Bettye LaVette Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook

Bettye LaVette Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook
Something happened when Bettye LaVette managed to pull off a version of Elton John's "Talking Old Soldiers" on her last album, The Scene Of The Crime. She found a nugget of truth in a song that suddenly spoke to her experiences as a hard-bitten, '60s female soul singer. She's taken that idea to an entirely new level on this collection of songs by the Beatles, the Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin and other notorious plunderers of American R&B. As a concept alone, Interpretations is fascinating, and LaVette's ever-increasing confidence since 2005's career-reviving I've Got My Own Hell To Raise propels her forward. Yet this isn't an album that most fans of the original versions will immediately warm to. The Willie Mitchell-esque Memphis soul sound LaVette employs does suit ballads like "Maybe I'm Amazed," "All My Love" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" (this last cover a bit of an oddity since it was originally made famous by Nina Simone). Yet her attempts to personalize more expansive songs like "Love Reign O'er Me" and "Nights In White Satin," while admirable, still somehow feel incomplete, as if constant spins on classic rock radio have already sapped whatever life remained in them. That, in the end, may be Interpretations' Achilles heel, even though no one can accuse LaVette of selling out with this project, which stands to make a lot of old rich dudes a little bit richer. (Anti)