There's few if any artists who have had an impact as profound as the Beatles on modern music. I'm not sure if another band has had more covers of their music recorded which have become pop hits in their own right. As such, I thought I'd compile a list of five Beatles tribute ablums which pay respect to the source material yet take the it into different vastly different stylistic directions.
Danger Mouse The Grey Album - Danger Mouse is now most well known for his Gnarls Barkley colaboration with Cee-Lo Green, but it was his mash up masterpiece the Grey Album which lauched his career. The Grey Album is mixed a cappella tracks from Jay Z's The Black Album over beats culled from the Beatle's White Album. The juztaposition of the diverse styles of these two albums results in an insanely creative work of art. The work was originally made for firends and never intended for release, as such the tracks were never officially cleared and the album is not for sale. While I typically never support illegal download of music, this is such an incredibly reimagination of the Beatles works that I recommend seeking it out and having a listen.
Andy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepper - I've always believed a testament to a truly well written melody is its ability to work as an instrumental, and the Andy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepper adds another chapter to the book of proof that the Beatles were genious songwriters. The album isn't a note, for note accurate representation but more of a love letter to the album. Some of the songs work better than others, but when the group clicks the results are simply stunning such as the absolutely beautiful, chimey intro of She's Leaving Home to the western swing meets gritty alt pop version of When I'm Sixy Four, or thematic fuzzed out version of Strawberry Fields Forever. Andy Timmons is a great player with technical chops matching the best shredders out there, but he shows some very tasteful restraint on the album always playing to the song first often opting for parts outlining the songs melodic and harmonic content rather than inserting flashy runs just to show he can. In addition to the "missing" lyrics, the stripped down production and performance by a trio is a great showcase of the power of the source material.
Soulive - Rubber Soulive - If your not familiar with New York organ trio Soulive, you're missing out. While these guys are typically considered acid jazz, depending on the album their style can vary from modern R&B and funk to old school traditional jazz. Though Soulive defintely pulls some inspiration from Booker T. & The MG's McLemore Avenue, the arrangements are leaner substituting the smaltzy swing one often finds in jazz interpreatations of the Beatles with a tight groove driven approach. A fantastic example is Eleanor Rigby. Rather than the Wes Montgomery route so often traveled, they frame the song around a tight "amen" style break beat. The song which stays farthest from the original is probably Revolution which is reworked with an upbeat, classic R&B feel...as if was long lost track from a Wilson Picket session.
George Benson The Other Side of Abbey Road - Recorded just three weeks after Abbey Road's release, Geroge Benson's The Other Side of Abbey Road amazingly both pays tribute to and reinvents the Beatles' classic at the same time. Even the album's cover which features a guitar toting Benson crossing a busy city street seems to foreshadow the unique treament of the source material. Stylistically the album combines a smokey, sultry latin jazz via late 60's soul vibe with dense orchestral arrangements by the legendary Don Sebesky. Benson uses the material to showcase both his amazing guitar skills as well as velvety voice keeping the album an intersting listen from beginning to end. The song in which Benson moves the smoothest is perhaps the album's arrangement of Something in which the song first appears to be a somewhat melancholy instrumental jazz send up of the tune until Benson comes in just singing a few lines to underscore the mood he's trying to evoke. Other standouts are an incredibly tender version of Here Comes the Sun which supplants the bubblegum pop of the original for an arrangement underscoring the underlying message of hope of the lyrics and a version of Come Together which has a feel closer to a funky Curtis Mayfield track than what you'd expect from George Benson. Of course a big of this albums greatness has to do with the amazing musicians appearing on the album including Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Freddie Hubbard, Ed Shaughnessy, Hubert Laws among others.
Beatallica Masterful Mystery Tour - Alright, so this band is completely a gimmick...but its a good one...well at least good for a laugh. Ever wondered what would happen if you threw the Bealtes and Metallica in a blender? Answer: Beatallica. Some of the stuff kinda actually works, such as I Wanna Choke your Band which sounds like it could almost be a lost track from a Metalica Garage Days sequel album. Beyond the sillyness of it all, there is some very creative stuff happening between the lines, such as the title track Masterful Mystery Tour which as the name implies is a mash up of Master of Puppets and the Magical Mystery Tour. If you've ever listened to a Weird Al album and enjoyed it or apprciated the more whimsical side of Frank Zappa, Beatallica is definitely worth a quick listen especially if you happen to be fans of both the Beatles and Metallica.