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The Best of Beatles Baroque
Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da [2:59]
Blackbird [2:16]
Girl [2:36]
We Can Work It Out [2:12]
Oh! Darling [3:02]
She's Leaving Home [3:27]
Michelle [2:49]
Here, There and Everywhere [2:27]
Yesterday [2:25]
Because [2:43]
A Day in the Life [4:32]
The Long and Winding Road [3:32]
The Fool on the Hill [3:15]
Here Comes the Sun [3:06]
All You Need is Love [3:32]
All arrangements by Eric Milnes
Les Boréades
rec. 2000-06 (?), Église Saint-Augustin, Saint-Augustin-de-Mirabel, Canada
ATMA CLASSIQUE ACD2 3008 [44:53] 

These baroque Beatles transcriptions stay very close to the original songs, preserving the harmonies, making few improvisations, and even keeping original effects, like the foot-taps in “Blackbird”, the “She Loves You” quote at the end of “All You Need Is Love”, or the hissing intakes of breath on “Girl”. The best transcriptions are simply the liveliest: the cellos and flutes raising a ruckus in “Oh! Darling”, or “Here Comes the Sun”, which I'm pretty sure is incapable of not being joy-giving. The harpsichord is joined by viols for “Because”, while baroque wind instruments enliven a few tracks. A special mention should also be made of the bass players who charge through their parts with aplomb.
 
On the other hand, the orchestral build-ups in “A Day in the Life” are honestly kind of hideous - and more inhibited than the Beatles' original orchestra was. Mostly, though, I couldn't stop thinking of Leo Brouwer's suite Beatlerianas for guitar and string quartet. After hearing the great originality with which Brouwer crafted new introductions to and capricious variations on these Beatles songs, I feel let down by plain, literal transcriptions like these. Remember the moment in “Here Comes the Sun” where violins come in for a moment? Guess how that's transcribed here: violins come in for a moment.
 
Les Boréades play exceptionally well; there's no doubt about that, and the church's acoustic, recognizable as such without even looking in the booklet, contributes to your sense that somehow John, Paul and George (there are no Ringo tunes) fell into a time machine and commandeered a Renaissance band. If that's what you're keen to hear, help yourself, but if you want to hear smarter, more engaging dialogue between classical arrangers and this music, try Brouwer's Beatlerianas suite.
 
An aside: musicologists occasionally say Paul McCartney is a great classical songwriter. It's hard to disagree when you hear his best solo compositions - Blackbird, Oh! Darling, Michelle, Here There and Everywhere, Yesterday - working so successfully in a classical context. I might be most grateful for this album because it actually expanded my appreciation for the genius of these songs.
 
Brian Reinhart
 
 

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