Your Mother Should Know: Brad Mehldau Plays the Beatles is a live album of (almost entirely) Beatles covers performed on solo piano. The pianist is Amsterdam-based American jazz pianist Brad Mehldau, who we last saw here at Cover Me recording an album with Chris Thile. Melhdau isn’t reinventing the wheel with any of these performances, but they are fun and clearly labors of love.
The Your Mother Should Know song selection is quite interesting: two tracks from the Beatles’ least well-regarded album, Magical Mystery Tour, but only two of their most famous songs (and only one of their biggest hit singles). The songs come from only about six of their albums: Please Please Me, Revolver, Beatles for Sale, Rubber Soul, Abbey Road and the aforementioned Magical Mystery Tour. It’s a curious selection, you might even say idiosyncratic. Especially given how those albums come from entirely different eras of the Beatles’ career (including their very first and very last albums). There are three tracks from Revolver, and two tracks from a couple of the others mentioned; my guess is that Mehldau’s basing the selection entirely on his own personal feelings about these songs. The weirdest inclusion is, of course, the David Bowie song at the end. The press I read said this had something to do with showing the Beatles’ influence on future performers, but I have no idea why one arbitrary Bowie cut is supposed to do that. It’s an odd choice, to say the least.
But Melhdau makes it sound all of a piece. I prefer the three longest covers, which get the most inventive and harmonically interesting. (I think “Baby’s in Black” is probably the most transformative.) The songs he takes less time on tend to sound recognizable the whole way through. Those lean towards the fun side of things, rather than feeling as if they are truly great jazz.
But all of the songs are full of energy and the occasional fun play on the melody. This is hardly the kind of album that makes you rethink the music being covered. (Though that does happen once or twice on the longer covers.) But, as a fan of both the Beatles and jazz solo piano, I find it very enjoyable.
Your Mother Should Know tracklist (all songs Beatles covers unless otherwise noted):
1. I Am The Walrus
2. Your Mother Should Know
3. I Saw Her Standing There
4. For No One
5. Baby’s In Black
6. She Said, She Said
7. Here, There And Everywhere
8. If I Needed Someone
9. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
10. Golden Slumbers
11. Life On Mars? (David Bowie cover)