Attempting to re-interpret the songs of the Beatles is a daunting endeavour, especially when the general public has such a vivid memory of them and of the exquisite arrangements and production of George Martin. However, in the very capable hands of singer Barb Jungr and pianist John McDaniel, the songs are transformed and given a new lease of life. Not everything comes off, but there are some highly creative new readings and consequently one views the songs in an altogether different light.
Barb Jungr is something of a veteran in the covering other singer-songwriters and has previously explored the songs of Jacques Brel, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Peggy Lee and even Nina Simone, the latter of whom is a strong influence on her work and retains a strong cabaret influence to it. This has been usefully deployed here. John McDaniel is a pianist of great sensitivity and a fine accompanist and this first pairing bodes well for the future, especially if they continue to perform together live and this project might be best served heard in a live context. In fact, the pair have performed at selected venues, in Saddleworth just outside Greater Manchester in mid-November, at the Edinburgh Festival, and with a one-off New York date at Birdland in December.
As for the interpretations here, a slowed down take on, ‘Fool On The Hill’ is interesting, while the anthemic, ‘All You Need Is Love’ is deconstructed and re-surfaces as an intimate song. Best of all, is the compelling take on the title track, still a favourite among Beatles’ fans. These might to the blues-inflected, ‘Back In The USSR’, which has something of a roots country feel. Jungr’s soaring voice is heard at its zenith on ‘Eleanor Rigby’. A useful and innovative technique to provide maximum exposure of the Beatles songbook is to combine two or more songs into one. Thus a pair of songs written by the Fab Four for Cilla Black, ‘It’s For You/Step Inside Love’ makes sense as one and, ‘Something/The Long and Winding Road’ segue effortlessly into one another. Overall, a worthy project and one that will be enhanced with live interpretations where Jungr in particular is in her element.