Review: Sgt Pepper Super DeLuxe
|The Super DeLuxe edition|
SGT PEPPER SUPER DELUXE SET – Some random musings
by Anna Crusis
The new stereo remix of the full album.
(See further down)
01. Strawberry Fields Forever (Take 1)
This is the same version that has been heard on bootleg for several decades now. When included on Anthology the beautiful backing vocals were omitted but here they are present (and in stereo). Like all the tracks on the two sessions discs, this recording is presented completely “dry” and without any added reverb or echo. Sounds better than the boot version although the mellotron ramblings at the start are absent.
02. Strawberry Fields Forever (Take 4)
Another track that was booted many years ago, sounding very similar here but in higher quality.
03. Strawberry Fields Forever (Take 7)
A mono mix of this was used on Anthology but here it is in stereo. Great track.
04. Strawberry Fields Forever (Take 26)
The complete fast version with score. Oddly John didn’t bother to sing the first verse on either of his vocal overdubs, and instead la-la’s it and doesn’t come in till the final line. Since there was an earlier mono mix that featured him singing the verse, the implication is that he’d decided to use the start of take 7 already and therefore didn’t bother singing the opening verse on this version. We’ll never know for sure.
05. Strawberry Fields Forever (Stereo Mix – 2015)
Just like the label says. Doesn’t really fit in here and should have been on disc 1.
06. When I’m Sixty Four (Take 2)
Take announcement, then a few seconds of preliminaries and into the take that ended up on the album. Here there are no lavish overdubs though, just bass, drums, guitar, Paul’s vocal and a piano overdub. Paul does some extra jazz scat vocals that were mixed out later. The piano is more prominent too. Nice.
07. Penny Lane (Take 6 – Instrumental)
A very basic instrumental version. The foundation seems to be Paul on piano, which is really nice to hear so clearly. On the other channel are a myriad of sounds from organ to cymbals and tambourine, some of which work and some of which don’t! All of these sounds can be heard on the Anthology version but here they are much clearer.
08. Penny Lane (Vocal Overdubs And Speech)
A very interesting track: Paul and George adding experimental background vocals to the song. You just hear their isolated voices and the backing track faintly through their headphones. Firstly they add what was obviously a carefully worked out Beach Boys-style part and handclaps to the section where the trumpet solo would end up. It sounds very similar to the cor anglais overdub heard on Anthology. This is obviously a rough take though, so they can be heard talking afterwards as the song goes on and Paul suggests various ideas as they proceed. Then there is some mention of backwards trumpet, and then some actual backwards trumpet (not sure if this is kosher or has been added by GM). A really interesting track this one.
09. Penny Lane (Stereo Mix 2017)
They’ve apparently found some new elements for this song and so have done a new stereo mix to supersede the one on 1. Should have been on disc 1 though.
10. A Day In The Life (Take 1)
Wow, we’ve struck gold here. The spoken intro was heard on Anthology and the first part of the take in the “Making Of Pepper” tv special, but this is the first time we’ve heard the full take. John’s vocal is ethereal and beautiful, and Paul turns in some budding avante garde piano. No drums, just John’s vocal and guitar, someone (probably George) on maraccas, Mal counting and Paul’s piano. This is my favourite track on the set.
11. A Day In The Life (Take 2)
Continues on in the same vein. This take was included on Anthology, but in mono. Here it is stereo and is not intercut with other versions except at the end where there is a cut to the “OOOMMMMM” they recorded later, but the take itself is not abbreviated so no real harm done.
12. A Day In The Life (Orchestra Overdub)
An isolation of the second orchestral build up. It starts a bit beforehand and there is so much studio noise, even the sound of people talking. Sinister and disturbing.
13. A Day In The Life (Hummed Last Chord, Takes 8, 9, 10 and 11)
“This is take 8, the choir for the end” says Geoff Emerick. “Choir?” responds a bemused John. There’s then some talking, a girl says “you lead in” and then follows a pretty lame attempt at the “Ommmm”. Much laughing. The girl vocalist seems to be Cynthia Lennon. “Stop freakin’ out, missus” says John. There is another unidentified (male) voice too. A few more attempts and then the final one which has been multitracked to make it more effective but, honestly, still sounds pretty silly.
