently call it a keeper. I do not at all feel that it is a bad pressing, sounds like sand paper, etc. In fact, I am becoming rather puzzled by the many complaints that I keep reading about this Beatles remastered 180g vinyl LP series.
on October 15, 2014
It is wonderful to own these on vinyl again. And in original mono to boot. What a treat. The full-size jacket that records give you is so much more enjoyable that little CD jackets. The sound quality of these records is breathtaking. When I hear the full, rich sound I can't help think of George Harrison who thought stereo was a mistake because it thinned out the sound. Highly, highly recommended. In fact, I don't see how a Beatles fan could pass these up.
on December 9, 2003
I suppose Rolling Stone can't admit that Sgt. Pepper is less than stellar some 35 years after its debut (after all, the magazine is as old as the album), but when I saw it listed as the BEST album of all time, I couldn't take it anymore. Truth be told, I wonder who in the hell keeps perpetuating this myth that Sgt. Pepper is the Beatles' best. I could easily think of albums much better, either by the Beatles themselves (Revolver, Abbey Road, and the White Album, in that order) or others (Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys, "The Velvet Underground and Nico", Joy Division's "Closer", etc). Face the facts, folks: Sgt. Pepper is a product of its time, and one that hasn't hold out well. Granted, there are psychedelic relics that hold up less well than Pepper, but none of them have ever been mistaken for "the BEST album ever". I have each of the Beatles' albums, I am not one of these "Beatles #1" fans (owning only a copy of the "best of" that came out a few years ago, to line Messers. McCartney and Jackson's pockets), I know what I'm talking about when I say that (while this is a good album in its own right) it's not the BEST album ever.
I must confess, I got this album free on CD after having it on tape for years beforehand, so I can't complain about "wasting my money" even if I hated it (see my "Let it Be...Naked" review). But as good as this album is (and I can't stress this enough) it is not the BEST album ever...that honor belongs to Revolver. Rolling Stone needs to pull their heads out of their collective asses and admit as much.
on December 3, 2003
Loved the Beatles all my life (and I'm 50), but it's long overdue to put "Sgt. Pepper" into perspective. No question that when it was released in '67, there was nothing else like it from any popular artist around (meaning the 13th Floor Elevators who maybe 13 people heard of don't count.) Since getting high (weed and acid) was just becoming popular with college kids and even down into high school, it was the first POPULAR music that sounded even better when high. Listening to music with headphones was also just starting to catch on, and because this was the first POPULAR record that had such unique production (such as the farm animal sounds following "Good Morning Good Morning") it sounded even greater on headphones. I know, old hat now, but again the first popular headphone album. What about the production from today's perspective? Bob Dylan says that he didn't like Sgt. Pepper when it first came out, because even though "it had some good songs, the overproduction ruined it." Didn't agree back then, today I do. They talk of "Let it Be Naked" as stripped down, I wouldn't mind hearing some of these tracks on Pepper stripped down. Not all these songs hold up 35+ years later. The best, of course, is "A Day in the Life" which is still maybe one of the top 3 Lennon-McCartney collaborations ever. And listening to "Good Morning" on the Anthology CD without the backing vocals and everything sounds much better as a song than the Pepper version. "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "I Am the Walrus" should have both been included here to have made it a stronger album, while "Benefit of Mr. Kite," and sorry George "Within You Without You" could have been scrapped. (Always thought that "All Too Much", "The Inner Light" and "Old Brown Shoe" were better George Harrison tracks that were never included on major Beatle releases.) I guess the psychedelic feel dates the album today (Dylan never put out a psychedelic album) to the same extent as "Satanic Majesties Request" sounds dated today. And it's too bad because there are some great songs here, which may have been better recorded by the Beatles in 1969 instead of 1967. I guess I just feel that the White Album and Rubber Soul are the two best albums that hold up today, and Sgt. Pepper (while revolutionary at the time) doesn't quite cut it today.
on October 31, 2003
This album always has and always will be overrated. People over analyze the beatles. There are some classic compositions in the form of Lucy In The Sky Of Diamonds, A Day In The Life, She's Leaving Home, and Fixing A Whole. The rest of the album is rather lightweight and comparatively weak (I think most of it is frankly, garbage!). There are to many gimicks and unsuccessful recording experiments being used here. Beatle fans can be very overbaring and quite annoying, feeling that anything the Beatles did is a holy grail of sorts, NONSENSE! Revolver and Rubber Soul are much stronger, and while the White Album could have been stripped down to 18-20 tracks, it is mostly excellent. Abbey Road is overrated as well, lot of garbage on that album, including the terrible Maxwell's Hammer and Octopus' Garden. I recommend Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, Tangerine Dream by Kaleidoscope, The Who Sell Out, and S.F. Sorrow as better albums. Also, on the cover, the beatles look like a group of psychedelic chinamen. HA
on September 26, 2003
I bought this after I had Beatles One for a couple of years. It was also the first album from the '60s i bought.
