Music Review: Update, The Beatles Complete on Ukulele, March 2011

Within days of starting this blog I was already putting the good word in for one of my favourite things I have ever discovered online, The Beatles Complete on Ukulele. If someone mentions The Beatles or ukuleles within my earshot, they leave my presence with at least a passing understanding of what this website aims to accomplish.

The mission of this site –which started publishing during President Obama’s inauguration in 2009 and intends to complete its project during the opening ceremonies for the London Olympics in 2012– is to publish an original cover of a Beatles song every week  until the entire discography has been reworked in any number of genres by artists from around the globe. The only rule is that at some point the cover must include at least one ukulele. This is about giving creative people a task and letting them go to it. The results have been remarkable. I stand in awe of what artists can do with their medium. The Beatles produced an incredible body of work, and that body can be stretched in ways that continue to amaze me.

I have twice reviewed the entries to date, here and here. It’s been too long since I’ve revisited that subject, and I apologize for that. I’m also sorry to admit that while the site has grown and thrived, it has migrated to a new dedicated domain that rendered all of my earlier links invalid. Further, many of the excellent essays I praised have not made the journey to their new home. I have now revised the links on my earlier reviews, but I beg your forgiveness if the content I referenced may no longer synch up with what appears there now.

Anyway, I’ve been asked by one of the site’s founders to resume my brief synopses, and I’m delighted to do so. If you would like to listen to any of these songs without going to the individual pages, this page can stream all of them for your enjoyment. I feel compelled to include the following disclaimer: I have no formal musical training, nor am I any kind of critic. The following opinions are mine alone and informed only by my background as a Beatles fan who almost certainly first heard the Fab Four in utero. I am absolutely willing to concede my ignorance on any technical points of musical theory. With that in mind, enjoy!

Once again, songs 1 through 48 have been reviewed here, and songs 49 through 71 have been reviewed here.

72. — This Boy covered by Andy Burri
released on the week of June 1, 2010

Sadly, the essay for this entry is now lost. I can only speak to the music. Fortunately the cover is lovely and true to the original. It’s a gentle ukulele-drive homage that does justice to the original without any of the flamboyant departures some of the earlier covers attempted. It’s a great addition to the project, but I wouldn’t call it a stand out success.

73. — I’ve Just Seen a Face covered by Mumtaz Jafri
released on the week of June 8, 2010

I’ll confess I’ve tried to do this justice in karaoke, and I have failed miserably. My vision of this song is much closer to the cover Mumtaz Jafri offers: Slow, dreamy, melodic rather than frantic. The original –as so often happens during the high-water mark of Beatles fever– is a headlong rush into the microphone. It’s an avalanche of sound, of enthusiasm, of optimism. Who hasn’t met an individual and within ten seconds known you will never forget that special someone? That’s a difficult thing to reproduce, and Mumtaz prefers the slower and more deliberate approach. My only criticism to his take is the replacement of the introduction with drums rather than the ukulele that might have offered an interesting contrast. All the same, this slower tempo is a pleasant departure from the original.

74. — Sexie Sadie covered by Julian Velard
released on the week of June 15, 2010

This is another one where the essay has disappeared, although I remember it being interesting. The cover has a greater emphasis on the bass line and drum beat than the original, but in a good way. Julian Velard leans into the lyrics in a way that is absolutely satisfying. He lends a worldliness to a song that I know and love well. Some of the harmonies remind me of the Beach Boys, which I enjoy because of The Beatles’ own fascination with the California boy band who also became artists after their early 60s teenie-bopper fame.

75. — Michelle covered by Floanne
released on the week of June 22, 2010

I have, in the past, bemoaned covers done in another language. I can’t do that here. If ever there was a song that should be done in a different tongue, it’s Michelle. It almost cries out for a full-French rendition, and here Floanne does it with the welcome addition of the clinking of glasses, accordion, and the casual conversation of a Parisian cafe. Only the electric backing percussion pulls us away from the mental image of a 1960s francophone coffee house. The essay is interesting, but I somehow remember it being of greater depth. Perhaps it was edited during the transition to the new site?

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