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New Yorkers Get a Special Preview of the Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ Reissue

Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

The BeatlesSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is generally considered the greatest album ever, so what more can be improved upon something that is already perfect? Actually a substantial amount, if you were part of the team that worked on the upcoming highly-anticipated reissue of Sgt. Pepper for its golden anniversary.

At an exclusive private listening event held on April 28 at New York City’s World of McIntosh, attendees got an early preview of the new mix of the classic record, which will released next month as an special anniversary edition whose configurations feature the original album presented in stereo and 5.1 surround sound, accompanied by previously unreleased outtakes from the recording sessions.

The event was presented by producer/engineer Giles Martin, the son of legendary Beatles producer George Martin, who worked on the new Sgt. Pepper mix with Sam Okell. Held inside a cozy upstairs brick-walled room surrounded by speakers, turntables and leather couches, the occasion hearkened back to the old days when rock journalists and hangers-on would attend playback events thrown by the record companies when a new album arrives.

With the sounds emanating from the various McIntosh speakers throughout the room, Martin talked about and demonstrated the differences between the previous stereo version of Sgt. Pepper and this new stereo mix as he played tracks such as “She’s Leaving Home” and “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” “When music is heard,” he explained, ”it should shoot out of the speakers. There’s an immediacy that we tried to get out of the mix.”

He also played a previously unreleased outtake of “Fixing a Hole,” which began with some studio chatter, then the familiar harpsichord sounds followed by percussion and then vocals. “It shows that they just played as a band,” said Martin afterwards. “They just played the right sounds…They threw ideas at everything.”

Following Martin’s presentation, the seated attendees spent the next 39 minutes listening attentively to the new mix of Sgt. Pepper in its entirety. Even if you heard the album many times, the new mix made Sgt. Pepper sound more vibrant and dynamic than your worn-out vinyl or CD copy, revealing both noticeable and subtle touches that perhaps you forgotten about or took for granted.

For example in several instances, Ringo Starr‘s drumming throughout the record was more prominent this time around, probably much to his satisfaction now. The guitar playing seemed to stand out more on “Getting Better” and “Fixing a Hole” than before; the new mix of “She’s Leaving Home,” sung by Paul McCartney and accompanied by John Lennon, sounded contemporary as well as dramatic, befitting the song’s storyline. The whimsical and dizzying sounds on the Lennon-sung “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” and “Good Morning Good Morning” also came to the fore. Through this new mix of Pepper, one could really hear the drone amid the sitar and other Indian instruments on George Harrison‘s spiritual “Within You Without You.” And of course, that famous piano chord at the conclusion of “A Day of the Life” still resonated on this latest edition of the album.

Whether it was because the music of Sgt. Pepper still sounded timeless, the experience of listening to the new mix in this setting was so absorbing, or a combination of the two–the attendees stood up and clapped when the playback was finished. Afterwards, Martin and Jeff Jones, the CEO of Apple Corps, further spoke about the new special anniversary edition of Sgt. Pepper and answered questions from the audience, ranging from the inclusion of the singles “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” on the reissue packages (they’re not on the single CD version), to going through the session outtakes and deciding what was worthy for inclusion. Asked what was revealing to them during the project, Jacobs said that the vocal harmonies came across, while Martin added: “I realized each song sounded better next to each other. I realized what an album is.”

Meanwhile, the general public will be able to realize themselves what an album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was and still is, when the special anniversary edition of the record comes out on May 26 in four configurations: a standard CD, a deluxe 2-CD set, a deluxe 2-LP vinyl set, and a super deluxe 4-CD/DVD/Blu-ray boxed set.

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