Without question, the first psychedelic trio to perform the song, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” was the Jimi Hendrix Experience. On June 3, 1967, Hendrix played the song live at Brian Epstein’s Saville Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue. Paul McCartney and George Harrison, who were in the audience, were impressed. One reason they were pleased was the full Sgt. Pepper album had only come out two days prior, which meant Hendrix had little time to learn the tune before making it one of his concert staples.
Forty-four years later, Danger Danger guitarist Andy Timmons has picked up where Hendrix left off. But he’s taken up the challenge of doing a psychedelic interpretation of the full album from start to finish with no vocals. Unlike Hendrix, Timmons has had decades to absorb the music of the milestone LP and reportedly set about recording this tribute from memory alone. To be fair, along with bassist Mike Daane and drummer Mitch Marine, the Andy Timmons Band isn’t always going to blow your mind with their Beatles homage. Still, they do capture the spirit of the times in which their inspiration was created. Fuzz, echo, and feedback should take those who were there back in time when incense and black light posters decorated their bedrooms. The version here of “Within You Without You” alone should remind listeners of cleaning out seeds and stems using their gatefold album covers.
There are some pleasant surprises along the way, including some astonishing playing, notably “She’s Leaving Home” which is both beautiful and a tour de force for a fast-fingered stringman. “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” is a Lennon fest with strong doses of “She’s So Heavy” filling out the jam. George Harrison would no doubt smile to hear Timmons’ version of “When I’m Sixty-Four,” as Timmons goes rockabilly in the spirit of Harrison’s musical mentor, Carl Perkins. “Good Morning Good Morning” and the “Sgt. Pepper’s Reprise” are the set’s heaviest rockers followed by the track that should surprise no one for its complex approach: “A Day in the Life” is a standout performance, showcasing what Timmons can do on the fretboard in terms of switching gears and moods as the melody progresses.
But the cut that made me sit up and demand a replay is “Strawberry Fields Forever,” a song that didn’t find its way onto the Sgt. Pepper album. It’s the interpretation with the most obvious emotional power, an opportunity for musical virtuosity as well as demonstrating the respect and affection Timmons has for the material. This is the song I’d play for anyone who might be interested in trying out this Beatles tribute for the first time; if “Strawberry Fields” sells you, this one is for you.
As a whole, this collection of instrumentals doesn’t demand focused listening. But it should easily interest Beatle fans, guitar enthusiasts, and those who’d like good background music for parties and gatherings where you hope your guests pause, listen, and ask, “What is that? I really like what they’re doing with the Beatles.”
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