The Art of McCartney by Various Artists
I got this for Christmas and it's been sitting on my to listen to pile for ages. It is not great, but then I find covers of The Beatles, specifically McCartney songs never are. Sure there are some gems, but they are few and far between.
Why do so many good musicians fall over with these classic songs?
Some artists really ruin songs that would have sounded like a sure bet on paper, Billy Joel doing Maybe I'm Amazed, just awful and he gets a second go on Live and Let Die, which in my mind was already a bad choice, and then he whistled on it...whistled...on Live and Let die...really? Harry Connick Jnr singing My Love sounds like a match made in heaven, but it was beyond awful, he sounded off-key. It should have been a lifted, symphonic performance we all know Connick is more than capable of, but it was not.
Does The Beatles cannon scare people that much? Is it far more difficult musically than it sounds? Do people think they can muck around with perfection? The answer is probably times three!
Those that respect the melody and sing it as intended, but how they sing, make it work the best. Two perfect examples of getting it right are The Cure doing Hello, Goodbye, they sing it exactly as it is meant to be sung, but they still sound like The Cure and it sounds great. Alice Cooper (surprisingly - or maybe not - a huge Beatles fan) does a great version of Eleanor Rigby, same thing, sounds as it is meant to but still sounds like Alice Cooper.
There is a real clarity and crispness to a lot of McCartney's song, the guitar riff on Band on the Run for example, and in these covers the ones that mess up loose that clarity and turn it into murky, and somehow it doesn't work. It's fascinating and almost amusing to listen to...almost...cause technically it is sacrilege! When someone with a voice like Jamie Cullum makes a sweet tune like Every Night sounds dirgy and dark you know something is just wrong.
Def Leppard do well on Helen Wheels, Owl City lift Listen to What the Man Said beautifully, Perry Farrell kills on Got to Get You Into My Life, and The Airborne Toxic Event are great on No More Lonely Nights. The songs sound right, but not exact copies, and you can hear their own uniqueness over the musicality of McCartney. This is how they should be covered.
Then there were the versions that were almost carbon copies, but just don't cut it, because why bother? Corinne Bailey Rae does this with Bluebird, she should have brought an extra sweetness to it, but it never happened. It was technically perfect and she sounds good, but it was lackluster.
George Martin worked on a project with a range of songs being covered by unlikely people over a decade ago, and most of the songs covered sound good. But that is to be expected, if anyone knows how to arrange a Beatles song it is Martin. So why did this project, supposedly overseen by McCartney himself go wrong? Is he just too nice to say to people, you suck? Probably.
There had been some great covers of Beatles songs over the years, my favourites being Joe Cocker's With A Little Help From My Friends and U2's Helter Skelter. And a highly commended to Zoot's Eleanor Rigby. And I do love Roxy Music's Jealous Guy. There are probably a few more, but off the top of my head I cannot think.
What are your favourites? Or ones you cannot stand?