Recommended Albums #36

what the man saidcoming up

Various Artists: Listen to What the Man Said–Popular Artists Pay Tribute to the Music of Paul McCartney (2001)

Various Artists: Coming Up–Independent Artists Pay Tribute to the Music of Paul McCartney (2001)

These were the tribute albums that, more than any other, changed my mind about tribute albums. My thinking as a music consumer had been: if you really love an artist, why would you waste time listening to other artists cover that artist? And other than those made for a charitable cause, why would such albums be worth the money? Aren’t they just a poor man’s version of the original? I mean, the Beatles never recorded trib– oh wait. They kinda did. What were “A Taste of Honey”, “Anna”, “Twist and Shout”, or Lennon’s Rock and Roll album but tributes to artists they admired?

Anyway, I’ve come around about enjoying a reverent–or even an imaginatively different–version of a song I love. But basically it took an extraordinary tribute album–actually a pair of them–to begin that change for me.

Listen to What the Man Said is supposedly “popular” artists’ musical tributes to McCartney. It’s actually a mix of household names (Matthew Sweet, The Finn Brothers) and lesser-knowns (Owsley, The Merrymakers).

Coming Up, described as “independent” artists, is where it gets truly indie, with Kyf Brewer, Cliff Hillis, Phil Keaggy and others, most of whom I’d never heard of before owning this CD. If you’d assume the volume featuring the “popular” artists would be the only one worth having, you’d be wrong. Matthew Sweet and company do a fine job, but the indies are mostly unsung power pop heroes, and imitating the Beatles is what they do. Their hearts are in the project, and they turn in some great performances.

Best example: Cliff Hillis’ take on “This One”, a Flowers in the Dirt album track that, frankly, McCartney didn’t maximize the potential of. It’s rare to hear anyone improve on a Beatle’s version of his own song, but Hillis does so here. In other cases, it’s a fresh energy (Michael Carpenter’s “Getting Closer”) or added harmony layers (Linus of Hollywood’s “Warm and Beautiful”) or meatier guitars (“Maybe I’m Amazed” by Virgos Merlot) or a female lead vocal (“With a Little Luck” by The Masticators) that enable you to hear McCartney’s greatness with fresh ears.

These two CDs are out of print, but still to be found. If you’re a real fan of McCartney’s work, this is music worth owning.

Listen to: “Every Night” (Matthew Sweet)

Listen to: “Band On the Run” (Owsley)

Listen to: “This One” (Cliff Hillis)

Listen to: “Maybe I’m Amazed” (Virgos Merlot)

Listen to: “Getting Closer” (Michael Carpenter)

Listen to: “Somedays” (Phil Keaggy)

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Songs You May Have Missed #376 | Ed Cyphers

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