Shout! Factory has a big music Blu-ray release this week with the MusiCares Tribute to Paul McCartney. I asked my pal and talented producer Doug Wilson to check out the disc and let us know the good and the bad. Doug, take it away!
Do you like covers? Covers of songs you’ve come to know and love? I do. I always have. There’s nothing that reinvigorates a classic composition like someone other than the original artist performing it. Now, a cover version of a classic isn’t a sure fire winner. For every With A Little Help From My Friends by Joe Cocker, there’s Frank Sinatra trying his hand at Mrs. Robinson. Search for it on YouTube, it’s a nightmare. A great cover requires a perfect storm of artist, song, and new take on a melody whose treads have been worn thin by years and years of being overplayed.
So, I approached the Blu-Ray of A MusiCares Tribute To Paul McCartney with some trepidation. After all, who has been more honored, and whose catalogue has been been more exploited than Sir Paul’s? I needn’t have been worried – this disc has a lot going for it. First of all, it benefits MusiCares, and if you love music and musicians, you’ve got to love MusiCares. Second, Paul is an integral part of the event, and that never hurts. There’s nothing quite as hollow as a tribute to the music of the Beatles without any Beatles involved. I mean, that’s just musicians jamming to some of their favorites. Last, and definitely not least, this tribute was produced by the Grammys folks, and that means that the entire production is top notch. The disc takes full advantage of the Blu-ray format. It’s crystal clear, and the sound is immaculate. The line-up of performers is terrific. This is about as good as a tribute to Paul McCartney is going to get.
Do the performances live up to the production value of the disc? Well, yes and no. Look, if you pop this disc in some evening while friends are over for dinner, you’ll have some great music playing, but not every number will be a stand out. The bulk of the performances are perfectly respectable. Nora Jones’ version of Oh Darling is a good example. Her voice, as always, is lovely, and she renders the song nicely. It won’t have you pulling out your phone so Shazam can remind you to download it later, but it’s very nice nonetheless.
There are weak points. Duane Eddy, the “twangy” guitar legend doesn’t do his legacy any favors with his instrumental version of I Love Her. But don’t feel too bad for Duane, he’s beaten to the bottom of the heap by Sergio Mendes’ disco-fied version of The Fool On The Hill. It’s right down there with SInatra’s Mrs. Robinson. Sorry, Sergio.
On the other hand, there are two very high points. Neil Young and Crazy Horse do a very loose garage rock version of I Saw Her Standing There that proves you’re never too old to rock. We should all be as energized by music as Neil and his pals when we get to his age. The other standout is Diana Krall’s For No One, made all the more terrific because it’s as if she’s just tossing it out there after accompanying James Taylor on Yesterday. The simplicity of the arrangement matches Krall’s haunting voice perfectly for a melancholy tone.
Will A MusiCares Tribute To Paul McCartney change your life or your understanding of the Lennon/McCartney canon? Probably not. That said, it’s a well-executed evening full of some of the best work the music industry has ever produced. And proceeds from the sales go to MusiCares, so figure you are helping out a musician in need while being entertained.
There you have it! That’s a pretty solid review. If you love McCartney and his music, you can grab your copy here!