While the whole world can listen to the Live! At the Star-Club album and find out what the Beatles sounded like at the end of their early-‘60s rock & roll apprenticeship in Hamburg, only those who were there can ever know what they sounded like at the beginning. Nevertheless, a few Beatlemaniacal U.S. rockers have banded together in an effort to address that knowledge gap. Doug Gillard (Guided by Voices), Mark Rozzo (Maplewood), Eric Papparazi, who plays bass with Cat Power, and Ira Elliot, who drums for Nada Surf, first got together in 2009, in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first German gig at the Indra Musikclub in 1960. They learned the repertoire the Beatles were playing at the time and traveled to the club to deliver their tribute on the appropriate date in 2010. The results were recorded for posterity, unlike the Beatles' Indra gig, and released under the band name Bambi Kino, the name of the place the Beatles stayed on that first Hamburg jaunt. There have been Beatles tribute bands before, Lord knows, but it's difficult to recall one with an agenda quite this specific, not to mention quite this novel. It even trumps the Smithereens' song-for-song tribute to Meet the Beatles! It also opens up a window into that rarest of phenomena: a period of the Beatles' musical development that hasn't been constantly crammed down our throats for decades. Listening to Bambi Kino tackling everything from Buddy Holly's "Crying Waiting Hoping" and Johnny Kidd & the Pirates' "Shakin' All Over," to Carl Perkins' "Lend Me Your Comb," and the Teddy Bears' "To Know Him Is to Love Him" (in a gender-corrected version), all in a scrappy Merseybeat style, you get a real feeling for what all those Hamburgers must have heard. And equally importantly, the album also happens to rock on its own merits.
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AllMusic Review by James Allen