Thursday, March 13, 2014

It Was 50 Years Ago Today--- Canada Catches Up To the Beatles

I remember the sixties like it was yesterday and one thing I remember is that The Beatles were strides beyond the vast majority of bands/artists, worldwide.  I knew it simply because of all the cover songs being cranked out in the clubs and teen dances, they were the least covered.  Not because kids couldn't dance to their music but because it was damn hard to recreate the sound.  Well, after the first couple of albums, anyway.  Sure, I Want To Hold Your Hand and It Won't Be Long were well within reach of the better bands of the period, but a sure way to go down in flames was to try to replicate, say, I'm Only Sleeping or Dr. Robert and by the time Sgt. Pepper hit the streets, the music was not so danceable anymore, was it (not to mention it being way beyond the expertise of even the real pros).  No doubt about it.  The Beatles were a benchmark band.  If you could cover them, you were good, if still just a cover band.

Well, the world has caught up with them.  Finally.  It took a few decades, but musicians have finally come into their own, as have athletes, rocket scientists and brain surgeons.  I know because as I work my way through Volumes 2 and 3 of Bullseye Canada's It Was 50 Years Ago Today, I can hear it.  The slick guitar tricks, the production values, the  stacked harmonies so important to The Beatles' unique sound.  It's all there, on most of the tracks anyway, and not one Beatle contributed a thing to the recordings (nor was one harmed during the whole entire process).

Consider this an addendum to my review of the first volume of this "series" (it was released as, shall we say, a box set ten years previously), which you can read here.  It is a breakthrough set of songs for me on two levels.  One, while I am not really enamored of The Beatles anymore (I have heard enough for ten lifetimes), I am surprised to find that I am not done with their music--- rather, their songs.  I find this collection of songs rather refreshing, in fact.  Two, I am very surprised at the quality of musicianship involved.  I have heard a few of the artists represented here, but most I have not.  All get my thumbs up, if only for lack of pretension, if nothing else.  The songs are presented straightforward and honestly.  The "gimmicks" used come across as experiments at the least, highly successful recordings at the peak.

What it really comes down to these days are the songs, am I correct?  I mean, if we live in this supposed new world of soundbyte mentality and the song is the key, it has to be all about the song.  I am finding songs throughout these three volumes which intrigue and impress me.

I mentioned Sun PK in my earlier review, and The Kings and The Lolas and The Dons and even the art school angle taken by Figures at Dawn on their version of A Day In the Life.  All present their chosen Beatles songs with a flair beyond the average club band and, truth be told, strike a gong at certain points of their presentations.  Volume 1, to my ears, is a beauty.  Volumes 2 & 3 continue with a string of greater and lesser covers, all worth hearing.  To wit:

Popdudes crank up the guitars, rhythm-heavy, and toss in a bit of punk on the side to give Helter Skelter a punch in the stomach.  Credit the power and the basic and bottom-heavy rhythm guitar.  Give the vocalist credit, too.  It takes lungs to spew like that.

What could you possibly do with Hey Jude that hasn't already been done?  I have no idea, but Eight Seconds lay it out smooth and sweet and I don't miss McCartney at all.  The concert piano helps as do the eerily Beatles-style harmonies.  They nail the ending too.  Not as easy as it sounds.

Dr. Lotech & Mrs. Hippie (featuring Terry Draper)???  Folk-Punk hipster Taxman?  I didn't get it either, until I heard it.  Odd but strangely pleasant take, in fact.

Dexters take I Want You (She's So Heavy) for a test drive at the local pub and make it work like crazy, complete with clinking glasses and background bar talk.  This caught me completely off-guard.  The organ and guitar freaking kill me.  I would have loved to have been there to see this performed live.  And, yes, it was recorded live.

The Dudes were genetically created to recreate songs like Please Mr. Postman.  Swear to God.

Not my favorite Beatles song, by far, is Blue Jay Way, until now.  Dee Long is true to the original to a large degree, but the chunky rhythm guitar and rolling bass (plus the extremely well done vocals, background and otherwise) has me rethinking my lack of appreciation for the song.  What can I say except, I'm impressed!

Anger Brothers get a pass just because they cover And Your Bird Can Sing, a song which cut deep when I first heard it.  A great song is a great song and in this case, The Angers perform it just fine.

Perhaps it is just this period of The Beatles, but I'm Only Sleeping is another song of great importance to me.  And Phil Angotti performs it with reverence, I'm convinced.

Receiver drags Mean Mr. Mustard across the punk line and beats the crap out of him just for the fun of it.  Them crazy punks, eh?  Sometimes, they make me smile.

I have wondered where musical ideas come from sometimes and am wondering right now as Steve Barton assaults my senses with the damnedest version of She's Leaving Home I've ever heard.   If tribute bands showed this kind of attitude toward the songs they covered, I would pay for a ticket.

Spongetones perform For the Benefit of Mr. Kite like they wrote the damn thing.  See what I mean?  Musicians have come so far since the old days.

I have no idea what these people were smoking when they recorded these songs, but I would mortgage my house for a semi-full.

Beatles fans, put your idolatry aside for a minute and listen to these songs with an open mind.  All of you others, just enjoy them.  Presented by Bullseye Canada, which is slowly opening its vaults to present us with treasures we probably didn't even know existed.

To the page, Bosworth!

Volume 2:

Volume 3:

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)

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