Ace Records 2011
The unanimous acclaim for and success of Ace’s recent ‘How Many Roads: Black America Sings Bob Dylan” project pretty much guaranteed a follow-up at some point. Its release immediately instigated a high level of consumer interest in whether or not we were planning any further volumes in the series. Truth to tell, it wasn’t meant to be a series originally, but the suggestion of Black America singing other notable rock icons of the 60s was too good to ignore. So it is that we now present a selection of interpretations by leading black American artists of the compositions of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
John and Paul’s songs perhaps did not carry the same degree of social significance for black Americans as those of Mr Zimmerman, but their superlative knack for words and music inevitably made each new Beatles album a potential source of future hits for others. It’s therefore no surprise to find enough superb examples to fill a few volumes. Here we present two dozen of their best-known songs sung by many of the leading names in soul from the 60s and 70s.
As with the Dylan set, you’ll find the obvious (Otis Redding’s reconstruction of ‘Day Tripper’ and Aretha’s from-the-heart essay on ‘Let It Be’) rubbing shoulders with the blindingly obscure (West Coast blues giant Lowell Fulson wondering ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road’ and sweet soul quartet the Moments’ totally unexpected take on ‘Rocky Raccoon’). Unlike many pop songwriters, Lennon and McCartney reached out to a broad spectrum of black artists; you won’t find too many compilations where New Orleans’ rockin’ R&B man Fats Domino and his 60s near-namesake Chubby Checker feature alongside Motown’s first lady Mary Wells and king of 70s soul Al Green, and do so in such a seamless way. The common factor among all these covers is that they are never less than interesting. John and Paul are not on record as having expressed an opinion on too many versions of their songs, but we’d be willing to bet that the ones included here would have entertained them more than most.
As always, the CD comes to you with a booklet featuring a huge amount of illustrative material and generous song-by-song annotations covering who wrote what (or most of what). We had originally thought that we might include versions of some Harrisongs as well, but in the end there was more than enough Lennon and McCartney material to fill this disc and more besides, so George will have to wait until another day and another CD.
By Tony Rounce (Ace Records)