MUSIC REVIEW: George Martin's - In My Life

Written By: Joe Lamere

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As we gear up for the September release of the Beatles remasters and Rock Band game, I’ve been listening to some of the various artist tribute albums that I own. Admittedly, many of these tributes range from occasionally inspired to downright atrocious. The 1998 release of George Martin’s “In My Life” is a classy tribute that will appeal to die-hard Beatles fans and lovers of pop culture. This CD has many things going for it; first it was produced and arranged by the man who could arguably be called the fifth Beatle. George Martin was the Beatles producer from their first professional recording session, and was responsible for many of the arrangements and orchestral touches on Beatles recordings. Try to imagine Eleanor Rigby without Martin’s splendid string arrangement or Penny Lane without those magical piccolo trumpets!

George Martin produced and arranged all of the tracks on this CD, and gets some help from many top name musicians and actors. This mixture gives the CD a fun variation often lacking in tributes. This is clearly evidenced on Jim Carrey’s hilarious rendition of I Am the Walrus. You can visualize Carrey morphing into one of his unique characters during the “sitting in an English garden” section. This is the standout track. Bobby McFerrin and Robin Williams perform an ambitious duet on Come Together, with McFerrin humming McCartney’s memorable bass line, while Williams sings Lennon’s vocal surprisingly well. Sean Connery’s rendition of In My Life starts off excellent, with our most beloved 007 sounding as though he’s the lone patron in a late-night dive, divulging all his memories to an attentive bartender. Unfortunately, the track gets too heavily weighed down with a string arrangement as it progresses. George Martin should have kept to the minimalist approach used in the first verse. This brings us to Goldie Hawn’s version of A Hard Day’s Night. Hawn tries to channel Mae West and while it is a unique perspective on the tune, it ultimately falls short.

The standout performance by a true musician has to be Jeff Beck’s mesmerizing guitar workout on A Day in the Life.  Beck gets deeply inside the melody to deliver a performance of unparalleled brilliance.  Surprisingly, I was also impressed by Celine Dion’s straightforward rendition of Here, There and Everywhere. I expected her to deliver an overwrought bombastic performance, and I was pleasantly surprised. The disc is rounded out by pleasant instrumental performances by classical violinist Vanessa Mae, Spanish guitarist John Williams, and an ambitious medley from Abbey Road by Phil Collins. This release gains credibility from George Martin’s involvement and is well worth having for the magisterial performances by Jim Carrey and Jeff Beck, and the amusing surprises found on many other tracks. A great primer for the forthcoming remasters.