Various Artists – Abbey Road Reimagined

Various Artists – Abbey Road Reimagined

Lately it seems that the reimagining of classic albums is in vogue (see the recent TPA reviews of Pink Floyd reimaginings). Rarely, in my opinion, do these albums stray from the original template, something that would be difficult considering how well known and classic the source material is. Fernando Perdomo, maybe best known as Dave Kerzner’s foil, is a multi-instrumentalist and producer whose credits would take up the entire review if we were to list them. Few people are as well placed to tackle a project as high-profile as the Beatles masterpiece Abbey Road. As ringmaster, Perdomo corrals a rather eclectic bunch of collaborators from across the musical spectrum. As we’ll see, this is both a blessing and a curse.

Come Together was – and is – a tremendous way to open an album. Perdomo keeps McCartney’s iconic bass riff intact, and Durga McBroom (Pink Floyd, Dave Kerzner) gives an earthy and passionate vocal performance that remains faithful to Lennon. What sets this performance apart from an otherwise straight rendering – here and elsewhere – is the guitar parts. Snowy White (Pink Floyd) helps out in that regard, and a sly, stealthy wah-wah guitar adds a nice resonance throughout. The guitar solos retain the spirit of the original but without being a carbon copy. In fact, it’s the guitar parts that are largely responsible for how each track fares. For example, they completely upend the soft beauty of Something and turn it into more of an R ‘n’ B workout. Vocalist Charles Jones (Vulfpeck) and Perdomo’s electric piano contribute to the new attitude and sped up groove, while guitarist Sonny Landreth adds slide guitar pretty much everywhere. A more judicious use of the slide would have had a bigger impact as it seems more in competition with, than a complement to, the song. Even the song’s intro is extended by using an instrumental verse rather than George Harrison’s simple but emotive two measure guitar piece.

The guitars on Maxwell’s Silver Hammer aide in the reimagination of this track. The thick wall of six-string bliss adds a depth that was previously missing; it might be too much for some, but works just fine for this listener. Roger Manning (Jellyfish) is a perfect choice on vocals and piano, holding tightly to the fun vibe of the song. His barrel-house piano at the end is a nice touch. Oh! Darling, on the other hand, is slightly heavier than what you remember, thanks to the guitars and organ being mixed up front. Eric Dover (Jellyfish again) matches the heightened intensity of the tune with his vocal delivery, but the fact that up to this point no one takes more than a few liberties with the melodies shows just how tightly constructed these songs are, and the vocalists know and respect that. That changes, however, with Matt Axton (son of legend Hoyt Axton) leaning toward an Americana delivery on Octopus’ Garden. Axton’s vocal take is the first to deviate with any significance, but ends up sounding a little flat and devoid of Ringo Starr’s playfulness. To counter that issue, the guitars deliver on the amusement factor in association with Brian Auger’s lighthearted organ and piano fills. It would have been interesting to see how far Perdomo could have taken the countryish vibe by adding some steel guitar or fiddle.

I Want You (She’s So Heavy) sounds like a dream matchup on paper with Billy Idol’s guitarist Steve Stevens boiling the pot while Arthur Brown carries the vocal duties. On paper it works; on disc, it’s a disaster. Brown sounds like a bad parody of himself. Where Lennon’s vocal made you feel the intensity of his lust and obsession for Yoko Ono, Brown makes you want to get a restraining order and some very strong men with white jackets that tie in the back. It’s as if he came into the studio plastered and vocalised his inebriation. Not even Stevens’ always reliable guitar can rescue this unholy mess, with the exception of some space he is allowed in the last couple minutes. Rutti Celli’s cello and Perdomo’s organ do their best to cut through the din, but hardly a few seconds at a time pass by without Brown frightening any and all children (and adults) within earshot. An epic fail.

Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (Sons of Apollo) lends his guitar and vocal talents to Here Comes the Sun. His take is heavier and darker than the original. A true reimagining, it sounds like he hopes, but ultimately doubts, that the eponymous orb is going to arrive.

The medley that is the crowning achievement of Abbey Road begins promisingly enough with a successful take on Because. Perdomo’s sitar takes on the harpsichord part, while keyboardist Patrick Moraz (Yes, Moody Blues) takes the harpsichord into totally new and surprising directions. Rebecca Pidgeon’s light and airy vocals are a nice touch and a fabulous contrast to the heavy rhythmic foundation of bass and drums. The guitar interlude shakes things up a bit in a nice way. My only complaint is with the not-quite-subliminal vocals throughout which are more distraction than attraction. You Never Give Me Your Money comes off as more aggressive. Graham Bonnet (Rainbow) takes liberties with the melody, but does not seem to add anything new. Rather than crash into the next song, this one fades, which is a bit jarring in its own way. Sweeping harpsichords and synths courtesy of Geoff Downes (Yes, Asia) lend an ethereal quality to Sun King. There are so many layers both vocally and musically, but the production never sounds dense or cluttered. James Booth’s (The Return) massed harmonies float above the song for another worthy performance.

