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Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook

Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook

21 May 2010
4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Format: Audio CD
Just in case it is not yet fully appreciated it is worth noting that Bettye LaVette & Mavis Staples, survivors of the classic soul scene of the 1960s to early 70s, have been issuing some of the finest work of their respective years of late & I don't think it an exaggeration to suggest that these two remarkably voiced women can probably be acclaimed as the High Priestesses of contemporary soul music. This is Bettye's 3rd offering on the Anti label and is a more subdued affair than the previous two, but don't let that put you off because if it does you'll be missing out on one hell of an achievement here. It takes a few plays to get to grips with what is going on but by that time the restrained excellence of the music has begun to work its magic. Bettye accurately describes herself as an interpreter of songs and what she does with them is quite remarkable. Most of the material here will be familiar to seasoned listeners of the rock tradition but Bettye & her superb band have deconstructed them & stripped them down to the bare melodic bones in order to allow the singer to get under the skin of the lyrics. That last part of the process is the key to the lady's artistry, since once the songs have been re-assembled they have been recast as vehicles for a voice that makes every note & every line count for more than you might expect. I would love, for example, to witness Ringo Starr listening to what she's done with his 'It Don't Come Easy': transformed here from a happy-go-lucky jolly into an eloquent pean to the blues which elevates the song to a status that not even Ringo would have dreamed of. There are 13 tracks here, including the now famous live performance of The Who's 'Love Rein O'er Me' from the John F.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
This is a strange concept - soul reworkings of British rock songs by the very emotional veteran Detroit soul singer Bettye Lavette. Overall I found the album a bit samey - the tracks have mainly been slowed down and have a minimal backing which highlights Bettye's wonderful ravaged voice. This is not a collection of classic rock songs, some of the songs here are fairly obscure - Traffic's "No Time To Live" and George Harrison's "Isn't it a pity". I can only presume these are Bettye's (or the producers Rob Mathes and Michael Stevens) favourite British rock songs.

I thought that some tracks like the Beatles' "The word" (one of the few fast songs), Ringo's "It don't come easy", the Stone's "Salt Of The Earth" and Elton John's "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" worked wonderfully. Other tracks like the much-covered "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and "Nights In White Satin", Macca's "Maybe I'm Amazed", Clapton's "Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad" and Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" were OK without really bringing anything new to the songs. Sadly I thought that Traffic's aforementioned "No Time To Live" and the live version of the Who's "Love Reign O'er Me" didn't work at all and I found them hard to listen to.

I think that Bettye's fabulous voice is always worth listening to but for me this record was a bit of a disappointment and not as good as her 2005 comeback album "I've Got My Own Hell to Raise" produced by Joe Henry. However, there are a few really good tracks here, hence the four star rating.
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Format: Audio CD
I've just seen Bettye LaVette at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow where she supported the Blind Boys of Alabama and she was simply sensational. I bought this cd at the venue and have listened to nothing else since. What she is doing is not so much cover versions of these great songs by great British songwriters of the 60s and 70s but taking ownership of them by transforming them into something new and uniquely her own. Some of the songs, like George Harrison's "Isn't It a Pity", Ringo's "It Don't Come Easy", The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me" and slightly lesser known tracks by the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin are not necessarily obvious choices for a Black American soul singer, but her interpretations show that the songs have been chosen with care and with impeccable taste (although I do agree with the earlier reviewer's comments about "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, which is not originally from the British Rock Songbook at all). Further outstanding versions of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" and Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me", along with an almost unrecognisable version of the Rubber Soul track "The Word" confirm this as a truly great and beautifully chosen collection of songs by a singer who seems to be enjoying a somewhat belated moment in the sun. Don't miss her if you get the chance to catch her - if you haven't heard her before, this cd is a great place to start. Great singer, great record!
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Format: Audio CD
I first heard of Betty Lavette in the mid 60s when she reached the lower end of the R & B charts with Let me down easy.
I learned she'd made her first single in 1962 for Atlantic but after the Calla single she disappeared off the radar until the 90s when a series of albums came out up to this one.
Its a nice concept with a booklet which says she once considered making an album of Beatles songs.This is the next best thing though with 3 solo Beatles plus the group represented.Which is the reason I got this-I'd never heard a soul cover of the Ringo hit but when you hear this version it makes Ringo's sound like a cover!
I suppose you'd call this deep Soul but at least its deep soul with better songs.
One oddity here though is that Don't let me be misunderstood is an American song which was made by Nina Simone before the Animals did it.Very strange.
Pity she never did Imagine or some other Lennon song as it would have meant 4 instead of 3 Beatles
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