Randy Bachman has all the right in the world to do a tribute album to George Harrison, but he sure has a lot of balls to do this one. Bachman is almost the same vintage as Harrison, having started out in the early '60's, and was a Beatles fan before they even made it to North America, famously hearing them via a friend's reel-to-reel tapes sent over from England. They were both lead guitar players for hit-making '60's bands, and had a second big career in the '70's. So why did this turn out so tacky?
I won't slag Bachman for the usual reasons many Canadians do, sick of his radio show and the constant me, me, me, refrain of his chatter, plus the outright factual errors he and the CBC allow to go through. At least I won't slag him in connection with this album. Instead, I'll slag him for the unnecessary and bizarre reinterpretations of the Harrison songs that will no doubt leave the late beloved Beatle spinning wherever he is, somewhere in the greater cosmos.
The thing starts somewhat lamely, but at least harmlessly, with a new tribute song Bachman wrote, Between Two Mountains. The title phrase refers to George's place between Lennon and McCartney, not the worst metaphor ever, but the rehash of classic Harrison guitar lines doesn't really make this a needed work. Then, in a jaw-dropping move, the next cut and first cover is the Beatles' oldie If I Needed Someone, and I shit you not, it's done in a smooth jazz version. Now hey, I'm all for stretching and changing these things, but The Beatles as George Benson in his near-disco phase?
And it gets worse. Here Comes The Sun as a reggae tune only sounds good on paper. Get it? Sunshine = Jamaica? The Wilburys' beloved Handle With Care is dull and sludgy, and sounds like BTO doing it. To liven up Think For Yourself, he flies in the slide guitar lick from My Sweet Lord, which only confuses the matter.
Taxman becomes an electric blues with a John Lee Hooker beat on the verses, and in the chorus it sounds like he and the singers are going "Batman!" instead of Taxman, like in the cartoon TV theme. And to show there's not a subtle moment on the album, I present Something, one of the great love songs of our day, now sped up and more resembling Boz Scaggs' Lowdown (actually a good song) with a plodding bass line and way too much electric soloing from Randy.
I'll give it this, the guitar playing is fine throughout, and the version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps works, along with guest Walter Trout on guitar. But like everything else he does, this album is all about Randy, and George gets lost in the process.