Monday, April 23, 2012

"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," by The Beatles (June, 1967)

Dad's Take:I've actually been dreading this review. Not the album. I love the album. It's just, how do you say something fresh about probably the most written about album of the rock and roll era? I don't think it's possible.

Song after song, start to finish, this is perhaps THE classic rock and roll album, the one where the Beatles took everything they had done up to this point, ratcheted up the experimentation (musical and otherwise) that made Revolver so great, and used the studio to its maximum potential. This is as much a George Martin masterpiece as it is a Beatles classic. That this whole thing was recorded using four-track equipment still amazes me.

Many Beatles fans point to other albums as their favorites, and I do too. But there's still no disputing that this is an absolute classic, an album that defined a musical generation and influenced nearly everything that came after it, at least for a year or two. While staying within a rock and roll milieu, the Beatles pushed music and recording to places where it had never been before.

There is no filler here. Each song is a classic, from the iconic opener to the closer, "A Day in the Life," my personal favorite Beatles tune. Nearly every song challenges the musical norms of the day and slams them to the ground. Some of my favorite moments include the instrumental breaks in "Being for the Benefit of Mr. K," the heady sounds and lyrics of "Within You Without You," the humor of "Fixing a Hole," the playfulness of "Lovely Rita," and of course the suite-like structure of "A Day in the Life." But that's just the start. I could list so many more.

I'm too young to have experienced and appreciated this as a ground-breaking new album. I heard some of the songs, since 1967 was the year I became interested in the radio, but I didn't recognize the significance of this thing. If I had only been a few years older I could have had my mind blown like so many people did. I still had that experience the first time I listened to it all the way through, but by then the innovation had been obscured by all the imitators and all the times I had heard most of the songs. I really feel like I missed out. But running through the chronology of great albums like Brad and I are doing now gives me a better taste of how this relates to the albums that came before it.

And my mind is blown again.

Brad's Take:

I'm not as familiar with this Beatles album as I am with Abbey Road and Rubber Soul, but every time I listen to this one, I remember how much I love the opening title track. That song is just so catchy and rockin'. Actually, the first four songs are just completely flawless pop songs. It's definitely my favorite section of the album.

The middle section is the weird and experimental section. "Being for the Benefit of Mr. K" is a song you'd hear at a circus put on by an insane asylum. And "Within You Without You" puts you in the head of a person high on some crazy drugs. This isn't my favorite section of Sgt Peppers, but I do love the amazingly arranged ballad "She's Leaving Home."

The bouncy little tune "When I'm Sixty Four" kicks off the last 1/3 of the album. These last few songs are more upbeat and accessible than the middle of the album, but they still have a lot of silly weird parts.

The epic "A Day in the Life" concludes the wacky last half of the album. There's a huge build up that sounds like a train is about to come slam into your face, but right when it's about touch your nose, it poofs like smoke and immediately takes you back into another catchy little verse. The part "I love to tu-U-u-U-urn you o-O-o-On" is one of my favorite moments from the entire record. And just when you think you got away from that damn nightmare of a train, it comes back, but this time even faster than before! It knocks you on the ground, unconscious, until you come finally to and notice you're seeing stars.

No comments: