Less than six months after I reviewed a free Bob Dylan covers’ CD from Uncut magazine I am raving about another. This time it is The Beatles who get covered. It is called Fab Gear and says “Mojo presents 15 customised Beatles covers”(available with Mojo, November 2021).
Customised is the word. This is a CD packed with reinventions of the familiar, filled with a plethora of the most pleasant of surprises.
From the opening She Said, She Said rocked up by The Black Keys to the closing Let It Be reimagined in jazz, Joshua Redman’s saxophone giving that beautiful familiar tune soaring gospel and a good deal of improvisation too, we get new ways to see these songs.
Don’t Let Me Down gets dub treatment, She & Him go near calypso with I Should Have Known Better, Damon and Naomi give us an airy almost religiously meditative While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Jim James doing the same to another Harrison Long Long Long and The Melvins go grunge on I Want To Hold Your Hand.
Personally I have been a long time fan of African American shadings of Beatles’ songs. I love the two volumes of Black America Sings… And so here Swamp Dogg’s Lady Madonna is outrageously good, all positive funked up rush with brass and hammond organ.
PP Arnold brings a Gospel feel to Eleanor Rigby surely one of McCartney’s greatest moments. With Macca I imagine that priests, church and people getting saved are all incidental to his story line. Not so with PP. She reaches soul that white Liverpool boys might never even have seen in their psychedelic trips!
Best of all in its customising is Bettye LaVette’s The Word. Funked up it gives some spiritual clout to some Beatles, probably mainly Lennon, preaching. This is the song at the fulcrum of The Beatles style and content, where Rubber Soul shifts the choruses from boy/girl to universal when it comes to love.
As Steve Turner points out in his book The Gospel According To The Beatles, Lennon was the only Beatle to be confirmed in the church and by his own choice. When Lennon starts to head down Dylan’s avenue with message songs then it might be obvious that he would. Here words like light and free and word and spreading the word could all be sung in Church.
Off piste and my own thoughts mingling The Bible says that Jesus is the Word and God is love.
Back To Fab Gear. The gear here are the songs from the greatest songwriting canon in music. They get fab re-customisations that eek out even more wonder than we thought they add. It’s a blast.