It was 40 years ago today, The Beatles taught the world to play with their groundbreaking release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. The brilliant songs, visionary recording techniques and even the cover art changed the course of pop music back in 1967. Grammy Award winning audio engineer Geoff Emerick best known for his work on The Beatles Revolver, Sgt. Peppers, The White Album and Abbey Road has chosen to unlock the magic of The Beatles legacy by recording modern versions of the beloved songs from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band to commemorate 40 years since the original release on June 1st, 1967.
"How could they top ('Revolver')? Little did we know that ... we would not only be topping it, but sending all barriers crashing to the ground." Geoff Emerick
Emerick wanted to reproduce the new recordings using original vintage gear from 1967 including the analog 4-track recording machine, analog mixer and various vintage compressors used at Abbey Road Studios. The goal was to mix the vintage recording techniques from 1967 with modern bands. Emerick called upon guitarist Mark Knopfler who owns an extensive collection of vintage recording gear. Several of the bands slated to work on the project bowed out after learning that they would not be enjoying the use of up-to-date digital technology. Making the recording process particularly difficult by today's standards. Being a great band in 1967 required that you could actually carry a tune and be able to record multiple takes of a song in one session. A painful concept for modern digital artists who rely so much on technology to create their sound.
The diverse artist roster on this recording includes; Kaiser Chiefs, Brian Adams, The Fray, Travis, Stereophonics and Razorlight, to name a few. It turns out the BBC removed the individual video clips of select performances that I viewed on-line at BBC Radio 2 shortly after this post was published (weak). In addition, they also removed the brilliant audio interview with Geoff Emerick along with excerpts from the sessions as well (double weak). The videos can still be viewed here via links to YouTube (brilliant!) by clicking on each song title. The recording of "With A Little Help From My Friends" by Razorlight was particularly solid. The band chose to use their own drummer to sing the track keeping with the spirit of the original sung by Ringo Starr. Most of the music on this recording was kept true to form, I thought Travis did an outstanding job with "Lovely Rita" as did Brian Adams with the title track. It was surprising to hear the vocal growl of Brian Adams work so well on "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". Brian Adams haters will find him to be a perfect target here, but they hate anything he does, (try not to forget that "Summer of 69" still rocks hard). I found "Fixing A Hole" by The Fray and "She's Leaving Home" by The Magic Numbers to be annoying overall, feeling cheated by the vocal tracks lacking vigor.
Kaiser Chiefs are a band known for their sonic sound,
making their version of "Getting Better" a nice surprise, choosing to
lay back and draw out the trademark McCartney bounce in the melody. I
loved the "Sgt. Pepper's" (reprise) by Stereophonics performed
brilliantly, giving the title track an inspired close. You will notice that the BBC did not include samples of a few great cuts like "A Day In The Life" and "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" leaving me with wild anticipation waiting to hear the entire record in all of its sonic glory. I was unable to confirm a release date for this record at the launch of this post.
If anyone is uniquely qualified to attempt a task as grandiose as this, it's Geoff Emerick. Beatles purists will find every reason to hate this record, since any attempt at re-recording this monolithic classic would be considered a travesty of a mockery of two shams. So be it! In hind sight Emerick may find that leaving this recording suspended in 1967 might have been the best idea of all. I'm certain that modern youth, particularly in the U.S. will embrace this record without skipping a beat. I could be wrong, but who cares. Regardless of popular opinion I'm sold on sampling a copy of this Brit-pop record for my own collection when it's finally released, setting it alongside my Beatles albums in hopes that they will find a way to live in harmony after forty years. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band has unanimously made every Top 100 List of the greatest albums ever made. So may I reintroduce to you, the act you've known for all these years... Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band!
"Sgt. Pepper's" changed how music was recorded and how it was played on the radio. It enforced the idea that an album could be a conceptual whole, like a novel, rather than a collection of songs wrapped around a single or two." Source - Contra Costa Times
The Track List:
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band – Bryan Adams
With A Little Help From My Friends – Razorlight
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds - Athlete
Getting Better – Kaiser Chiefs
Fixing A Hole – The Fray
She’s Leaving Home – The Magic Numbers
Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite - Jamie Cullum
Within You Without You - Oasis
When I'm Sixty Four - Russell Brand
Lovely Rita – Travis
Good Morning Good Morning - The Zutons
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) – Stereophonics
A Day In The Life - Pete Doherty & Carl Barat