Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
by David Chiu
The Beatles’ psychedelic masterpiece remarkably turns 50 years old, and it still sounds timeless. With every repeated listening, there’s still always something new to discover, whether it’s a certain instrumental part, a sound effect flourish, or even just a lyric. And that’s what this new 50th anniversary edition of Sgt. Pepper attempts to do and eventually succeeds. Remixed by Giles Martin, the son of the album’s original producer George Martin, this new version of Sgt. Pepper sounds vibrant than ever and seems to “pop” more than the commonly-heard stereo version—that’s mainly because the 2017 remix uses the (ideal and better) mono version of Pepper and transferred into stereo. You would have to be a really true stereophile to be able to compare and contrast this new version with the stereo one (which was originally done as an afterthought), but a casual listener could pick up some certain things on this remix: Ringo Starr’s drumming seems more punchier throughout the record; the Indian instruments on George Harrison’s “Within You Without You” appear more prominent; and the vocals of John Lennon and Paul McCartney as well as the guitar parts really come to the fore. Some may quibble about why revisit and redo something that is already perfect, but in a way, this is the version of the album that the band and George Martin really intended for to be listened and after listening to this, it’s somewhat justified. But regardless on which side you fall on, this 2017 remix is a testament of Sgt. Pepper‘s lasting appeal and an opportunity for future generations to bask in its genius. Of course, a great album warrants all the bells and whistles, which the deluxe edition does—in addition to including the new remix of the original record, the package includes session outtakes that offers a glimpse into the recording; on several of the session tracks, like “Fixing a Hole” and “She’s Leaving Home,” one could hear the bare bones of the compositions before the vocals and/or other additional instruments come in. That’s also true especially with the first take of “A Day in the Life” presented in this deluxe edition without the sweeping dramatic orchestral overdubs and that famous final piano chord–in this particular take, ‘hums’ serve as a placeholder. And the reissue corrects what producer George Martin reportedly considered a mistake with the belated inclusion of the singles “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever,” recorded around the time of the making of Pepper but didn’t appear on the final original album.