Saturday, February 11, 2012

Roberta And The Beatles

Make no mistake, "Let It Be Roberta," Roberta Flack's tribute album to The Beatles is not your typical Beatles tribute album. Miss Flack doesn't treat these songs as museum pieces, because she knows that she can let these songs breathe, and they will be just as beautiful. And for sure, some of her arrangements are, shall we say, different enough that I have seen some violent reactions to them. My first reaction has been mixed : while on one side I applaud the brevity of the arrangements, the old-fashioned in me blinks at them. But maybe because I have always liked The Beatles songbook when reinvented, because (gasp) while I respect the original band, more often than not I don't find myself reaching out for their music. And I also feel that these arrangements will grow with me after repeated listenings. So yes, I love her most when she does an acoustic take of "Hey Jude," or when she does a quiet, contemplative version of "Here There Everywhere" ( a live recording) which ends the album. But this is, most of all, a soul album and it has tons of soul. Modern young producers like Sherrod Barnes have produced fun funky today-soundign arrangements that still sound spare and not over the top. And, Flack is still in good voice, fragile and sensitive when most needed, and strong and assertive at the same time. It is chameleon-like, effective on all settings. Heck, Yoko Ono herself has approved this recording. One last thing, though: what is up with the cover art? It is ugly, and looks like it was done by a five year old. Scratch that, a lot of five year olds can do a better job. 

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