Friday, 3 February 2017

"Let It Be: Black America Sings Lennon, McCartney and Harrison" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2016 Ace CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Don't Let Me Down..."

I'm a huge fan of England's Ace Records and their stunning CD compilations (who isn't). And you look at the premise here - Soul Artists doing their take on the Fabs - and surely the results will be electrifying and funky as a gnat's chuffer.

But then you play "Let It Be: Black America Sings Lennon, McCartney and Harrison" by VARIOUS ARTISTS and song after song just feels wrong. Nothing ever ignites. It's a strange truth but The Beatles (as soulful as their music was) - doesn't translate to Soul. The Isley Brothers doing Carole King or Stephen Stills - Love Sculpture doing Ray Charles - even Grand Funk doing "Some Kind Of Wonderful" by The Soul Brothers Six - these crossovers all work. And of course you could fill box sets full of other covers that add to the original and even bring out more. But no such luck here - here you get one ill-chosen track after another.

The 16-page booklet is (as always) a thing of beauty - classy photos of Screamin' Jaw Hawkins doing "A Hard Day's Night", Mary Well's tackling "Do You Want To Know A Secret" and Dionne Warwick having a go at "We Can Work It Out". 

Released 30 September 2016 in the UK (October 2016 in the USA) - "Let It Be: Black America Sings Lennon, McCartney and Harrison" by VARIOUS ARTISTS is a typically well presented affair from reissue experts Ace Records. The booklet is a feast - rare picture sleeves - 7" single label repros (RCA for Nina Simone, Capitol for Junior Parker, EMI America for Gary U.S. Bonds) with top-quality mastering from Duncan Cowell and a generous 22-track playing time for Ace CDCHD 1483 (Barcode 029667077026) of 77:54 minutes.

1. Eleanor Rigby - Aretha Franklin
2. Dear Prudence - The 5 Stairsteps
3. Got To Get You Into My Life - Earth, Wind And Fire
4. Do You Want To Know A Secret - Mary Wells
5. The Fool On The Hill - Four Tops
6. Lovely Rita - Fats Domino
7. Here Comes The Sun - Nina Simone
8. Ob La Di Ob La Da - Arthur Conley
9. A World Without Love - The Supremes
10. Tomorrow Never Knows - Junior Parker
11. Don't Let Me Down - Randy Crawford
12. With A Little Help From My Friends - The Undisputed Truth
13. A Hard Day's Night - Screamin' Jay Hawkins
14. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window - Ike & Tina Turner
15. For No One - Maceo & All The King's Men
16. It's Only Love - Gary U.S. Bonds
17. We Can Work It Out - Dionne Warwick
18. Hey Jude - The Temptations
19. In My Life - Boyz II Men
20. Savoy Truffle - Ella Fitzgerald
21. Something - Isaac Hayes
22. Let It Be - Bill Withers

I wish I could say the music worth it. Beautifully presented or not - 9 times out of 10 the interpretations offered here feel like half-hearted cash-ins on a very popular band of the time - the most popular and influential group of all time. Yet somehow the Beatles songs don't really suit Soul. Better is the "Hard To Handle" set in this series where Black Artists have a go at Otis Redding – a combo that actually does work.

In the meantime – if you’re tempted by "Let It Be: Black America Sings Lennon, McCartney and Harrison" - I'd try to get a listen to the CD first before committing...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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