Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 2 CD Anniversary Edition
Original album rating: *****
Remix rating: a low ****
Sessions disc rating: ****
It might be hard to believe but it has been 50 years since the Beatles released their iconic 1967 masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. With an album this historically significant, this anniversary is one that’s worth celebrating. To celebrate, a massive reissue of the 1967 album has been released on a wide variety of formats. Of the many variations out there, the 2 CD version is probably the one to get- not only for its price but for its content.
The first disc is a new remix of the album completed by Giles Martin, son of the late George Martin. The last time the Beatles album were reissued and remastered was in 2009- which was a pretty big deal as the albums hadn’t been touched since 1987 when they were first released on CD. Instead, Giles Martin has presented us with a remix of the album- which can be best described as a cross between the stereo and mono mixes of the album. Most Beatles fans will probably know that back in the day, the Beatles and George Martin put more effort and work into the mono mixes of their albums- given that mono records were still the norm at that point. This changed for the bands last two albums- Abbey Road and Let It Be- which were both mixed in stereo. Before then, the stereo mixes were done by other people. Today, those stereo mixes are still the ones that are sold in stores as the main albums. With that, a lot of listeners are missing out on what the music sounds like in mono.
On a first listen, the remix just sounds okay. I’ve noticed that the vocals are more upfront in this remix- kind of like what was done with Let It Be with Let It Be…Naked in 2003. However, this isn’t necessarily a stripped down version of Sgt. Pepper as you can still clearly hear the instruments. There’s more emphasis put on the bass and drums on almost every song too. The one song that sounds drastically different from the 2009 remaster is “She’s Leaving Home,” which takes after the mono version and is played at a faster speed. When comparing the remix with the 2009 remaster in Audacity, the remix is much louder- but not too loud. Switching back and forth to the two tracks, it sounded as if the audio had been transferred to 3D when listening to the remix. So on a second listen; I can say I enjoyed the remix a little more. I’ve been able to pick up on little things here and there that I never noticed before on the album, which is cool. While it wasn’t necessary, the remix is still nice to have.
The second disc consists entirely of outtakes from the album’s sessions. Of the two discs, I find myself liking the second disc more: it has an outtake for each of the 13 songs and they are sequenced in the same order as the original album. Whereas the remix sounds slightly different, this is a really cool alternate version of Sgt. Pepper in outtake form. A few outtakes from the Pepper sessions have been released before on the Anthology 2 set. For this second disc, a good portion of it has not been officially released before. This alternate version of Sgt. Pepper reminds me of what Rhino Records did with the T. Rex albums a couple of years ago, in that they’d give you the original album on the first disc and an alternate version on the second disc. With an album like Sgt. Pepper, I’ve listened to the original album oh so many times. So this second disc is more fun for me, personally. The second disc also comes with new mixes for “Strawberry Field Forever” and “Penny Lane,” which are also accompanied by an outtake or two each.
If you’re a long time Beatles fan and can’t decide on which version of this reissue to get, I’d say go for this two disc version: you get a little bit of everything. As per usual with these big reissues, there is a bigger set available for diehard fans. The super deluxe edition of Sgt. Pepper comes with six discs- four CDs, a DVD and a Blu-Ray- along with a 144 page picture book and reprints of posters. This sells for a little over $100. I typically don’t buy box sets devoted to just one album so the two disc version does it for me. You don’t get the DVD or Blu-Ray but you do get the remix and a disc of sessions, along with a colorful booklet full of insightful liner notes- all for a little under $20. No matter what version you choose to purchase, a splendid time is guaranteed for all.