Yellow Dubmarine – Abbey Dub (2011)

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When I first got a hold of this CD I gotta admit, I greeted it with a lot of skepticism. Another Beatles covers project? I mean, I think every single Beatles song short of “Revolution No. 9” has been covered at least once, if not a million times. But wait, one might say, “these are all reggae covers.” No, that’s been done before, too. Probably since the dawn of reggae itself. “Yeah, but this is also dedicated to covering only Abbey Road songs,” to which I would point out, been there, done that, mere weeks after that album first went on sale. So, was this song-for-song recreation of the Beatles 1969 classic record in island style really needed?

No, not really. Yellow Dubmarine, the eight-piece Beatles reggae tribute band, did tread over beaten-to-death ground in making this record. But my curiosity required me to listen to it and you know what? It passed the most critical test: it sounds good, all other things be damned.

Sure, “Come Together” (video of live performance below) does plod along with a heavy, swampy bass-heavy beat like the original, but in a tip off to how most of the record goes, the sax/trumpet/trombone carries most of the tune, while most of the rest of the band lay down the dub. Early on, their tactics have mixed results; after a convincing cover of “Together,” “Something” bogs down and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is much better than the original (don’t take too much from that statement, I have a real low opinion of the first version of this song), but the charm wears off after a while. On the other hand, “Oh! Darling” is refreshingly perky, and “Octopus’ Garden” scores points for avoiding the silly lyrics altogether and using the song to showcase the talented brass team. The next three tracks, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” “Here Comes The Sun” and “Because” are okay don’t make much of an impression at all.

At this point, I was inclined to file this under the “nice try” category until the medley part came along. Since those cuts are alluring, bite-sized pieces instead of full length songs, the band gets to move quickly from one idea to another before they go stale, and here’s where the Yellow Dubs are at their best. They even measure up to the Beach Boys-level vocals found on the original version of “Sun King,” thanks to the “Dub Choir” providing these rich harmonies. “Mean Mr. Mustard” in a quickly-paced form sounds like it was born a reggae tune. “Carry That Weight” has a real funky ska groove that resonates. “The End” is chock full of nifty tricks, like a Caribbean-ized version of Ringo’s drum solo and a lead guitar trading fours with each of the horns, one at a time.

So, if the idea of covering the Beatles reggae-style and covering only songs from one certain album may not be the most original one, it still took balls to undertake Abbey Road track-by-track from “Come Together” to “Her Majesty” and play it one particular style throughout. For a debut album, no less. It can only work if the musicians are good and the interpretations have some imagination, staying true to both the Jamaican style and the Beatles’ golden melodies. It’s fair to state that by and large they hit the mark on both counts. If Abbey Dub is a gimmick, then it’s a gimmick Yellow Dubmarine will get you coming back to more than a couple of times. At the least, this is one version of Abbey Road you could cue up with confidence at your next party.

Abbey Dub goes on sale September 27, by Gold Lion Records. Visit Yellow Dubmarine’s website.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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