14. A Day In The Life (The Last Chord)
“You got yer loud pedal down Mal?” asks Paul. “Which one’s that?” responds Mal. Paul puts him right and then follows several attempts at the final chord, with George Martin giving some pointers. Ringo and John can also be heard.
15. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Take 1 – Instrumental)
A garage band version of the rhythm track, with punky out-of-tune guitars. No bass, just drums so it’s hard to know who is on the guitars but one is so rough and ready it has to be John.
16. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Take 9 And Speech)
Identical to the version floating around on acetate for years but in stereo and with extra vocals and chat at the end. Paul sings “I feel it, I feel it! Gotta be free now…” and opines “I think it’ll probably be another day singing it.” George suggests Paul insert some vocals where he runs out of breath, so maybe the vocal track contains punch-ins.
17. Good Morning Good Morning (Take 1 – Instrumental, Breakdown)
“This is called Good Morning Good Morning I believe, I’m not sure about that” intones Geoff Emerick. John seems to recite the wedding vow. Paul counts in, which is a bit odd since he doesn’t seem to be actually doing anything. John sings and plays guitar while Ringo drums, but the Dingle boy blows it about halfway through due to the complexity of the arrangement.
18. Good Morning Good Morning (Take 8)
The version that wound up on the lp but in a basic form. Unlike the Anthology version John’s voice is completely dry here. Paul is on bass now.
01. Fixing A Hole (Take 1)
The take which ended up on the album. This seems to be entirely live with harpsichord, bass, drums and Paul’s vocal. It keeps going towards the end so there are some new vocal bits not heard before. Some very faint guitar.
02. Fixing A Hole (Speech And Take 3)
Another live take with some chat at the start. John: “Paul, did you make it with [drums?] on? I thought I was going to do the whole thing you see.” Paul: “try and make it the whole way through.” John is presumably on bass since it is very poorly played. There’s some nice improvised vocals towards the end once more.
03. Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite (Speech From Before Take 1, Take 4 And Speech At End)
George Martin in American accent: “Okay man, let’s go the light’s on.” A full live take which ends with John counting out the beat in the final bar. GM tells John just to mouth it or it’ll come out on the bass track. John – dubious – replies, “Well, we’ll have the Massed Alberts on by then won’t we?” He then jokes, “This time you’ll get it in the middle of the song.”
04. Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite (Take 7)
Another live take as they try and get the performance tighter.
05. Lovely Rita (Speech And Take 9)
The take that ended up on the album, but with less overdubs and some extra vocals from Paul at the start. I say “vocals” but it’s actually him reciting something in Latin. John is on acoustic guitar: “I did a freakout one then – one of them where you don’t know what you’re doing.” He complains about his guitar cutting in and out of the mix on the previous take. The lack of overdubs allows one to hear Paul’s improvisations at the end more clearly… strange.
06. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (Take 1 And Speech At The End)
Starts with a groovy little organ riff that reminded me of Johnny And The Hurricanes at the Star Club. George says something about his part and George Martin tells him it will only be in the headphones and not be recorded to tape. George: “Oh well.” John in scouse accent: “It’s direct injection.” George Martin is on piano, John on acoustic guitar, Ringo on drums and Paul on organ. Then follows a live take with a (very) rough guide vocal.
07. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (Speech, False Start And Take 5)
Paul: “Right, now: concentrate, swing it!” He then gives John some vocal coaching and there follows another live take more or less the same as the previous one.
08. Getting Better (Take 1 – Instrumental And Speech At The End)
A really heavy early take. No vocals, just drums, electric piano (Paul), fuzz guitar doubling as a bass and another lighter guitar. Almost unrecognisable (but good!)
09. Getting Better (Take 12)
The take from the album but without any vocals. Instead there is a very loud tamboura drone.
10. Within You Without You (Take 1 – Indian Instruments Only)
Just like the label says. Not very interesting for me.
11. Within You Without You (George Coaching The Musicians)
This is much more interesting. George uses a kind of Indian solfege to coach one of the musicians. I hadn’t actually realised George had learnt to do this and he is quite good at it. Very different from the way he coached his fellow Beatles with “Da-da-da, la-la”!
