“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is known as The Beatles’ masterpiece. It’s their most celebrated pieces of work and will forever be the album that a lot people claim signaled the “Summer of Love” in the 1960s. And now, more than 40 years later, psychedelic-freak-rockers the Flaming Lips have taken a crack at it.
And it’s pretty good.
First off, what the Lips did — quite smartly — was take the album into their musical realm. Many artists have covered the Beatles, and the least successful ones either emulate too closely to the source material (making it sound like a bad karaoke cover) or they happen to be the Bee Gees and suck the life out of the material by making it disco.
No, like what they did with Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” cover album a few years back was take the basic premise, the essence and melodies of the source and make it their own. It’s not better, by any means, but it is good. Both these cover albums sound like a Flaming Lips album, but also have the feel of the originals. A slight feel, but it’s there.
With “With A Little Help From My Fwends” the Lips again brought in friends into the mix. A lot of friends. More than 20 other artists contributed to this, from Maynard James Keenan of Tool to My Morning Jacket to Miley Cyrus. Names I would never have thought I would see on an album together.
Not everything works, though. It’s a busy album, with a lot of effects and production going on, and sometimes that takes away from it. When it’s grounded a little, like Cyrus singing “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds,” they allow for some amazing atmosphere and depth that the original album helped pioneer decades prior. Sometimes a little sparsity helps.
Also, I kind of now hate the Flaming Lips for having me like anything Cyrus has done (NOTE: I can sometimes be petty like that).
Plus, having Keenan taking the lead vocals on “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite” was pretty nice. It’s also, oddly unlike the original, probably the least over-produced track on the album, which makes for an interesting switch.
The album also gives all proceeds to The Bella Foundation, an organization that helps provide veterinary service to those in need, so it’s for a good cause.
This is an interesting album. Like “Dark Side” before it, I will listen to it a few more times and then that will be that. This is a band I can’t often just recreationally listen too (except for “The Soft Bulletin,” I love that album). And it’s a covers album, and I much prefer the original material over this.