First of all, the sound quality is awful! EMI did a slipshod job reproducing this album for CD. Makes it pretty bad to listen to on headphones. Whats sadder is that it detracts slightly from the songs. Makes it pretty bad to listen to on headphones. I still don't know how the songs sounded on original vinyl release. I wasn't around for the original release as I wasn't born yet. What got me even more upset is that they changed the song order, as stated in the liner notes. Why? Who knows? But when I buy a cd I want to hear it as it was intended to be heard. Especially if its a concept album of sorts. That's one of my biggest pet peeves.
Okay now on to the actual album. I think the album is good, a bit uneven.
The songs are good. Not great, but good (with the exception of the masterpiece A Day In The Life). She's Leaving Home is the one of the only low points. It becomes skipible after a couple of listens. I think this version of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds is one of the tracks that the EMI's new slipshod production has actually hurt. Along many of the other tracks. Which is a major shame because it sounds like it could be such a pretty song.
The way I see this album is that its the first album to have all this innovated studio wizardry (on original release; as I mentioned, the EMI production has hurt it considerably). It's probably not the beatles best (i'm not sure. I only have this and One), but it's one of their most ambitious and one of the most ambitious record of it's time.
I suggest to a person just starting to discover the beatles (as i am still), go for the compilation One (even though the production isn't better).
on May 4, 2003
An interesting experiement that shows the Beatles at their most non-rockish (I consider them a pop band with a rock sensibility).
However, I don't think they really went as far as they thought they would, as this whole album just sounds... unfinished. I also found my attention wandering during "Within You Without You" and "When I'm 64", which are both a little boring to me.
Ringo sings "With a Little Help" in his best melancholy voice. John can sing like he's sneering at you, George can get preachy, and Paul can sound a little self-important, but Ringo always sings with warmth in his voice. He really shines on this one.
Lennon adds some great lyrical touches to "She's Leaving Home" which shows the parents perspective, and keeps the song from being too melodramatic.
"Lovely Rita Meter Maid" is a great little song, with an excellent intro and inventive melody. The horns make "Good Morning Good Morning" startling, and George adds some life to this album with his searing guitar solo.
"A Day in the Life" is brilliant, and the reason why I'm giving this album four stars instead of three. George sets the mood with a pensive and contemplative guitar intro, and Ringo adds some descriptive drum flourishes. John and Paul play off of each other's strengths to present a song containing two contrasting viewpoints of life: the man who sees something is wrong and wants to "turn you on", and the man who just wants to get to work and get through the day. George Martin underlines all of this with his excellent orchestral score. This song is the ultimate example of all of the Beatles (Beatle #5 included) pooling their strenghts to produce a brilliant piece of work.
The rest of the album, though, doesn't quite live up to that level.
on April 1, 2003
This is not my favorite Beatles album, nor is it my least favorite, but it is undeniably a pivotal moment in popular music history.
Unfortunately, this classic sounds rather muted and muddy when compared to more recently remastered efforts from contemperary artists. This is true of all of the Beatles albums save the "1" collection. While in the Beatles' case, their mid-eighties remastering job is not as aggregiously bad as was the original Rolling Stones Abco job (recently rectified), it is still very poor relative to what can be obtained with more modern methods.
Recent remastering on Cream, Blind Faith, The Allman Bros., Clapton, Hendrix, Jethro Tull and other contemporary artists' work show this quite conclusively, and I rather doubt that the original Beatles masters will be as difficult to find as other groups...
If I were in the market for this album right now, I would not purchase it, as the sond quality is too mediocre, and the recent "1" mastering hints that this may be soon fixed.
on March 27, 2003
Sergeant Pepper is one of those albums where even if the songs weren't very good, it wouldn't matter. First and foremost, this album is a work of art that changed rock history. Pepper was essentially the first concept album.
It isn't exactly the best concept album, being that the subject material is all over the place, but it still works because the concept itself is pretty vague. Simply the Beatles posing as Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
That new identity gave the fab four a new freedom to explore many new territories in sound and style that perhaps they wouldn't have done if they were 'The Beatles'. I think this also made it easier on some of their fans who didn't want them to change. "Oh, their just pretending to be weird. I get it. We'll have 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' back by the next album."
