Various This Bird Has Flown: A 40th Anniversary Tribute to The Beatles' Rubber Soul

The most remarkable thing about this tribute album is how expectations of the contributing artists have been inverted. An odd mix of indie upstarts and more mainstream artists, it’s surprising to find the latter more engaging here. Perhaps it’s a Beatles thing but the straight takes on these classic songs simply work better than the experiments. For instance, the Donnas do well by their by-the-numbers take on "Drive My Car” and Low simply tweak "Nowhere Man” to give its lyrics more prominence. The Yonder Mountain String Band give "Think for Yourself” a nice folk treatment, while Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals almost steal the album with a reggae take on "Michelle.” The disappointments come from unlikely sources, such as an overwhelmed Sufjan Stevens posing the musical question, "What Goes On?” on a meandering interpretation. The Fiery Furnaces draw upon the legend that Dylan simply re-wrote "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” for his "4th Time Around,” and simply conflate both with unconvincing results. Ted Leo’s punk-reggae take on "I’m Looking Through You” is just exhausting, while Nellie McKay’s lounge-y "If I Needed Someone” is kind of a joke. The Cowboy Junkies’ noir-ish "Run for Your Life” is actually a pretty cool subversion of Lennon’s misogynistic message and its sinister arrangement suits Margo Timmins’ tough cooing. Unfortunately it’s one of the rare instances here where messing with Beatles songs leads to something interesting and worth listening to. (Razor & Tie)