Okay. We all know the deal with Sgt. Pepper's: five-star record, revolutionary recording process, best rock album ever, yada yada yada.
I'm listening to Sgt. Pepper's from start to finish for the first time, which hopefully gives me a somewhat unique perspective on the record. My goal is not to slaughter a sacred cow, nor is it to blindly celebrate an album just because I've been told it's great. I'm merely reviewing Sgt. Pepper's as a guy who loves rock music but is very late in getting around to a really important album.
Sgt. Pepper's only major flaw is that most of the songs don't rock. The experiments on this record forever changed the face of rock music, but hardly anything here possesses the excitement or energy of the earlier Beatles recordings. This album planted the seeds of great musical creativity, but it also planted seeds that grew into flaccid musical genres like Adult Alternative. For that alone, it's flawed.
With that said, I loved listening to Sgt. Pepper's. I heard new things in songs I've known for years, and I fell in love with songs that are new to me. "A Day in the Life" is amazing, and "Within You Without You" blew me away. "Fixing a Hole" and "She's Leaving Home" are very touching and emotional, and it's hard to believe they came from the mind of a 24-year-old rock star. I'd always dismissed "When I'm Sixty Four" as being just another silly love song, but it's actually a wonderfully poignant sentiment about two people sharing a life together.
On the down side, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is stupid, "Lovely Rita" is trite, and "With a Little Help from My Friends" is annoying. The occasional cultural references date the music far more than the production does, and the drug references sprinkled throughout the record reek of cheap rebellion.
The cover of Sgt. Pepper's is almost as influential as the music. It's nice that this CD release includes additional information about how both the record and the jacket were created. For instance, I never knew that this was the first record to include printed lyrics, that Mae West initially refused to be included in a "lonely hearts club," or that John Lennon requested an extremely high-pitched noise be put at the end of "A Day in the Life" to annoy people's dogs. (This last bit of info makes me suspect that Mr. Lennon was a bit of a douchebag.) This was a superb package the first time around, and despite the reduced size of the CD jacket, the additional information makes this a great package on CD also.
Listen if you like: Any music from the past 40 years. It reflects poorly on me that I'm just now listening to this record for the first time.
If it were food, it'd be: water.