01st June 2017

It was 50 years ago today (well, as of June 1st 2017) that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles’ eighth studio album, was released and 70 years since Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. But is it, as many claim it to be, the best pop/rock album ever made?

Musically, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has everything and John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr had never sounded better, both vocally and in their musicianship. The songs themselves, originally produced by George Martin, are of such a high quality and so well-known these days the listener could be forgiven for thinking they were all released as singles.

Up until the early 1970’s it was common practice not to include singles on albums and, as a result, Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane were released as a double A side, even though they were the first songs recorded during the Sgt. Pepper sessions, giving the overall feel of what was to come next from the Fab Four. Sadly, the single only made it to number 2 due to Engelbert Humperdink’s version of Release Me, halting a string of UK number ones.

The 50th Anniversary release of this iconic album has been given the Super Deluxe treatment (4 CDs, Blu-ray and DVD housed in a full-size replica gatefold sleeve, plus posters, cut-outs and a 144-page hardback book) and the packaging alone is, in itself, a work of art, with a lenticular version of Peter Blake’s classic album cover adorning the front of the 13” x 13” x 2” box set in all its glory.

At the heart of the release is a new stereo mix of the album by Giles Martin, son of George who sadly passed away in 2016. The mastering here is stunning, with huge emphasis on all of Ringo Starr’s input which has been brought to the fore. Martin is also responsible for all the mixes on the 33 tracks from the Sgt. Pepper sessions, which give a great insight into the song-writing, arranging and recording process of the time and the technical limitations of the 4-track recorder that went with it.

Giles Martin has created a thing of beauty and is essential to any fan of The Beatles, though, to be honest, the original mono mix by his Dad from way back in 1967 and included in the Super Deluxe version is the real masterpiece here. Furthermore, the inclusion of Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane following A Day In The Life on the mono mix is a wonderful touch and will please many.

Written by Kevin Petch

Also available as an expanded 2 CD version and a 180-gram 2 LP vinyl package.