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The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition

Doug Collette By

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Anyone (and everyone?) will be in turns delighted and surprised upon immersion in the Super Deluxe 50th Anniversary Edition of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The dual sensations commence immediately upon slipping the EMI Studios Abbey Road replica tape box, slightly larger than a foot square, from its slipcover adorned with the famous cover photo rendered in 3D, continues with the discovery of the character cutouts the likes of which were enclosed in the album upon its release in 1967, alternates in finding a wall-sized promo poster with a shot of the band taken from the same sessions that gave us the gate-fold portrait, then multiplies with hearing the music in all it's varies forms over the course of six discs.

Then there's video too, on both DVD & Blu-ray, of The Making off Sgt. Pepper documentary first produced for British TV In 1992 and never released commercially in the interim plus a near-one hundred fifty page book, it's embossed hardcover enclosing nine essays on the nascent psychedelic culture, the political milieu and the state of the Beatles' own unity having decided to stop touring and concentrate on working in the studio. In his piece, Howard Goodall is particularly pointed in his dissection of the music as recorded, yet his writing never ceases to radiate his pleasure in his subject.

Along those same lines, it might be appropriate in discussing this record to paraphrase William Shakespeare in his play 'Hamlet': brevity is the soul of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. In the comparatively short duration of approximately forty minutes, the Beatles execute their concept without overstating any aspect of it, least of all in the production of the individual songs as the resulting tracks are sequenced to maintain the continuity of the album. There is just enough of everything, from solemnity to jollity, from electric guitars and vocal harmonies to sound effects, without overstatement of artistic intent or emotion.

The array of outtakes, alternate versions and snippiest of sound, the sum of which were mixed for the first time from the four-track session tapes, proceed in chronological order of their recording dates, and thus becoming even more fascinating, not to mention enlightening listening, a means to understanding how the album as we know it is a distillation of a myriad of ideas. Elaborate arrangements are invariably commensurate with the material, and even the lesser of which here, for instance, "Fixing A Hole" and "Lovely Rita," has its purpose.

And not just for appreciation of the colorful sonic palette by which the Beatles and George Martin brought the song to life: (re)examination of "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" may even beg the well of -established premise that John Lennon simply reworked the lyrics from a vintage poster (a replica of which is enclosed comes in this package) or whether it's also a slyly-disguised, even perhaps subliminal indictment of scenes & scenesters a la Bob Dylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man" from Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia, 1965). Such interpretation arises from the producers and engineers attention to detail assembling this 'Super Deluxe Edition' effort that mirrors the Beatles' own meticulous devotion to the project (except for the nonchalance regarding the initial stereo mix). For instance, a bare-bones arrangement of "Getting Better" reveals sitar strains which then come to the fore in the two "Within You Without You"s that immediately follow.

Similarly, in Kevin Howlett's writing devoted 'Songs and Recording Details,' he's pragmatic enough for the listener's sake alone to reference previously content on The Beatles Anthology (Apple, 1996), not to mention disc and track number in this set. Anyone who's ever wished to concentrate on the orchestration of "She's Leaving Home" in isolation, now has the chance: this pure instrumental is enlightening as much for its textural nuance as the circumstances by which a conflict of Martin's led to Mike Leander's generating the score (and causing, by Sir George's own admission, no small frustration on his part).

The book and video included here can become like short subjects to a film of great significance and cinematic impact, here in audio form offered in various sonic configurations, 'cuts' like multiple movie versions. 'The Making of...' provides another chance to witness the delight late Sir George found in working with 'the boys' from John's piquant count-in to the earliest recording of "A Day in the Life" on to the technical impossibility he first envisaged in Lennon's desire to combine two versions of "Strawberry Fields Forever:" Like its companion piece, the happy-go-lucky of "Penny Lane," the single Beatles manager Brian Epstein demanded, is a direct extension of the adventuresome eclectic approach of Revolver (Capitol, 1966)

Like the various handwritten notes and lyrics, the accompanying assortment of alternate tracks outtakes and mixes (some of more recent vintage than others), are not just novelties any more than "When I'm 64," is merely an exercise in vintage music hall style: it has its place in the track listing, as a change of pace from Harrison's Indian-based composition, as well as a nod to a certain demographic of the audience in 1967. And, in the course of all thirty-three unreleased recordings as well as the formal final takes, Ringo Starr's contributions should not and cannot be understated; his drum patterns and fills in turn propel and underscore the drive of his co-musicians, suggesting the single drawback of Sgt. Pepper, in its completed form, is that its innovative production values somewhat obscured the fact the Beatles could still cook as a rock and roll band. A prime example is take eight of "Good Morning Good Morning."

One of the primary points of interest in this release is Giles Martin's new stereo mix, the result of which effort opens up space for a layering comparable to the mono tracks on the fourth compact disc, is subtle, perhaps to a fault. Spreading the sound as he does so carefully allows more nuances, so that oddly enough, or perhaps not, listening on headphones is the optimum means to catch all the reconfigured detail. The hi-res version on the DVD/Blu-ray is another option, too, another one in which the plush density of the mono explodes at the very beginning, then blossoms for the course of the album itself, in addition to "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane." Combined with the 5.1 surround sound mixes, the ostensible bulk of this recording project, as constituted from its beginning in November of 1966 (including the nonsense of the "Runout Groove" at the end of the portentous concluding track) is now readily available in one source.

