Ramsey Lewis

Plays the Beatles Songbook

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The Great Performances/Great Songs series by Verve is a new attempt to get prospective buyers interested in its vast jazz catalog; introducing them to large-scale hits by artists who appeared either on its label proper or on one of its licensees'. In the case of Ramsey Lewis, it’s his famous Beatles covers that were cut for Cadet with producer Esmond Edwards. There are eight tracks here clocking at just under 36 minutes, including the live versions of "A Hard Day's Night" and "And I Love Her," from Hang on Ramsey, featuring the original trio with the rhythm section of Redd Holt and Eldee Young, and "Day Tripper" with Cleveland Eaton and Maurice White from Wade in the Water (both 1966). The remainder of these cuts were taken from an ambitious, all Beatles album released by Lewis in 1968 called Mother Nature’s Son on Chess. This was the first album on which he played Fender Rhodes piano, as well as acoustic and Hammond B-3 (check “Back in the U.S.S.R.”), and is backed by his own group and an orchestra arranged and conducted (brilliantly) by Charles Stepney. There is a stark contrast between the trio cuts and the orchestrated ones, but they all simply groove -- even the ballads “Dear Prudence” and “Julia.” For the super-budget price tag, this is a collection worth picking up.

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