Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Mccartney Tribute CD Just Good, Not Great

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Mccartney Tribute CD Just Good, Not Great

Article excerpt

It's not unreasonable to expect a tribute album to a giant such as Paul McCartney to be great. But the 2-CD set, "The Art of McCartney," which will be released on Tuesday, is merely good.

Why is that? It's certainly not the fault of the songs, divided more or less evenly between McCartney's Beatles and post-Beatles eras. And it's not the lineup, which is full of giants itself, including Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Smokey Robinson, B.B. King and Willie Nelson.

The problem is producer Ralph Sall's decision to use McCartney's touring band as the backing group on most of the tracks. Bad move! They're great musicians, of course. But using them ensures that the arrangements will never stray very far from McCartney's own. And so this album often ends up being more of a karaoke exercise than a real attempt at reinterpretation.

Of course, given the quality of the songs, and the singers, it's a pretty enjoyable evening at the karaoke bar. But it's just not as exciting as a more ambitious tribute album could have been.

Take Perry Farrell's "Got to Get You Into My Life," for instance. Who knows what kind of creative spin the Jane's Addiction frontman would have put on the song, working with another producer. But here, he just sings it pretty much as McCartney does; you may not even be able to tell it's him if you don't look at the liner notes. The same goes for Alice Cooper's very un-Alice-like "Eleanor Rigby."

Still, Chrissie Hynde's understated soul seems just right for "Let It Be," and Nelson's weathered whisper puts a nice spin on "Yesterday." Billy Joel delivers impressively dynamic performances on "Maybe I'm Amazed" and "Live and Let Die," and Paul Rodgers brings bluesy authority to "Let Me Roll It." Owl City's "Listen to What the Man Said" is satisfyingly bright and bubbly, though Harry Connick Jr. drowns in the sentimentality of "My Love" and Dylan, perversely, picks a song, "Things We Said Today," that demands the kind of youthful innocence he can't deliver. …

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