Let me begin by writing that I believe The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is an excellent album. If I have a long drive facing me, I have no problem sticking it in the CD player as I hit the road. However, sometimes the legend of an album can overwhelm its actual quality.
This album is more important for its cultural impact than its alleged greatness. Released in the summer of 1967, it was the next step in the maturation of the band. The Beatles were striving to be artists that expanded what rock and roll could be. They were tired of being the objects of screams at concerts.
They had already abandoned tours because their 1966 concert tour was the last they ever did. Artistically, they were growing as the remarkable Revolver album showed that same year. If 'Tomorrow Never Knows' is not their greatest song, then it is definitely in the top five. It was the triumphant finale to Revolver.
After that, they entered the studio to begin recording what would become Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. However, they spent such a long time in the studio that there became a need to release a single to maintain their visibility. They released what could easily be considered the greatest two-sided single of all time. '
However, by choosing these two songs for the single, it cost them the opportunity to make their greatest album. Sgt. Pepper's... has some truly great songs: 'With a Little Help from My Friends,' 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,' 'A Day in the Life' and the title song are all top flight. The problem is that some of the deep album cuts are not quite up to snuff.
'She's Leaving Home' sounds like a remake of 'Eleanor Rigby' from the year before but less successful. 'For the Benefit of Mr. Kite' has lyrics literally taken from a carnival poster. 'Within You Without You' was one of George Harrison's less successful attempts to incorporate Indian music into The Beatles' sound. 'When I'm Sixty-four' is cute but inconsequential.
Drop two of those songs and replace them with '
In reviewing The Beatles body of work, I consider this their fourth best album. It ranks behind The Beatles (The White Album), Revolver, and
Like I wrote at the beginning, Sgt. Pepper's... is an excellent album. However, does it deserve to be ranked ahead of the other three albums I just listed? An objective mind would reply: 'No.'