V/A | Minnesota Beatles Project vol. 3 (Pretty Good Goods)

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cd minn-beatlesHalf of the album is packed with highly entertaining and original takes on Beatles tunes.

 

 

 

When it comes to tribute albums, you can’t really go wrong with the Beatles. (Well, that’s not exactly true…check out the link this pun-heavy Wikipedia entry of The Beatle Barkers [1983 Lifestyle Records/Passport Records], which features covers of Beatles tunes by barking dogs.) But generally speaking, listening to a Beatles cover album is decent use of your time. The songs are universally recognized, so artists have an opportunity to push the envelope to make the songs their own. From 2009’s Kidz Bop (featuring kids singing the hits) to 2006’s Butchering the Beatles (heavy metal covers featuring folks like Alice Cooper and Yngwie Malmsteen, among other headbangers), Beatles tribute albums have covered the gamut of musical styles.

Here, we have the Minnesota Beatles Project, which is a benefit by Minnesotan musicians intended to raise money for music and arts programs in Minnesota public schools. See the Vega productions website for more information on this awesomeness. As a way to raise money for a super cause, this works very, very well.

Musically, how does this safe bet play out?

Well, it plays out as you might expect. Half of the album is packed with highly entertaining and original takes on Beatles tunes. One of my favorite bands, Cloud Cult, does a cool version of “Help” that sounds like, well, a Cloud Cult song. Then there is a darkly electronic version of George Harrison’s sitar-based tune from Revolver, “Love You To,” that totally caught me off guard. Another highlight is a foot-stomping country-blues version of “Rocky Raccoon” by Charlie Parr and Nicholas Mrozinski. The Fiddle Heirs reminded me how much I loved the song “I’ve Got a Feeling” (from Let It Be), with hand claps, a tambourine, and drinking-song-style shouting. And a rocking version of “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road” by a band called 4onthefloor was also pretty cool.

However, the rest of the album had either straight-up covers (Motion City Soundtrack’s “Here Comes the Sun” and The Arms Akimbo’s “You Won’t See Me”) or songs/styles that just didn’t do it for me (like the vocal ensemble Cantus’ “Got to Get You in My Life” or The Honeydogs’ rocking “Dear Prudence.”).

The album ends with a solid marching band version of “Hard Days Night” by the Anoka Middle School for the Arts; the Vega production website says this about that performance:

[T]he Anoka Middle School for the Arts concert band…received a music grant made possible from sales of Minnesota Beatle Project Vol. 1. The 115 student musicians recorded a version of “A Hard Day’s Night” that includes low brass and string instrument equipment purchased with the grant, making them the first beneficiary from the Minnesota Beatle Project to appear on one of the albums.

This is not a money grab or silly novelty. There are no barking dogs or chipmunks here. Ultimately, these are all passionate and talented musicians united behind a good cause. If you want an album that will use the money for something good and give you some cool songs, get this one. B- | Tony Van Zeyl

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