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There's two ways to really enjoy the Beatles: 1) play the real thing; or 2) listen to covers like William Shatner's "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" or Jim Carey's "I Am The Walrus."
A few artists successfully record quality versions of songs by the Fab Four, but it's a rare and risky proposition. Proof is listening to vocalist Peter Lipa attempt a heartfelt set of jazz interpretations that unfortunately are more parody than praiseworthy, but nowhere near as amusing as Captain Kirk's.
Beatles In Blue(s) features Lipa, promoted as "the most important person in Slovak jazz," singing 16 songs in a wide range of jazz and blues settings. It is without question one of the worst albums I have heard during the past year, made all the more painful because Lipa, unlike Shatner, who's got every right to expect ridicule for stepping into a recording studio, is a longtime performer apparently attempting a serious project. You want to laugh, but doing so feels as wrong as snickering at a senile stage actor who can't remember his lines.
Almost nothing about this train wreck works. Lipa's singing frequently feels off-key and forced to fit the various song structures. None of the numerous guest performers contribute anything likely to enhance their resumes. And many of the arrangements are too lackluster and muddled to even hold the attention of a living room or office full of people inclined to treat them as fodder.
Just a random sampling of the interpretations: "And I Love Her" is a Latin ballad with a flute and soprano sax backing, "I Want To Be Your Man" has sort of a gospel/blue vocal backing, and "Got To Get You Into My Life" isof all thingssort of slow hip-hop. The best, artistically speaking, may be "With A Little Help From My Friends" at the end of the album, a straight-ahead quartet interpretation where Lipa's off-kilter vocals are at least a reasonable fit for the setting (one could think of it as a bit of scat indulgence if it weren't for the other songs).
The best aspect of the album may be Lipa including a number of lesser-known Beatles songs, offering exposure to the uninitiated and a less jarring experience if they're not familiar with the original as a point of reference. Still, most of the songs will be known to most listeners and few are likely to find pleasant memories surfacing.
The Beatles were controversial in their day and one can only hope there's enough devotees hearing artistic merit in Lipa's interpretations that he finds solace in opinions different than those expressed here. But a better bet is to give him a mulligan on this and focus on his Slavic recordings, where he sounds far more at home.
Track Listing: Day Tripper; Norwegian Wood; And I Love Her; Every Little Thing; Misery; Got To Get You Into My Life;
Do You Want To Know A Secret; I Wanna Be Your Man; The Fool On The Hill; I've Just Seen A Face; All
I've Got To Do; I Saw Her Standing Here; P.S. I love You; No Reply; All My Loving; With A Little Help From
Personnel: Peter Lipa, vocals; Peter Lipa Jr., keyboards, cymbals; Miroslav Hank, drums; Brano Valansky, bass;
Misko Gecovsky, vocals, guitar; Svetlana Rimarenkova, vocals; Juraj Bartos, trumpet, acoustic bass; Rado
Tariska, alto sax; Frantisek Kamok, trombone; Gabriel Jonas, keyboards; Igor Szabo, percussion; Juraj
Tatr, keyboards; Martin Gaspar, bass; Marcel Buntaj, drums; Michal Zacek, soprano sax, flute; Robo
Rist, drums; Jakub Kupcik, percussion; Lubos Priehradnik, trumper, computer programming; Miro Hank,
drums; Erich Prochazka, harp; Jana Kirschner, vocals; Radovan Orth, vocals; Marcel Buntaj, drums;
Martin Zajko, guitar; Michaela Paulova, vocals; Henry Toth, guitar; Stano Paluch, violin
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.