Wrong. This was the beginning of better things. The Beatles were not content with playing the same old pop songs. They wanted to grow as musicians and this album was the lads diving head first into that growth.
Wild orchestra arrangements, odd time signatures, distorted guitars, eastern influences, strange drug-influenced lyrics....
The music world would never be the same.
So, is this ground-breaking album worth having? Yes! If not just for the history behind it, "A Day In the Life" is one of the best Beatles songs ever recorded. A true classic.
on March 20, 2003
Okay. Maybe I'm asking too much of pop culture here. We all know what pop means. It is instantly accessible, homogenised versions of ART, made accessible and sellable to a mass market of individuals who regard ART as entertainment, escapist excursions, not to be takien seriously as contributing to the social fabric of the human race. That is Pop. To expect more from it or less from it I cannot do.
Sgt.Pepper is pop, no doubt. It is an everyman's version of 1967 and in general 60's pop formula, except on one instance. More of that later. The ART of this piece of work is the musicianship, the songwriting technique and the craftsmanship of the recording. It is the greatest pop album of its time sheerly on those merits. The Beatles had the money and the talent to produce great pieces of musical art, but where does it escape being POP.
Well with McCartney & Lennon it doesn't. This is McCartney's album for sure, being dominated by his visions of what the Summer of Love was all about. I think any blame or any credit should go to him for Sgt.Pepper's lack of depth or aspirations of high art. Lyrically, McCartney does provide escapist entertainment. I do not need to tell anyone that escapist entertainment IS the backbone of pop culture and that a vast majority of us ask no more or no less from movies, magazines, books,art or music. McCartney is forever the entertainer that believes that ignorance is bliss. Lyrically on McCartney's end, the strongest composition is 'She's Leaving Home' merely because it addresses something that may happen in your house or your family at one time. Its the closest he has gotten to being Ray Davies. The rest of the songs McCartney composed give Sgt.Pepper that every one will be pleased feeling, the parents, kids, critics, paundits, George Martin, the marketers. No song takes a lyrical stab at any great socially relevant or biting issue, it stays safe and secure and does not challenge, other than slight hints of erotica and spousal abuse. It is pop. Well played, ARTISTIC pop, finely crafted, but pop nonetheless.
Lennon's contribution is smaller but no less pop itself. Where McCartney lets the parents and kids onto the psychedelic roundabout they've all heard was going on in 1967, Lennon introduces them to the psychedelics involved. But at the same time, lyrically nothing is said. It eludes to drug taking, it says possibly something is under the surface, but never transcends psychedlic pop. Musically and artistically, the innovations are more apparent on the Lennon tracks, but when compared to Arthur Lee's LOVE, Pink Floyd's Piper At The Gates of Dawn, Jimi Hendrix's Experience, it is hardly psychedelic as it is an introduction to psychedelia. The bystander's and skeptics introduction to flowerpower and Haight Ashbury. It actually seems more Lewis Carroll than psychedelic.
Ringo's playing throughout this album should hail this man as one of the best drummers ever recorded, who sacrificed ego for the sake of the song. 'A Day In The Life' you know as well for its drum fills as for its symphonic chaos and arrangement.
And then you get Harrison. And anyone who's read previous reviews of mine will probably say, great, here he goes again. But I'll keep saying it until I get through. 'Within You Without You' is not pop. It gets overshadowed by McCartney's overall Pepperness and Lennon's overall placebo LSD for the masses. It gets derided for its Eastern instrumentation which is not POP therefore gets cast aside even though the musicianship and talents of eastern musicians tends to make pop music look like people playing on tinkertoys. Harrison became the first man to truly blend Eastern and Western music, AND lyrically achieve a depth that was not had in The Beatles catalogue before 1967. Lennon's 'In My Life' started going there in 1965, but he stopped as soon as he went exploring the drug culture. When Harrison explored that same drug culture, he came out of it with something profound and wholly universal.
Harrison introduced Western culture to 'World Music' singlehandedly, whether you like it or not. THAT is a statement in itself. When you fade the lines between cultures, you bring people closer together. When you keep those lines defined, we are kept apart. Harrison began in 1966 making his partners look more and more like pop geniuses, and himself as the artist of The Beatles. He did not offer saccharine versions of 1967 to the masses, and its why most people skip over the song. They never glimpse the truth that that song is one of the most beautifully recorded songs in 'pop' history. Lennon, McCartney and Starr all have said it was the best song on Sgt. Pepper.
Its the only 5 minutes and 3 seconds I listen to on this album anymore.
THIS IS POP. Artistic pop, but nonetheless. Make it no more or no less than what it is. Because McCartney & Lennon didn't.