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Playing the Beatles (Again)


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How to present some of these oh-so-familiar songs yet again? With a catalogue as universally known as The Beatles,' the best guideline would seem to be the more reinvention, the better. Everyone involved in these tributes, fortunately, seems to agree.

Rubber Soul Quartet
Losen Records

In the hands of The Beatles fans as dedicated as these four, it's not too surprising to hear everything come out bright and happy. Worldly travels are a figurative theme for the Rubber Soul Quartet's second outing: "Eleanor Rigby" gets a slinky Latin beat, a brisk-shuffling "Day Tripper" wanders down a gritty alley behind some American blues club, and "Help!" goes even livelier with a share of rockabilly stomp. Still, the quartet's personality makes enough of a through line to hold it together.

As on Blackbird (Losen, 2020), the vocal numbers come sparingly, with stylings that are evocative of the Fab Four rather than imitative. There's a solid streak of toe-tapping swing through these different modes (the title track gets an especially refreshing jitterbug treatment), but the biggest constant is the quartet's clear love of the music and joy of playing together. With two recordings showing no shortage of ideas, listeners who share that love can keep following with no worries of settling into a rut.

Brad Mehldau
Your Mother Should Know: Brad Mehldau Plays the Beatles
Nonesuch Records

By contrast, this solo recital is largely slow and exquisitely thoughtful. Brad Mehldau isn't opposed to a little bounce either, as shown by an early-set barroom romp through "I Saw Her Standing There," or the title track crossing elegant Baroque with a little vaudeville bounce. On the whole, though, it's a classy and masterful hour that showcases Mehldau's song-sculpting skills.

From the meandering intro that quickly resolves into "I Am the Walrus," Mehldau makes these structures slide through unexpected harmonies like the pieces in a turning kaleidoscope. "For No One" drifts over a foundation just blocky enough to suggest a little Thelonious Monk, while a streak of gospel warmth shines brightly through the likes of "Baby's in Black" and a radiant "Golden Slumbers." It's a surprising turn to switch to a different British Invasion star for the encore, but "Life on Mars?" tops things off with as much beauty and mystery as David Bowie could have intended. However familiar the material may be for any longtime listeners, it's never entirely closed off from sounding new.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: Something; Eleanor Rigby; The Fool on the Hill; Eight Days a Week; I'm Only Sleeping; Day Tripper; Help!; Michelle; And I Love Her; In My Life; You've Got to Hide Your Love Away.

Personnel: Bård Helgerud: electric & acoustic guitars, vocals (5, 7, 11); Håvard Fossum: tenor & soprano saxophone, flute, clarinet; Andreas Dreier: double bass, background vocals (5, 7, 11); Torstein Ellingsen: drums & percussion, trumpet (11).

Your Mother Should Know

Tracks: I Am the Walrus; Your Mother Should Know; I Saw Her Standing There; For No One; Baby's in Black; She Said, She Said; Here, There and Everywhere; If I Needed Someone; Maxwell's Silver Hammer; Golden Slumbers; Life on Mars?.

Personnel: Brad Mehldau: piano.

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