Various Artists: Let Me Take You Down . . . Under. Volume 2 (Frenzy)

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Ticket to Ride Part 2, by the Rebels
Various Artists: Let Me Take You Down . . . Under. Volume 2 (Frenzy)

Traveling down the Beatle path means you invariably pass some familiar landmarks, so we'll acknowledge first that we previously reviewed Volume 1 of Let Me Take You Down . . . Under, this new edition subtitled “Another Celebration of Kiwi Artists Covering the Songs of the Beatles”.

Once again archivist Grant Gillanders has unearthed a couple of dozen Beatle covers by New Zealand artists, but although some names may be familiar (Golden Harvest, Dinah Lee, country artist Brendan Dugan among them) their versions may not be: Come Together, It's For You, which McCartney wrote for Cilla Black but the Beatles never recorded, and a dark brown baritone and somewhat joyless I've Just Seen a Face respectively.

Although songs from the Beatlemania period (1963 -1964) were common enough in many artists' live sets, what is interesting here is how many songs come from beyond that era.

insertMore than half the 25 tracks in fact, which include the faithful and excellent live While My Guitar Gently Weeps by the Wonderful Eddie Rayner Project (guitarist uncredited, Rikki Morris perhaps?), Golden Harvest's funky Come Together, Wayne Roland Brown's very earnest poetic treatment of Eleanor Rigby, the Conrays' raw Don't Let Me Down, the blast of Lovely Rita by Tommy Adderley and the Brew . . .

There are only a few versions we have encountered previously: Ray Columbus and the Invaders' very efficient I Wanna Be Your Man; Matthew Bannister with I'm Only Sleeping from his Evolver album; guitarist Peter Posa with an effortless Please Please Me (not Eight Days a Week as the cover says); the Merseymen from the Beatle Inn with a somewhat limp I'll Get You . . .

But here are also some unusual and unexpected choices: Roger Skinner and the Motivation pick up Sour Milk Sea which George Harrison gave to fellow Liverpudlian Jackie Lomax; Peter Kearns offered a piano-based, cello-coloured Across the Universe; Craig Scott and Quincy Conserve took their time getting into a clever, slow and more bluesy Daytripper which segues into We Can Work It Out with snatches of Norwegian Wood and Eleanor Rigby along the way.

Daytripper/We Can Work It Out by Craig Scott and Quincy Conserve

Max Merritt and the Meteors delivered a sweaty and fast live I Want to Hold Your Hand (with a massive bass sound!) and Steve Allen had the unenviable task of recording My Sweet Lord which is a bit too MOR.

The Rebels deliver Ticket to Ride sounding inspired by Ike and Tina Turner. 

But here too is the New Zealand Trading Company's hard-to-find eight minute-plus Hey Jude which was almost inexplicably popular given it takes so long to get going.

But they were an interesting band: They only worked in the United States and evolved out of the Maori Hi-Quins and other Maori showbands of the 1960s. The most prominent member was bass guitarist Thomas Kini, who left New Zealand in 1959 aged 16 to play with the Hi-Quins. At the time of his death aged 61 in 2004, he had become a prominent musician based in the Chicago area.

Kini worked with artists such as Duke Ellington, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Minnie Riperton and Herbie Hancock. 

The New Zealand Trading Company released just one album, in 1970, and most of the songs are co-written by Kini. But their most requested song on iwi stations at home was their rather bizarre Hey Jude.

JB logo_1As with the first volume, it is a lot of Beatles songs, some extremely good, a few very different, some less successful.

However taken as an album, this is a fascinating insight into not just how Beatles' songs from all parts of their career had such wide currency, but how often local artists found something in them and stamped their own mark on the familiar.


This CD with an insert fold-out timeline of the Beatles' arrival in New Zealand 60 years ago this month is available from JB Hi-Fi stores

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