Review Summary: Let me introduce to you the greatest album of all time
Care to take a glance at my “classic” albums? Most of them have only been around for ten years or less. “Classic”, right, it must sound suspicious. Currently in this day and age they are the shi
t to me, you know, and even have been for years – but will they affect me in the same way in a decade or more from now? Sometimes I wonder. Sometimes I wonder if any of my favorites are really all that time resilient, collections of music in and of themselves exceptional
and moving, without having to have some then-and-now emotional attachment placed on them by the glue-like nature of my humanity. I suppose that I’m not being too fair on of my music, though. After all, extended periods of time are really the only way to tell with this kind of thing, and you can’t really rush it, now can you?
But I’m not going to wait around for fifty-plus years to determine whether I should throw down the K.O. rating of rule-age for an album. Would you? No
, that’s just crazy and obsessive, not to mention the fact that I probably won’t even care about it if I live that long. It’s not really fair, I guess: When you’ve only known an album for a few years, or even less, how can you be certain that it is, indeed, a timeless “classic”? Especially if you happen to be my age and have, when compared to your elders, only recently taken an adamant interest in music; are there really, really
any “classics” that you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, believe deserve the title, albums that you are dead-positive will not lose their appeal to your person in the coming years?
I have but one, and one only: Let me introduce to you the greatest album of all time, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
, the sole album that I can deem a true “classic” in my eyes with the assurance that it will never lose its favor with me. Its history, its mere impact as the
defining album of psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll makes it deserving of the title alone, but as does the lengthy amount of time that I’ve personally known Sgt. Pepper’s
for, from the time of my father playing it in the background while I was in the crib as an infant to even now to this day as I play through it over and over as I type. The melodies and the revolutionary instrumentation of The Beatles recorded in the Abbey Road Studios in 1967 strike a sequence of notes in my mind each time that I hear it, playing back each and every instance or circumstance in which I had heard it throughout my life. “Classic”, indeed.
The Beatles took the experimental breakthrough of Revolver
in 1966 and completed what they had started in their following eighth studio album, Sgt. Pepper’s
– that’s right, completed
. Their works before and after it? Damn “classics” the lot of them, by many-a-standard, but a “classic” of “classics”? There is your Sgt. Pepper’s
: The greatest album by the greatest band the world has ever known. The Fab Four set out to record an album that would effectively “tour” for them at a time when they had left the touring world behind to become a studio-only band. Little did they know that not only would Sgt. Pepper’s
effectively hit the road for them; it would “tour” for them constantly in the decades following the 60s as a landmark of studio production wizardly, expanding the recording palette of those artists at the time of its release and that of those to come in the future.
Legacy aside, the case can be made that Sgt. Pepper’s
is The Beatles at their best creatively as songwriters, not a dud of a track to be found on the concept of the album’s setlist. Even Ringo Starr’s vocal performance is among the best of his career, heading one of The Beatles’ premier, noteworthy tracks, “With A Little Help From My Friends”, a song written for him by guitarist John Lennon and bassist Paul McCartney. A little underrated in his work on Sgt. Pepper’s
, and on the majority of The Beatles’ other albums as well, is George Harrison; his inclusions to the songs, especially the Indian-influenced and penned “Within You Without You”, are vital to the album’s diversity of instrumental material, featuring such foreign inclusions as a tambura and dilrubha.
Leaving the rest of Sgt. Pepper’s
to the hands of Lennon and McCartney is perhaps the reason the album succeeds as well as it does, though, taken in a song-by-song context. The overcomer’s anthem “Getting Better”, the aforementioned “With A Little Help From My Friends”, the often critically underrated beauty of “She’s Leaving Home”, and hello
, perhaps a runner for the greatest song of all time, the revolutionary epic “A Day In The Life”? Lennon and McCartney at their best, prooving, if only by this album alone, that these two men were the greatest songwriting duo the world has ever known, performing the most cooperatively that they ever had together, a point that is all but cemented with just one play through of Sgt. Pepper’s
enthralling closer. If only the singles released before the album were included into its tracklist, “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”, then perhaps even the harshest of Sgt. Pepper's
critics would bend to the album’s grandness as a sublime collection of songs and as a display of innovative studio wizardry.
But on the other hand, Sgt. Pepper’s
wouldn’t be the same
then, now would it? The album’s perfect layout that meets the differing songs of its content with a firm handshake and places each preceding in perfect union with the next would be changed. In short, the album just wouldn’t work
like it does now. Give me an album that smoothly transitions from the mallet-struck painette of “Getting Better” to the harpsichord and maracas of the psychedelic “Fixing A Hole”, that bridges the gap of the out-there Indian instrumentals of “Within You Without You” with the nursery-rhyme ditty found in “When I’m Sixty-Four”, as if mere elementary mathematics. It just can’t be found anywhere else, a flow so natural and perfect that only the songwriting and studio workings of the greatest band of all time, The Beatles, could make it work. Let’s not forgot the studio marvel that is “A Day In The Life”, a profound multi-piece revolving around drugs, a friend of McCartney and Lennon’s death, and pot holes in the road, featuring that final E-major chord, perhaps the grandest single chord in rock ‘n’ roll history. Ever wonder for what purpose it sounds?
, it is finished. The end to the best work that The Beatles ever made together. But not only this: The chains of convention and pop music had once again been broken by The Fab Four with Sgt. Pepper’s
release and impact in 1967, but arguably on a larger scale. No longer were songs by a pop band limited to a two-three minute running time in order to be successful. No longer were unconventional
instrumentals totally off-limits for the radio; the gates of the studio
had been opened wide. As I listen to Sgt. Pepper’s
now, I have nothing but gratitude for what it stands for today and for what it did back then in the 60s, but yet I respect it the most for the strength as a timeless collection of songs. They have never
diminished in their strength to me, never once becoming skippable on a listen through the album's entire length. Sgt. Pepper’s
is an album that I must listen to all the way through each time I hear it, to remember each instance in which I experienced it, but also to marvel at the brilliance of its creators. And you know what? Every time I enjoy it a little more than the time before, perhaps a true indicator of Sgt. Pepper’s
rightful status as a “classic”, as the greatest album of all time:
“I’ve got to admit that it’s getting better; it’s getting better, all the time