Forty years after his death, John Lennon’s contributions to the worlds of music, art, and culture are still very much in evidence. As a member of The Beatles and as a solo performer, Lennon’s influence on several generations of musicians remains indelible. On October 9th, which would have been John’s 80th birthday, JEM Records is releasing an outstanding collection of songs to mark the occasion. JEM Records Celebrates John Lennon features seven bands from the label’s remarkable roster of artists paying tribute to John’s music by covering songs from his years with The Beatles, as well as his solo career.
The album kicks off with The Weeklings, no strangers to masterful interpretations of Beatles songs, rocking out on a brilliant cover of the vital Rubber Soul track “The Word,” which ably displays their finely crafted power-pop sound. That’s followed by The Midnight Callers’ lovely take on the White Album era demo “Child of Nature” and their terrific version of “Jealous Guy,” one of the strongest tracks featured on John’s Imagine. Then The Grip Weeds take center stage with their hard-rocking, high-energy cover of the Hard Day’s Night track “You Can’t Do That,” which compares favorably with Harry Nilsson’s memorable version of the song.
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Power-pop phenom Johnathan Pushkar contributes a beautiful reading of Lennon’s “Just Like (Starting Over)” while England’s psych-pop heroes The Gold Needles romp through a vibrant version of the Beatles For Sale track “No Reply.” Indie music artist Richard Barone takes “Revolution” and mashes it up with the chorus of “Power To The People” to provide a unique pairing of politically charged Lennon tunes. The Grip Weeds return with their intense, psyched-out cover of the Sgt. Pepper era classic “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and The Midnight Callers encore with a marvelous take on the early Fab Four number “It Won’t Be Long.”
That might be enough for most tribute albums, but JEM Records Celebrates John Lennon isn’t done dazzling listeners just yet. New Jersey’s The Anderson Council enter the arena to rip through a blistering workout on the Lennon solo number “I Found Out” and The Gold Needles are back once more to provide a unique experience by adding the riff from “Hey Bulldog” to their rough-hewn take on “Cold Turkey.” Johnathan Pushkar provides an exuberant take on “I Call Your Name” and The Weeklings round out the disc with their marvelous version of the offbeat “What’s The New Mary Jane?”
JEM Records Celebrates John Lennon offers just the right balance between familiar classics, well-loved album cuts, and fan-favorite tracks. From the fantastic lineup of bands to the insightful liner notes by Beatles expert Ken Womack, and the classic Hirschfield caricature featured on the cover, it’s crystal clear this project was a labor of love for everyone involved. Kudos to label president Marty Scott and the entire crew at JEM Records for their work on this exceptional album. Head over to the JEM Records site (www.jemrecordings.com) for more information on this “fab” release, a magnificent musical tribute to John’s enduring legacy.
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