Monday, March 1, 2010
I have in my possession an album called Soul Tribute to the Beatles, which is quite possibly the best album of its kind in existence. Most tribute albums end up scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of artists willing to throw away covers of other people's songs, so you end up with lots of Polvo and Redd Kross and people like that. But this record compiles already-recorded versions of some of the greatest pop songs ever written, as done by some of the greatest R&B singers of all time.
Here's the powerhouse lineup:
"Hey Jude," by Wilson Pickett This is the recording that made Duane Allman a household name, at least in those households that paid attention to session guitarists.
"Lady Madonna," by Fats Domino Fitting, since McCartney wrote this in tribute to Fats, and the Beatles loved his cover version.
"Yesterday," by Marvin Gaye "Why did she have to go? I don't know, hey I don't know, the little girl wouldn't say."
"Let It Be," by Aretha Franklin This didn't make the Top Forty, but her cover of "Eleanor Rigby" did, in late 1969.
"Come Together," by Ike & Tina Turner Tina changed "Hold you in his armchair/You can feel his disease" to "Hold you in his arms till you can feel his disease." Hers is better, isn't it?
"Day Tripper," Otis Redding From the legendary Complete and Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul. Uses the word "y'all" much more than the Beatles ever did.
"And I Love Him," by Esther Phillips Esther liked this so much she made it the title track of her 1965 LP.
"I Want to Hold Your Hand," by Al Green This somewhat radical reworking was Reverend Al's first single. If he tried this on Beatles Rock Band, he would fail.
"Can't Buy Me Love," The Supremes The Supremes cut a whole album's worth of British Invasion hits, A Bit of Liverpool, in October 1964. This is easily the weakest cut on the LP under discussion.
"Michelle," by the Four Tops Just between you and me, the Tops have no idea how to pronounce "tres bien ensemble." They did a lot of great pop-song covers, including "Walk Away Renee," "If I Were a Carpenter," and "MacArthur Park."
"Got to Get You Into My Life," by Earth, Wind & Fire A Top Ten hit in 1978, from the regrettable screen adaptation of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
"Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," by Natalie Cole A live version from 1978. It's hard to imagine a world in which Natalie Cole would see fit to present her concert audiences with an extended cover of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," but I suspect it's a better world than the one in which we live.