Great White’s Jack Russell does a fine vocal job with Mean Mister Mustard. Perdomo handles all the instrumentation except for drums; his is a consistently amazing exercise in how to play electric guitar (and how to pan a stereo mix). Polythene Pam is tailor made for Matthew Sweet’s guitar and vocals. Too bad it’s over so soon.  Sweet’s solo is straight out of the luscious Girlfriend era and a perfect fit with the Beatles’ power pop tune. Adam Gaynor (Matchbox 20) is more Joe Cocker than McCartney on She Came in Through the Bathroom Window, but ultimately adds nothing new to the song.

The one-two punch of Golden Slumbers and Carry That Weight shares the same musicians as well as vocalist Terry Reid. Unfortunately, it seems as if Reid can barely catch his breath, going from bad to worse from one song to the next. Incredibly sad for a man whose best of compilation was titled Super Lungs. Angel’s Frank Dimino takes over vocal duties for The End and atones beautifully for the last Angel album with an excellent turn at the mic. Guitarist Steve Hillage (Gong) adds a touch of psychedelia for a satisfying near conclusion to the album. Her Majesty was never more than a quirky, amusing afterthought. Here Gary Wilson makes the most of his twenty-five seconds with a countrified take in which he has a little fun with the melody.

Abbey Road Revisited is an album of hits and misses. Your opinion as to which is which might vary. Any time you put together such a large number of musicians, the lack of years of experience playing together is bound to show. Those who manage to rise above take the song and make it their own, either through sheer talent or force of will. The Beatles were a singular band and, while easy to cover, they are almost impossible to transcend. Fernando Perdomo gets an A for effort, creating a gorgeous sounding album with an inspired roster of musicians. Give it a listen. You will be entertained, appalled and thrilled. And that’s what good music should always do – engender a reaction.

01. Come Together (4.00)
02. Something (3:41)
03. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer (3:28)
04. Oh! Darling (3:37)
05. Octopus’s Garden (2:47)
06. I Want You (She’s So Heavy) (7:40)
07. Here Comes the Sun (3:06)
08. Because (3:04)
09. You Never Give Me Your Money (3:34)
10. Sun King (2:42)
11. Mean Mister Mustard (1:01)
12. Polythene Pam (1:26)
13. She Came in Through the Bathroom Window (1:50)
14. Golden Slumbers (1:28)
15. Carry That Weight (1:30)
16. The End (2:05)
17. Her Majesty (0:25)

Total Time – 47:24

Fernando Perdomo – Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, Mellotron, Percussion, Drums
Vocals – Durga McBroom (track 1), Charles Jones (2), Roger Manning (3), Eric Dover (4), Matt Axton (5), Arthur Brown (6), Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (7), Hilary Gerber (7), Rebecca Pidgeon (8), Graham Bonnet (9), Jason Berk (9), Jim Camacho (9), James Booth (10), Jack Russell (11), Matthew Sweet (12), Adam Gaynor (13), Terry Reid (14 & 15), Frank Dimino (16), Gary Wilson (17) – Vocals
Backing Vocals – Jackie Lomax (track 1), Jody Quine (2 & 3), Zach Zisklo (4) –
Guitars – Snowy White (track 1), Sonny Landreth (2), Ken Sharp (4), Matt Axton (5), Taylor Kropp (5), Steve Stevens (6), Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (7), Jason Berk (9), James Booth (10), Albert Lee (10), Matthew Sweet (12), Jason Berks (12), Terry Reid (14 & 15), Steve Hillage (16)
Keyboards – Roger Manning (track 3), Brian Auger (5), Patrick Moraz (8), Rick Wakeman (9), Chris Price (9), Geoff Downes (10), Paul Shaeffer (13), Hilary Gerber (14, 15 & 16)
Bass – Ryan Posner (track 5), Jim Camacho (9)
Drums & Percussion – Nicole Marcus (track 1), Matt Tecu (3), Carmine Appice (4), Travis Popichak (5), Derek Cintron (6), Phil Martin (8), Michael Collins (9), James Booth (10), David Goodstein (11, 12 & 13), Greg Bisonette (14, 15 & 16)
Strings – Kaitlin Wolfberg (tracks 2,7,14,15 & 16)
Cello – Rutti Celli (track 6)
Horns – Probyn Gregory (track 14)

Record Label: Cleopatra Records
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 18th August 2023

Cleopatra Records – Abbey Road Reimagined [Info] | Bandcamp