Last week Robert Hilburn argued that the "Sgt. Pepper" LP--despite remaining a "landmark work"--is not the Beatles' best album because it is weighted down by seven songs that "represent the longest stretch of mediocre material" the group ever recorded. Calendar letter writers were not pleased--by a 9-1 ratio.
Hilburn's harsh assessment of "Sgt. Pepper" is well taken, but in itself dated.
Milestone albums by today's standards often turn out to be an assemblage of hit "singles." "Sgt. Pepper" dared to be an indivisible album (unlike the lesser-received follow-up, "Magical Mystery Tour"). Tearing it apart song-by-song is like dissecting a frog--what you come up with may appear interesting, but all you have now is a dead animal.
"Sgt. Pepper" is still deservedly the No. 1 rock album of all time. But Hilburn is to be commended in his attempts to break down the rigidness of tired "classic rock" adherents and the erroneous notion that the Beatles were incapable of ever doing wrong (pick on the "White Album" instead, Bob).