Bettye LaVette Covers UK Rock Classics


Soul queen shows those
damn Brits how it’s s’posed to be done!


By Blurt Staff



BETTYE LAVETTE brings the British Invasion home to its
American R&B roots on her latest CD, INTERPRETATIONS:
due May 25 on Anti-. While BETTYE’s
Grammy-nominated 2007 disc The Scene Of The Crime went to the source to find triumph
over her own anguish, INTERPRETATIONS looks to the past this time for
inspiration and uncovers common ancestry in seemingly divergent musical paths.


Produced by BETTYE, Rob Mathes and Michael Stevens, the
album is a 13-song journey through compositions by the Beatles, Rolling Stones,
Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd among others, before concluding right where the
very idea for INTERPRETATIONS started: BETTYE’s visceral show-stopping rendition of The Who’s “Love Reign
O’er Me” from the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors, which appears here as a bonus


That performance – which first brought BETTYE together with
Stevens (the event’s producer) and Mathes (its musical director) – served
notice that BETTYE is no mere singer. As an extraordinary interpreter of song,
she doesn’t merely mold a piece of music to suit her tastes; she is a conjurer
of deep, emotional truths:


“Bettye LaVette
punched a hole right through her version of Pete Townshend’s ‘Love Reign O’er
Me,’ letting all the song’s emotion pour out in a way that its creators never
conceived,” observed the New York Daily News. Townshend himself came up to
Bettye after her performance, took her hands into his and said, “You made me


Throughout INTERPRETATIONS, her performances are a
revelation not just of raw emotion, but of the inexorable ties between British
rock ‘n’ roll and the American blues and R&B, which when combined,
catalyzed popular music. That Lennon, McCartney, and so many others who crossed
the Atlantic in their wake, were deeply
influenced by American music is no great secret. What BETTYE demonstrates here
so convincingly is the degree to which rock ‘n’ roll and American soul remain
bound by bloodlines.


The Beatles’
pre-psychedelic Rubber Soul classic “The Word” takes on an almost religious
fervor, while Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” is transformed from a
majestic pop song into a stark, almost desperate expression of devotion.
Profound alienation becomes intense longing on Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were
Here,” and the wistful naiveté of The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin”
matures into a deep and unshakeable lament. BETTYE inhabits these songs,
revitalizes them and exposes the humanity that makes these 13 tracks not just
pop songs, but enduring works of art.


Such mastery hardly
comes as a surprise to at least one legend featured here. Elton John (whose
“Talking Old Soldiers” appeared on The Scene Of The Crime) offers this
endorsement of BETTYE’s impassioned take on “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”:


“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





The Word (John Lennon/Paul

No Time To Live (James
Capaldi/Stephen Winwood)

Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
(Bennie Benjamin/Gloria Caldwell/Sol Marcus)

All My Love (John Baldwin/Robert

Isn’t It A Pity (George Harrison)

Wish You Were Here (David
Gilmour/Roger Waters)

It Don’t Come Easy (Richard

Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul McCartney)

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







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