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The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band CD (album) cover

SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND

The Beatles

 

Proto-Prog

4.31 | 687 ratings

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Kotro
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Not really sorry that they have to go

One of Rock n'Roll's most acclaimed albums - that's all I'm ready to admit regarding this piece of work from the merry men of Liverpool. I also won't dabble in its history - by now it is familiar to most, and I wouldn't be adding anything new. So, I will merely proceed with a simple analysis of the music itself, trying to set aside all the historical and artistic weight this album has been enduring. This is the review of someone completely detached of historical context and musical currents, listening to the music for music's sake. And, as usual in my reviews, not a word about the lyrics, their content or meaning. So, here we go.

The lovely bluesy guitar lick of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band opens the album. Great groove, vocals, and chorus, complemented with some tasteful brass. An adequate introduction to one vaudeville of an album. It segues into With A Little Help From My Friends, a pop ballad in a mid-tempo, with a less impressive vocal work. It is not a very impressive track, being very monochordic and not really exciting. And yes, I confess I DO enjoy Joe Cocker's cover a LOT more. Next up it's the Beatles telling us about LSD - Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, that is, which opens quite slowly, speeding up as we approach the chorus, in a merry tune driven by electric piano and vocal harmonies. Less wild sounding, Getting Better ensues in the form of an upbeat track, with some great rhythmic guitar work. At this point I'm starting to get a bit fed up as most songs, although different in mood, are starting to sound all alike - easy-listening pop. Fixing A Hole is a severe case, as it's almost the same as Getting Better apart from the lyrics and - you guessed it - the arrangements. She's Leaving Home brings in some change, being a lot less merry, slower paced and featuring excellent orchestrations. Of course that is only an interlude, as the next song, Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite brings back the jolly old Fab 4. Occasional spells of keyboards bursts give it some interest, especially the circus-like musical interludes. Like Revolver before it, this albums features the mandatory trip to the land of Yogis and sitars, in the form of Within You Without You, that goes on and on and on and on like this mantra from Hell. Simply annoying. I have a soft spot for When I'm Sixty Four, never really knew why. It's just a fun song, taking us back to the beginning of the 20th century and the music of the day. Paul's vocals are especially amusing. Lovely Rita is yet another dull happy pop song, relying strongly on a piano rhythm and bassline. The best part in all of it? The final piano-driven 30 seconds. Interesting use of brass (or something closely resembling it) on Good Morning Good Morning, which also features a scorching electric guitar work. At this point, I'll stray a bit from my neutral reviewing stance just to ask this question: among all the studio innovation, composition and new gadgetry present in this album, what is the single most influential piece of music in this entire record? My answer? The drum intro from the reprise of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - 40 years on, it is still the staple for most every mainstream rock, pop, hip-hop, whatever song ever written since. The rest of the song doesn't astray too much from the opener, and is, along with it, the finest piece so far. A nice ending to an uneven album. Or is it?

After twelve songs of lovey-dovey beat-pop-rock with psychedelic hints in comes this Unidentified Musical Object that seems to have nothing to do with the rest of the album - A Day In The Life, THE highlight of this Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Starting off as a delicate acoustic guitar and piano driven ballad, it suddenly, it sudenly takes us into a tunnel and all we hear is. Karlheinz Stockhausen? As we leave the sonic tunnel we are gifted with a merrier, faster- paced piano driven-section, complemented by great vocal harmonies and the return of the heavy orchestration that quickly takes us once more to the mellow beginning of the song, ending with some more of that Stockhausen-influenced orchestral cacophony. What an exciting track, probably the only one in the album worthy of the Progressive Rock label. Excellent finale, and the kind of song that can definitely salvage an album.

There is no beating The Beatles when it comes to arrangements. Even at their most playful and less artsy the boys always knew how to knit the exact notes in the lush fabric of their music, and it's only fair that George Martin gets some credit from it. In fact, the arrangements are the best thing about this whole album, much better than the composition. I have never been the biggest of Beatles fans, but I do enjoy a few of their songs a lot, quite simply because some are actually brilliant (A Day In The Life is a good example). Yet when I listened to this album for the first time in the 80's, it didn't really sound that good. Nearly 20 years later, it still doesn't click. No matter how groundbreaking and complex it was in '67, and how influential it has been since, the fact is others have done it better since, and not much time after. It sounds too poppy, terribly naÔve, and in the end, very outdated, the exception being the abovementioned final track. A worthy album to be explored, no doubt, but simply unrewarding to me. The Fab 4 did better.

Kotro | 3/5 |

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