This package and its four variations (not including bundles with t-shirts etc) constitutes the most elaborate reissue yet of an individual Beatles album. Not only does it have no precedent, it may have no comparable successor if only because, the group and their collaborators, including Martin and cover artist Peter Blake, were proceeding on well-hone creative instinct and intuition. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is arguably the last time the legendary quartet worked with such unerring sense of unified direction: the assertion of individual independence was the height of self-consciousness for The Beatles (Capitol, 1968), that is, if not for the forced bonding that took the form of Abbey Road (Apple/Capitol, 1969). Little wonder Sir Paul had to convince Sir George (father of Giles), to return to his post as producer there, after the latter's somewhat clumsy exit during the latter stages of the soc-called 'White Album," as well as the virtual whole of Let It Be (Apple, 1970), a/k/a. Get Back.

The tongue-in-cheek advisory 'A splendid time is guaranteed for all' remains in fine print on the sleeves of this Beatles set and the phrase still rings true. Or it should anyway, at least for those musiclovers open-minded enough to appreciate how timeless is the attraction and commensurately increasing significance of such work in this greatest of all art forms.

Track Listing: CD 1: New Stereo Remix - Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; With A Little Help From My Friends; Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds; Getting Better; Fixing A Hole; She’s Leaving Home; Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!; Within You Without You; When I’m Sixty-Four; Lovely Rita; Good Morning Good Morning; Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise); A Day In The Life. CD 2: Sgt. Pepper Sessions - Strawberry Fields Forever – Take 1; Strawberry Fields Forever – Take 4; Strawberry Fields Forever – Take 7; Strawberry Fields Forever – Take 26; Strawberry Fields Forever – Stereo/Giles Martin Mix 2015; When I’m Sixty-Four; Penny Lane – Take 6; Penny Lane – Vocal Overdubs and Speech; Penny Lane – Stereo / Giles Martin Mix 2017; A Day In The Lif e- Take 1; A Day In The Life – Take 2; A Day In The Life – Orchestra Overdub; A Day In The Life – Hummed Last Chord; A Day In The Life – The Last Chord; Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – Take 1; Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – Take 9; Good Morning Good Morning – Take 1; Good Morning Good Morning – Take 8. CD 3: Sgt. Pepper Sessions - Fixing A Hole – Take 1; Fixing A Hole – Speech And Take 3; Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!; Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! – Take 7; Lively Rita – Speech and Take 9; Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds – Take 1 And Speech; Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds – Speech; Getting Better – Take 1; Getting Better – Take 12; Within You Without You – Take 1; Within You Without You – George Coaching The Musicians; She’s Leaving Home – Take 1; She’s Leaving Home – Take 6; With A Little Help From My Friends – Take 1; Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) Speech and Take 8. CD 4 : Sgt. Pepper in Mono: Identical tracklist as CD 1; Bonus tracks: Strawberry Fields Forever; Penny Lane; A Day In The Life – First Mono Mix; Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds – Original Mono Mix; She’s Leaving Home – First Mono Mix; Penny Lane – Capitol Records Promo Mono Mix. Disc 5 / Blu-ray: Sgt. Pepper in 5.1 surround sound and hi-res stereo – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; With A Little Help From My Friends; Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds; Getting Better; Fixing A Hole; She’s Leaving Home; Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!; Within You Without You; When I’m Sixty-Four; Lovely Rita; Good Morning Good Morning; Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise); A Day In The Life; Strawberry Fields Forever; Penny Lane; (videos) - The Making Of Sgt. Pepper; A Day In The Life; Strawberry Fields Forever; Penny Lane. Disc: 6: DVD: Sgt. Pepper in 5.1 surround sound and hi-res stereo - Same as Blu-ray.

Personnel: PERSONNEL John Lennon: vocals, guitar, piano, comb and paper; Paul McCartney: vocals, bass, piano, guitar, Mellotron, Lowrey organ, hammond organ, Pianet electric piano, comb and paper; George Harrison: vocals, guitar, sitar, tamboura; bass harmonica, comb and paper, sitar; Ringo Starr: vocals, bass harmonica ; drums, tambourine, congas, maracas, comb and paper, percussion. George Martin: Hammond organ (track two); harpsichord (track five);harmonium, glockenspiel, Lowrey organ, Mellotron, piano, bass harmonica; Mal Evans: bass harmonica Anonymous additional musicians: french horns (track one); four violins, two violas, two cellos, double bass, harp (track six); dilruba, swaramandala, tabla, eight violins, three cellos (track eight); two clarinets, bass clarinet (track nine);three saxophones, two trombones, French horn (track eleven); forty-piece orchestra (track thirteen).

Title: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Capitol Records


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