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This Easy Stars All Stars album is by the dub-reggae group of ever-changing New York musicians. I got this album after seeing and being very impressed by them at a festival in the summer. This is a reimagining of The Beatles Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The group have previously done their own covers of 'Dark Side of the Moon' entitled 'Dub Side of the Moon " (and a recent remix album called 'Dubber Side of the Moon') and OK Computer entitled Radiodread.
I cannot say that I am overly familiar with the original album (she shamefully admits) aside from the odd single and of course the seminal album cover.
Having already seen and enjoyed the band live, I thought this album might be a risk and to be honest a bit-hit-or miss, but I am pleased to say that that it is really very good.
In essence, it should not really work - and if you are a purist then perhaps you will think that it is. It should be at the very least something akin to a novelty record. Where it works is that I believe it to be very respectful to its source material. I would also put it very strongly in the category of it being a 'reimagining' rather than a straightforward covers album. This is not just because of the fact that it has taken the original music into a new genre, but also that it has very obviously been a very conscious effort by the band to make it as good as it possibly can be.
A number of different musicians from the troupe are brought in to help, not just vocalists but instrumentalists as well. This enables that every track has a very different feel to it. For example the use of the brass quite unexpectedly on 'For the Benefit of Mr Kite.' and the soaring sitar on Within Without You. As I am not really a reggae fan, I really appreciated the mixing of different styles and instruments. It shows just how diverse and inclusive and accessible a genre it can be.
The band also proudly state on the album cover that it is all produced by their own fair hand, rather than relying on the usual samples. This is really apparent when you listen to it and is a real credit to them as artists.
The sheer richness of the music means that they also do not fall into that trap of being festival bands which somehow do not seem to hit the mark when it comes to their music being put onto CD. That said, there is a real feel of summer and lightness which comes through - just what I need when surrounded by falling snow!
Even the tracks where the originals themselves are particularly well known- which I would argue are 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart Club band' , 'Lucy In The Sky with Diamonds', 'With A Little Help from my Friends' and 'When I'm 64.' Work really well. I think that that is probably the true test, because it is very well for me to say that the other tracks are really good in their own but if I do not really know the source material then I do not know whether they are particularly poor imitations. The fact that the songs that I do know are still particularly enjoyable, i think perhaps speaks volumes for the quality of work on offer here.
In conclusion, I have found this to be an unexpected little treasure. If you are still unsure about it, and to be honest, I would not blame you - this album is available to be streamed via Spotify if you want to get a taste of it before purchasing.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - featuring Junior Jazz
2 With A Little Help From My Friends - featuring Luciano
3 Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds - featuring Frankie Paul
4 Getting Better - featuring The Mighty Diamonds
5 Fixing A Hole (Extended Dub Mix) - featuring Max Romeo
6 She's Leaving Home - featuring Kirsty Rock
7 Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! - featuring Ranking Roger
8 Within You Without You - featuring Matisyahu
9 When I'm Sixty-Four (Extended Dub Mix) - featuring Sugar Minott
10 Lovely Rita - featuring Bunny Rugs and U Roy
11 Good Morning Good Morning - featuring Steel Pulse
12 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
13 A Day In The Life - featuring Michael Rose and Menny More