BETTYE LAVETTE: ‘Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook’ (Anti-)

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  • BETTYE LAVETTE: ‘Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook’ (Anti-)

The Michigan-born soul singer’s resurgence continues with this, her third long player for the Anti- label. The raspy-voiced chanteuse – who’s now 64 but sounds as good as ever – puts a fresh spin on songs mainly written by and associated with British bands of the ’60s. Of course, some of the bands in question – The Beatles, Stones, The Moody Blues and The Animals, for example – were profoundly influenced by US rhythm and blues records so there’s a delicious ironic conceit at work with Ms. LaVette’s decision to cover their material. The choice of songs isn’t predictable, either, which certainly adds to the interest, and the arrangements – a sort of stark soul-rock-country hybrid co-produced by LaVette with Rob Mathes and Michael Stevens – are far removed from the original versions.

The set opens with the Fab Four’s Lennon & McCartney-penned ‘The Word,’ which with its intense, dark-hued, organic arrangement, sets the tone for the rest of the album. Other highlights include potent soul-infused versions of The Moody Blues’ ‘Nights In White Satin,’ and Paul McCartney’s ‘Maybe I’m Amazed,’ plus a slow, mournful, brooding, take on George Harrison’s ‘Isn’t It A Pity,’ as well as covers of the Stones’ ‘Salt Of The Earth,’ Elton John’s ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,’ and even Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here,’ which is transformed into a smouldering southern soul confessional. Lavette also tackles Ringo Starr’s self-penned solo hit from ’71, ‘It Don’t Come Easy,’ and injects it with a soulful gravitas and intensity that Ringo could only have dreamt of when he recorded it. The album closes with a bonus live track – LaVette singing Pete Townsend’s ‘Love Reign O’er Me.’ Dark, deep and fascinating.

(CW) 3/5