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CD Reviews:  Coming Up: Independent Artists Pay Tribute to Paul McCartney

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So here it is, the indie follow-up to Listen to What the Man Said, the fabulous Macca tribute album that featured World Party, Neil & Tim Finn, Owsley, and other super-talented pop bands that can't get arrested. This time around, the minor leaguers get their shot at paying homage to The Man, and why not -- they're just as deserving of the opportunity as anyone on a major label. The end result is a delightfully mixed bag; some of the contributions are brilliant and the artists who made them are criminally unknown. Other tracks offer proof that the bands in question are still in the minors for a reason. Perhaps another season in AAA-ball will help them find their identities. 

The album gets off to a great start with Starbelly's take on "Let 'Em In," straight-forward and not too dissimilar from the Merrymakers' version of "No More Lonely Nights" from Listen. The Jellybricks cover a sentimental favorite of mine, "Take It Away," wisely staying close to the original, sans horns. The Shazam (a very good band, for the record) tear through "Helen Wheels" with arguably more ferocity than the original, and Phil Keagy's version of "Somedays" is nothing short of sublime. In fact, he sounds more like Paul on this than Paul does these days. Cherry Twister runs "Another Day" through the Matthew Sweet/Lemonheads blender with exquisite results, and Cliff Hills delivers a lovely version of "This One," a Flowers in the Dirt track that I never thought got its due. 

So then why can't anyone do a good cover of "My Brave Face"? What is it about that song that is so hard to duplicate? It's not even one of Paul's best songs, fer crissakes. And yet two bands, SR-71 (who butchered it on Listen) and, on this album, Star Collector, turn in subpar readings. To be fair, Star Collector's version isn't so much bad as it is unremarkable, but at this point too much effort has been put into covering an average tune. Same goes for Mark Bacino's version of "Every Night," which is too close to Matthew Sweet's version on Listen to justify a second appearance here. 

The Masticators pull out their Moog synths for "With A little Luck," but lead singer Lisa Mychols doesn't have the pipes to carry the song. They should have traded for Helen Hausmann, lead singer (and dead ringer for Melissa Etheridge) for Gadget White Band, who turns in a nifty "Maybe I'm Amazed," with the guitar riff represented by a fiddle. But now I'm suffering the inevitable hangover that comes from two albums of McCartney covers without anyone taking a whack at my favorites: "Listen to What the Man Said" (slated for Ben Folds Five and, later, Joe Jackson, but never materialized), "Junior's Farm" (Squeeze almost did this one, but broke up instead), "C Moon," and I just know someone would have had fun with the Latin disco classic "Goodnight Tonight." Sigh. 

Think of Coming Up as the opening act for Listen to What the Man Said. A lot of these bands are on their way to bigger, better things, and it's only a matter of time before they break out. Others, however, will never get any bigger than they are right now, and there's a reason for it. Still, it's definitely a better than average compilation, and the people behind it, Tribute LLC, not only have their hearts in the right place (all of the proceeds go to charity) but they are very smart about the artists they recruit, and this album, with all its flaws, is still much better than your typical tribute album.  

~David Medsker

Also see:
Listen to What the Man Said: Popular Artists Pay Tribute to Paul McCartney
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