Published Feb 22, 2010As a '60s soul singer, Bettye LaVette was a member of the same American R&B scene that inspired British Invasion bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Who. It's only fitting, then, that LaVette's new album will be a tribute record to said invasion, with cover songs that touch on many of the UK's biggest musical exports from the '60s and '70s.
The collection is called Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook, and seeks to illuminate the parallels between British rock and American soul. Over the course of the album's 13 tracks, LaVette covers many of the biggest names in rock'n'roll history, including the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Who, Pink Floyd and the Beatles (as well as solo songs by Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr).
In some cases, this gives LaVette an opportunity to shine a light on a lesser-known back catalogue cut, such as a take on the Beatles' "The Word," which a press release describes as having "an almost religious fervor." (Of course, "lesser-known" is all relative when we're talking about the Beatles.) But she doesn't shy away from mega-hits either, offering up a version of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here," in which "profound alienation becomes intense longing."
The album also features a version of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," which was popularized by the Animals in 1965. It's inclusion here feels a bit like cheating, however, since the song was originally recorded by American soul singer Nina Simone.
Some of the artists covered have spoken out in support of LaVette's Interpretations. The press release quotes Elton John, who said, ""Bettye LaVette has always been a wonderful singer - I have been a huge fan for many years. To my delight and surprise, she recorded an amazing version of 'Talking Old Soldiers' - a song that nobody else has covered - and made it her own. Now she has recorded 'Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me' and has done exactly the same - but this time with a much more familiar song. I am truly touched by her picking these songs and can only hope that this album brings more attention to this incredible artist."
What's more, Pete Townshend apparently approached LaVette after a live performance of "Love Reign O'er Me" and told her, "You made me weep."
Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook is due out on June 1 via Anti-.
Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook:
1. "The Word" (John Lennon/Paul McCartney)
2. "No Time to Live" (James Capaldi/Stephen Winwood)
3. "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" (Bennie Benjamin/Gloria Caldwell/Sol Marcus)
4. "All My Love" (John Baldwin/Robert Plant)
5. "Isn't It a Pity" (George Harrison)
6. "Wish You Were Here" (David Gilmour/Roger Waters)
7. "It Don't Come Easy" (Richard Starkey)
8. "Maybe I'm Amazed" (Paul McCartney)
9. "Salt of the Earth" (Michael Jagger/Keith Richards)
10. "Nights in White Satin" (David Hayward)
11. "Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad" (Eric Clapton/Bobby Whitlock)
12. "Don't Let The Sun Go Down on Me" (Elton John/Bernard Taupin)
13. "Love Reign O'er Me" (Peter Townshend) [bonus track]