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I struggled with my approach on reviewing the newest from the Easy Star All Stars—Lonely Hearts Dub Band. There are as many Beatles covers floating around as there are batshit crazy Heather Mills quotes. Most aren’t worth the time, though this tribute to Rubber Soul had its moments and this compilation from the Atlantic and Warner jazz vaults is superb.
Reggae cover albums offer their own set of challenges. As on the recent epidemic of bluegrass cover records (see Pickin’ on U2), it takes more than applying a different musical style to produce a transcendent cover. Think more “Johnny B Goode” and less “I Can See Clearly Now“.
However, both of the Easy Star All Stars’ previous tribute projects, Radiodread and A Dub Side of the Moon are superlative deconstructions of the source material rebuilt into tight yet expansive riddums. Dub Band is different in that the original Sgt Pepper’s is so omnipresent. The Easy Star All Stars are able to surmount this challenge by injecting new energy into tracks like the opener and “With a Little Help From My Friends”, songs rendered flaccid by relentless classic rock airplay. Guest vocalists adorn Dub Band, with reggae royalty Steel Pulse shinning through on “Good Morning, Good Morning”.
The production is in front like the other releases. I’m anxious to hear it on vinyl, since the sound was deep and rich for an MP3. “When I’m Sixty-Four” listens especially well, taking on a trippy bass and reverb-washed feel. The only knock I have on Dub Band is that they didn’t end the album closer, “A Day in the Life,” with the sound of four simultaneous bong hits.
[media id=”235″ width=”350″ height=”50″] With a Little Help From My Friends
[media id=”236″ width=”350″ height=”50″] When I’m Sixty-Four