12. She’s Leaving Home (Take 1 – Instrumental)
George Martin conducting the score. Nice enough, and there is an extra little cello phrase at the end of the “She’s leaving home after living alone for so many years” parts.
13. She’s Leaving Home (Take 6 – Instrumental)
George Martin: “Is the tempo all right Paul?” Paul grunts.
14. With A Little Help From My Friends (Take 1 – False Start And Take 2)
No vocals, but lots of other stuff: drums, guitar, organ, cowbell, maracca, tambourine and really great piano from Paul. Paul had developed a terrific style of his own by this point.
15. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) (Speech And Take 8)
A different take from Anthology, but similar in content. Paul thinks his guide vocal may be confusing Ringo and is tripping out on the shapes on the walls of Studio 1. They sound like they are having fun.
(The first 15 tracks are the original mono mixes and not discussed here)
16. A Day In The Life (Unreleased First Mono Mix)
The same as the acetate version that has been kicking around since the year dot, but now with a slate at the start.
17. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (Unreleased Mono Mix – No. 11)
Similar to the released mono mix but even more phasey.
18. She’s Leaving Home (Unreleased First Mono Mix)
Some horrible flanging on the poor harp at the start. Otherwise similar to the released mono mix but with the extra cello phrases retained at the ends of the choruses (edited out for the lp).
19. Penny Lane (Capitol Records U.S. Promo Single – Mono Mix)
Crikey, this sounds like it was trod around the floor of the studio before being transferred. Surely there is a better copy somewhere.
The much-vaunted 2017 remix. I won’t go into every track (hey, I’ve gotta leave some stuff for other people to cover!) but generally the stereo placement is much better. There’s no lead vocals coming awkwardly out of the speaker on the other side of the room. Now vocal harmonies are often spread out in stereo, which is nice. Instruments are often placed more subtly in the picture rather than being panned hard left or right.
Okay, so in terms of actual mixing that’s a tick. Now the crosses. My big beef is with the dynamic range. I mean, there isn’t any. None. Everything is just constantly loud and it became fatiguing for me after about 15 minutes. I don’t want to sound negative but I wish they’d concentrated on making the stereo image better and not tried to make everything sound loud. She’s Leaving Home is not meant to be a loud song. There also seems to be quite a lot of reverb sometimes. So as usual it’s swings and roundabouts – plenty of good stuff, but some regrettable apects too.
As for the 5.1 mix I don’t have a surround system so I can’t comment on the effect. But the centre channel generally has the vocals in mono, with the vocals in wide stereo on the front left-right channels. The rear channels are kind of similar to the front channels and don’t seem to have too much discrete material. But, like I said, I can’t listen to it the way it was meant to be so take my opinion with a grain of salt.
My verdict: buy it! It’s not as exciting as Anthology back in the day but still a fascinating listen.
We have received a post script from Anne Crusis:
To follow up on my review of the set:
The new mix definitely sounds loud. It’s not that it’s brickwalled – it isn’t. It’s mainly a case of compression and harmonic enhancement (something like Aphex Aural Exciter) on the vocals, and a lot of bass boost on the drums. There is also quite a lot of reverb. When I listen to the outtakes, they have a very natural sound (and they are way better quality than the bootlegs), but when I switch to the 2017 album mix the difference is immediately obvious. Some people are going to love it, I have no doubt. But for me, most of the subtlety is gone and it is very wearying on the ears after only a short time. They’ve absolutely gone for a modern sound to try and bring it up to date, I guess. For me this oversteps the original remit of being true to the mono mix. I fear that in a decade or two this version will sound even more dated than the original. All in all the whole thing reminds me of George Martin’s remix of the Rock And Roll Music album in the 1970s. He made it sound more impressive to be sure, but now it just seems like a curio.
Re “Fixing A Hole” take 1 I have read a number of comments saying this must be an outtake and not the version on the album. But I think what has happened is that the take here is take 2 and not take 1, unless you believe that the original 1967 documentation is wrong (which I don’t for a second). There’s no slate at the start of “take 1” and I’m sure someone has just messed up here – it’s take 2, absolutely the same take as on the album.
The dvd also contains a tv special from 1987 about the making of the album, as well as three music videos previously included on 1.