All We Are Saying.....
By Brian PalmerDecember 09, 2011
Beatles and or John Lennon covers can be horrifying to behold. From the band who plays a song note for note with all the imagination of an accountant, to the performer who absolutely wrecks a classic by making it sound kitschy, the world is littered with songs that have been given something less than the royal treatment. But when placed in the hands of legendary maverick guitarist Bill Frisell, an album full of such John Lennon songs is engaging because the tracks become lyric-less re-imaginings rather than bland retreads or ridiculous send-ups.
Frisell is his usual spacey self with his guitar work, letting the chords linger in dreamy, somewhat off-kilter ways. It takes a minute for you to realize you’re listening to “Imagine” for instance, but the track’s iconic piano notes eventually come to life on Frisell’s guitar. And while Frisell wisely steers clear of more upbeat and raucous Lennon classics, he and his band (filled out by the admirable playing of steel guitarist Greg Leisz, violinist Jenny Scheinman, bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen) give a good showing on the bluesy, distortion-heavy “Revolution” and their cool-as-ice version of “Come Together.” The Americana undertones that have laced themselves throughout Frisell’s work for the last decade or so also pop up throughout the record, giving tracks like “Across the Universe” a new feel to them.
Frisell has made a career out of thinking outside the box with respect to the music that he makes, and All We Are Saying
… is no exception. It might seem like sacrilege for someone to do this, but if you’re familiar with Frisell’s musical bent then you’ll likely appreciate where this record ends up going. Covering Lennon tunes isn’t a wise idea for most artists, but Frisell and Co. make this an experience worth having.