The Ultimate Album-Vs.-Album Cage Match: 'Sgt Pepper's' Vs. 'A Night At The Opera'!

On the surface, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is an album seemingly without equal, thereby rendering any such argument as this as flawed from the beginning.

By and large, this writer would be the first to agree if the discussion involved any other album than Queen's A Night At The Opera. Released less than ten years after Sgt Pepper's, the album itself benefits from the multi-track technology that had finally become available prior to the Sgt Pepper's sessions expanding from four tracks to sixteen. It also builds upon Sgt. Pepper's use of the studio as a compositional tool rather than simply a means to capture a performance.

"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" vs "Death On Two Legs"

Both albums start in determined fashion, with the title cut to Sgt. Pepper's creating quite the cinematic setting for the introduction of Pepper, his band, and closes by introducing Ringo's alter-ego Billy Shears. Queen's "Death On Two Legs" is a blistering indictment of their manager Norman Sheffield, who, despite not being named in the song, promptly sued the band for defamation.

Winner: The Beatles

"With A Little Help From My Friends" vs. "I'm In Love With My Car"

In the "Songs Sung By The Drummer Dept.", "With A Little Help By My Friends" tops Queen's "I'm In Love With My Car" as the better composition, confirmed by the song's lengthy shelf life brought about by Joe Cocker's moving cover of the tune in '68 and the fact that Beach Boy Brian Wilson called it one of his favorite songs ever.

Winner: The Beatles

"When I'm Sixty Four" vs. "Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon"

Oddly enough, both albums feature an ode to music hall pop. In the case of "When I'm Sixty-Four", the Beatles reached all the way back to a song Paul wrote when he was 16. Mercury, on the other hand, felt that writing such material was a challenge that he welcomed and would further explore as his career advanced. Based on sheer listenability, this writer skips over both songs just as quickly.

The winner: tie.

"Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" vs "Love of My Life"

As a kid, I may have played "Lucy" more times than perhaps any other song on Sgt. Pepper's. Sonically, it is easy to presume that it came before "A Day In The Life" and that some of the elements found here were used to greater effect on the latter song. By the same token, "Love of My Life" features many similar elements to "Bohemian Rhapsody", so much so that you can recognize those same elements.

Winner: The Beatles

"A Day In The Life" vs. "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Arguably, both songs were the height of studio indulgence for the times their respective albums were recorded and, thus, absolutely revolutionary in defining what can be accomplished in the recording studio. For the Beatles, there was absolutely no way such a song could have turned out the way it did without the recent advent of four-track recording (although there was, in fact, an eight-track recording machine available at the time in the United States).

In much the same way, "Bohemian Rhapsody" is a song that could not have otherwise turned out the way it did without making full use of the 24-track recording machines available to them. Even so, they found themselves bouncing several tracks down to one numerous times during the recording of the group's multi-tracked vocals.

While my own allegiance is to "A Day In The Life", one cannot deny the physical, musical, and melodic genius on display here. The arrangement alone is a work of absolute surgical precision that unfolds like a Swiss Army knife complete with kitchen sink, revealing Freddie Mercury's multi-pronged vision in all its miraculous beauty.

In doing so, "Bohemian Rhapsody" emerges victorious and remains, to this day, literally without equal.

Winner: Queen

In fact, "Bohemian Rhapsody" remains such a shining artistic achievement that you could almost award this Cage Match victory to Queen based on the undeniable staying power of the song, even through the '80s when the stigma of AIDS, and Freddie's inability to tour, diminished the band's presence in the U.S. considerably.

So, which album reigns supreme, you ask?

Overall result: A tie.

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