One of the first things I did when I started this blog was promote one of my favourite sites on the internet, The Beatles Complete on Ukulele. This site, starting from Obama’s inauguration in 2009 and going to the opening ceremonies for the London Olympics in 2012, plans to release an original cover of a Beatles song –in every genre of music under the sun by artists from around the world– until the entire discography has been so honoured.
Of course, one of the drawbacks of a blog is that hardly anyone ever goes traipsing through your backlist. Posting so early in my blogging experience drove almost no traffic to their site, and that struck me as a tragedy. More people need to know about this site. I talk it up at parties. I mention it to co-workers. I can’t recommend it enough: If you like anything in the Beatles’ body of work, this site is worth your time.
In December of last year I did a rather extensive review of their covers up to that point, and that blog post was rather well received: The site organizers got in touch with me, as well as several of the musicians, thanking me for my efforts. I also succeeded in convincing some of you to take a look. My blog gets an order of magnitude more traffic now than then, and a good body of new material has built up in the meantime, so the timing seems right for me to revisit my reviewing and bring you up to date.
I’m happy to say that the site continues to produce musical treasures, as well as brilliantly written essays detailing where the song fits into the Beatles experience. They have also recently revamped their free downloading set up, making it even easier to access the music.
Anyway, I promised reviews, so without further ado:
49. — Honey Pie covered by Sarah Mitchell
released on the week of December 22, 2009
Honey Pie is one of Paul McCartney’s salutes to the bygone music his parents listened to, in this case Vaudeville. Sarah Mitchell stays true to the old timey spirit of the original, while tastefully updating it to the 21st Century with just the same deft touch McCartney gave to his 1960s take on a 1920s jingle. I honestly cannot think of a better way to approach a cover of this song. Mitchell’s voice even seems honey-coated. Her tone sweeps and swoons. You can picture her singing into one of those giant steel cage microphones, dressed as a flapper, in some retro-themed bar. The essay, as usual, is excellent: Esoteric, thoughtful, playful. This is a solid, solid entry into their blog, well worth a listen and a read.
50. — We Can Work It Out covered by Like Trains and Taxis
released on the week of December 29, 2009
There aren’t too many times I claim this, but if the Beatles had never written this song, and this cover was the only version in existence, it would still be a hit. Like Trains and Taxis could build an album around this, and I would see their show because of it. It’s smooth, sexy, calm, composed. Where the Beatles seemed in a hurry over this one, Like Trains and Taxis lead singer seems almost philosophical about the situation he finds himself in, and when the rest of the band joins in on the chorus you really feel like they’re trying the soft sell approach on whether or not the relationship in question should continue. The essay was a real eye opener too, as I hadn’t really considered who Paul was addressing the song towards. This is worth a look, good readers. Click the link. I’ll wait.
51. — Back in the USSR covered by A.L.X.
released on the week of January 5, 2010
As much as I love this site and appreciate all its efforts, I’m not universally slavish in my praise. This song, to me, is a rare miss. It’s too… Calculated? Self-aware? This is where I admit I’m not a musician. I don’t know the thought process that goes into putting a cover together, but as a listener I can sense that a lot of planning went into this one. That’s like reading a novel and knowing the author had the whole plot written out in bullet points in a notebook just from how the prose flows. It takes you out of the moment to sense the framework behind the art. The essay, as usual, is very interesting. On the whole it’s not a terrible contribution to the site, by any stretch, but something just doesn’t sit right with me on this one.
Continue reading “Music Review: Update, The Beatles on Ukulele, May 2010”