Symphonic treatments of the Beatles have appeared almost ever since the original songs, and with tunesmiths of their caliber it's no wonder. But albums of this kind, with symphony orchestra arrangements of an entire album, are rarer, and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band may be the biggest challenge of all in this regard (the White Album possibly excepted). The first difficulty is the conceptual nature of the album, and the even more troublesome second is the fact that the concept involves a collision of musical genres themselves, with a collage of styles introduced by the hard rock gestures of the title track. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra simply places another layer on top of the collage and obscures its shapes. That title track doesn't sound convincing when played by an orchestra, and the album's hard rock moments (like Good Morning, Good Morning) are risible when put into this kind of setting. Arranger Mike Townend handles the issue of the texts skillfully, however, incorporating the songs' familiar refrains in choral settings sung by the British group Metro Voices doing its best to imitate John Lennon's reedy tone. He drops the voices in just enough to remind the listener of the words but not often enough to make the whole thing sound trite or square. And even if the album doesn't completely fly as a whole, some of the individual arrangements, like the expected When I'm Sixty-Four and She's Leaving Home, are delightful. The five bonus tracks drawn from other Beatles albums are also all very strong; the unlikely Can't Buy Me Love is done in a jazz arrangement following Ella Fitzgerald's recording of the song. Probably of most interest to hardcore fans of rock-classical crossover, but for the most part expertly done throughout.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim