Sunday, April 12, 2009

Rubber Soul

I recently picked up an album called Soul Tribute to the Beatles, which, unlike most things billed as a tribute, collects old covers rather than new recordings, in this case of Beatles songs by great R&B singers, and I do mean great. You get Aretha Franklin churchifying "Let It Be" and Earth, Wind & Fire's super-peppy "Got to Get You Into My Life," Al Green's reinvention of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and Wilson Pickett's gutbucket "Hey Jude," with a Duane Allman guitar solo subbing in for the extended na-na's. You also get Natalie Cole doing a live version of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." Really.

I was especially interested in Fats Domino's cover of "Lady Madonna," which I'd never heard before. It was a mite disappointing, very faithfully reproducing the original arrangement, which makes sense since it was supposed to sound like Fats in the first place. At last Fats gets to N'Awlins' up the vocals, singing "Friday night arrives wit'out no suitcase."

The Pickett "Hey Jude" was a hit, going to Number Twenty-Three back in 1969, and the EWF went Top Ten in 1978, just two years after the Beatles' version did likewise. But you also get a rarity like Marvin Gaye's revelatory "Yesterday," which originally appeared on his album That's the Way Love Is, released in early 1970. It's long out of print, the song was never released as a single, and no one these days owns any Marvin albums from before What's Going On, so it's anybody's guess as to the last time anyone heard this gorgeous performance before this compilation came out in 2003.