on 25 March 2014
The Beatles (like their contemporaries the Kinks) were good performing songs, but their real brilliance was at writing them, so when their songs are performed by other leading artists, the result can be as good or better than the original. A performance by someone else, while it may take a little getting used to, can also make songs we take for granted fresh and original again.
This 28 Track Double CD of performances of Beatles songs, recorded in 1976, by Tina Turner, Bryan Ferry, David Essex, Leo Sayer, the Bee Gees, Keith Moon, Rod Stewart, Lynsey De Paul, Helen Reddy, Peter Gabriel, Frankie Valli, Jeff Lynne then of the Electric Light Orchestra, Roy Wood by then of Wizzard) and others, should have been a hit.
The fact that so few people have heard of most of these recordings probably even among fans of the Beatles and of the other singers featured here (except Elton John's version of `Lucy in the Sky with Diamond', which was released as a single), is surely an accidental consequence of the fact that it originated as the soundtrack to one of the oddest ideas ever made into a film.
While this is a review of the soundtrack album I therefore have to say something about the film to put it in context.
The film consisted entirely of clips from period newsreels and films of World War II, mainly black and white, accompanied for no apparent reason by a soundtrack of `cover versions' of Beatles songs by the above mentioned Tina Turner, Bryan Ferry, Leo Sayer, etc., etc. with the London Symphony Orchestra (or on some tracks the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) as 'backing group'. The Director Susan Winslow's film directing career seems to have begun and ended with this film, although she had a later career as a Producer of TV documentaries.
Why anyone gave this strange project the go ahead and how they persuaded so many leading artists to take part in it I cannot imagine.
Today we are used to weird, way out pop videos, but in 1976 less so. Critics and audiences did not know what to make of it. The film's initial release was so unsuccessful that it was quickly withdrawn and forgotten, although I personally I think the film is wonderful! I can't tell you why it works, it just does, just don't expect the concept to make conscious sense.
It is not currently possible to buy the film on DVD or Blu-Ray in the UK and it has rarely been shown. Apart from YouTube, about all there is, is this double CD music soundtrack album. Little is done to market even this. At time of writing, the product description here on Amazon, criminally, does not even list the songs and singers. Surely the combined appeal of the Beatles, Tina Turner, Bryan Ferry, The Four Seasons etc., etc. is such that it would be in demand if only people knew it existed.
Given how many `pop' singers go quickly in and out of fashion and are forgotten, those who made this film in 1976 were remarkably prescient in picking singers who were not just mainly big names of the time but are still mostly big names now. The orchestration and playing of the music are also extremely good.
As with most albums, you will probably like some tracks more than others. Highlights for me include Tina Turner's version of 'Come Together' (much more energetic than the original), Helen Reddy singing 'The Fool on the Hill', the Bee Gees performing 'Golden Slumbers' and their high impact rendering of 'She Came in Through the Bathroom Window', Leo Sayer's 'I am the Walrus' and Frankie Valli's 'A Day in the Life'. The latter, while not necesarily better sung than the original, really gains from the orchestral backing. Bryan Ferry's version of 'She's Leaving Home' does not really try to be different from the original except that Bryan Ferry's distinctive voice, while disconcertingly different from the Beatles original sound, is suited to the subject and mood of the song.
If only enough people buy this soundtrack album perhaps one day they will release the film.
Supplier, please note, even if the film version of 'All This and World War II' is too unusual to sell well in the DVD section of your local Asda, in the age of internet shopping there are surely enough intelligent and slightly querky people who would like this film across the country as a whole that you are surely hiding a potential cult classic.
Please release it while there are still plenty of potential buyers old enough to have heard of the Beatles, World War II, Elton John, Tina Turner, etc., etc., in case young people today have not!