Missed Music

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More inspired Reggae covers from Easy Star All-Stars; this time it’s The Beatles

So back in February, I wrote about The Easy Star All-Stars. They are a Reggae band that specializes in Reggae-ifying entire classic albums. Their first release of this nature was ‘Dub Side of the Moon,’ which was fantastic. Then they released ‘Radiodread,’ covering ‘OK Computer,’ which was not AS good, but still had some real winners. I told you then they had announced they were working on ‘Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band.’ Well, it came out in April and I have had time to thoroughly digest it.

Like the original, but smokier.

Like the original, but smokier.

I mentioned in my last review that the reason ‘Dark Side’ worked so well is that Pink Floyd is like Reggae music in a lot of ways: songs with dark lyrics about struggle and suffering buoyed by joyful, triumphant music. People have said a lot of things about The Beatles, but no one has ever called them dark or brooding. John would occasionally pen some dark lyrics, but Paul never had a dark day in his life. Or at least, he never wrote a song on one of his dark days.

On the other hand, The Beatles did produce a lot of joyful music and it is in these tracks that The All-Stars really make it work. Like on ‘Radiodread,’ there are some songs that just don’t work in the Reggae style. “She’s Leaving Home,” for example, should probably never be covered by anyone and it certainly doesn’t work here. “When I’m Sixty-Four” also doesn’t make the transition very well. Still, I pulled 6 tracks off this release. Some of the songs on this album are fantastic, obviously, but I’ve heard John, Paul, George, and Ringo sing them hundreds of times. It’s nice to hear a new version of some that I had never heard covered before.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hears Club Band – The Reggae beats, horns, and Jamaican accent are cool to hear in this familiar ground and they don’t lose any of the joy of the music.
  • With a Little Help from My Friends – This is a great song and I always like to hear someone other than Ringo sing. (Sorry, Ringo. I always thought you were a good drummer, but they should never have given you a mic.)
  • Fixing a Hole (Extended Dub Mix) – They make this much spacier than the original with heavily reverbed vocals and some dreamy harmonica. This is one of the better versions of this song I’ve heard.
  • Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! – Well, this was always my favorite song on this album (or tied for first with “A Day in the Life”) and they got Ranking Roger into the studio to lend his inimitable style. They also play some of the same studio tricks George Martin broke out on the original album. This is the second best song on the album.
  • Within You Without You – I like this better than the original. I always thought this track was incongruous on the original album. It’s way too slow and sleepy and it’s preachy besides. On THIS version, however, they turn up the tempo so the album doesn’t lose its energy and Matisyahu – clear-voiced and spiritually-minded – is a perfect choice to deliver the vocals. It’s still preachy.
  • A Day in the Life – “Woke up. Fell out of bed. Dragged my fingers through my dreads.” They do a really nice job with this, though they don’t change it all that much. They use a  Reggae backbeat and horns instead of strings but they don’t mess with arrangement at all. And yes, they do end the album with the “Never could be any other way” weirdness.

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds comes off pretty well, too, but A) I’ve heard this song covered many times and a few better, and B) the way Frankie Paul enunciates “diamonds” gets on my nerves.

I am an Easy Star fan and at this point I’m interested to hear what they are working on next. Some Rolling Stones? Zeppelin IV? Hotel California? I’ll listen to it, whatever it is.

http://www.easystar.com/

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August 12, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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