One of my most liberating moments in recent years came when I realized that music is subjective to the listener. Since accepting that certain individuals' tastes are not better than others', but merely different, debates over the best bands and albums have become somewhat trivial. In light of my enlightenment, I will save you from arguing that The Beatles were the best and most innovative group of all time.
With that being said, Rubber Soul was an important album in modern music history, bridging the gap between early 60s pop and late 60s psychedelia. No song on the disc is lacking, which is the primary reason Rubber Soul is still relevant forty years later. Each song plays off the other, making the flow of the album one of the major draws. However, this also makes Rubber Soul a tough album to cover.
Don't get me wrong: each song is good in its own right, but some of the transitions between artists zap the album of its synergistic appeal. The most noticeable example is Ben Harper's cover of "Michelle". A reggae ode to The Beatles is odd enough, but it really sounds out of place surrounded by Mindy Smith and Sufjan Stevens.
Speaking of Sufjan, his cover of "What Goes On" jumps out more so than any other track on the disk. Considering his delicate (yet powerful) voice and instrumental ambition, Stevens is a perfect fit for covering The Beatles. The Fiery Furnaces, Cowboy Junkies, and Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals join Sufjan Stevens in significantly changing the delivery of their respective tunes, while the majority of the other artists featured take a more conservative approach, primarily keeping the song structures the same as they have been for forty years. The best examples of this are Ben Lee's beautiful take on "In My Life" and Low's gentle cover of "Nowhere Man".
Although the overall feel of the album isn't (and couldn't be) quite the same as the original, it is refreshing to hear a new take on a classic album. If you're a die-hard Beatles fan, you might enjoy this album. If you aren't, pick up a copy of the original first.
1. Drive My Car - The Donnas
2. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) - The Fiery Furnaces
3. You Won't See Me - Dar Williams
4. Nowhere Man - Low
5. Think For Yourself - Yonder Mountain String Band
6. Word, The - Mindy Smith
7. Michelle - Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals
8. What Goes On - Sufjan Stevens
9. Girl - Rhett Miller
10. I'm Looking Through You - Ted Leo
11. In My Life - Ben Lee
12. Wait - Ben Kweller
13. If I Needed Someone - Nellie McKay
14. Run For Your Life - Cowboy Junkies