John Pizzarelli's "Midnight McCartney," released on September 11, isn't the first time he's done something associated with the Beatles. His "Meets the Beatles" album, which came out in the late '90s, was a great effort at re-inventing Beatles songs. He added a big band sound to "Can't Buy Me Love," a fast jazzy beat to “I've Just Seen a Face,” and a slow, moody sound to "And I Love Her." “When I did the Beatles record in 1996, I found you can really re-harmonize that stuff, find nice harmonies and not get too crazy. That's the challenge and the fun of the whole thing,” he said about that album.
If only the interpretations on “Midnight McCartney” were just that good. The story is that Paul McCartney himself inspired Pizzarelli to do the album. “I got an idea in my head,” McCartney wrote to Pizzarelli in May of 2014.
“It might be interesting for you to do a few of my songs that are lesser known than some of the others.” Pizzarelli took 11 well-known McCartney songs, including “Coming Up,” “My Love,” “Silly Love Songs,” “Hi Hi Hi,” “Maybe I'm Amazed” and, one wonders why, “Wonderful Christmastime.” and two lesser known songs – “Warm and Beautiful” and “Some People Never Know” and interpreted them here adding a soft, jazzy atmosphere.
The results are decidedly mixed. “Hi Hi Hi” sounds jazzed up for no reason at all. His “Silly Love Songs” adds a Brazil '66 beat which doesn't belong. And "Let 'Em In" and “Maybe I'm Amazed” sound pointless. And maybe worst of all, he brings in guest vocalist Michael McDonald on “Coming Up” and the new version sounds like it was done in a piano bar. Two tracks, “Heart of the Country” and “My Valentine,” do work, though Pizzarelli didn't change the songs that much and used McCartney's original as an inspiration. Being different doesn't always work, but sometimes it does. Remember when Bob Dylan went electric at Newport?.
So much here just doesn't make it, maybe because “Midnight McCartney” doesn't seem to have much of a purpose. Pizzarelli might want to leave the McCartney songs to the guy who does them better than anyone else – Paul McCartney. Heck, even Keith Richards knew he couldn't beat the Beatles. #News #Hollywood