At 49 tracks, this has to be the most Sisyphean of tribute albums. The Beatles songbook consists of songs so uniquely constructed and iconic that it's near impossible to achieve any refit beyond slight tonal alterations and a few clever substitutions. The songs tend to fall to mush under more involved treatments. Also, the talent enlisted to cover these classics falls sadly short of real celebrity (Blood, Sweat & Tears' Al Kooper and Klaatu's Terry Draper top the bill), so the disc lacks curio appeal. But there's something in this. A sly gesture here and there, a quirky inversion or two? More likely, it's just that these songs are so bloody good that it's nice to hear them even with slight adjustments. None of the versions is particularly astonishing, but the collection is far from bad.
It Was 40 Years Ago Today launches tonight (Thursday, August 26) at Club 279.