The songs of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison are just the starting point on the 2003 release Beatles from which Brazil and Beyond takes the Beatles' music in some surprising directions. The southern Michigan-based quartet reworks each of the 12 tracks according to a specific Brazilian style: partido alto, afoxé, marcho rancho, and so on. The result is less a Brazilian vibe than it is the sound of a vastly talented quartet finding its own sound. Leader and bassist Rich Kowalewski (aka Rich K.), guitarist Frank Marinello, percussionist Dennis Sheridan, and drummer Rob Emanuel extract a wide-ranging soundscape from their essentially acoustic instrumentation (except for Kowalewski's electric, six-string basses). The best numbers are those that take liberties with the source material, such as the group's dispensing with "Norwegian Wood"'s signature riff; Kowalewski's playing Wes Montgomery-like octaves on bass for "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"; or Sheridan's playing "Come Together"'s melody on berimbau, a one-string African bowed instrument. "Dear Prudence," another highlight, has a remarkable display from Sheridan, who creates synthesizer-like sounds, including the track's trademark bird sounds, using doggy chew toy whistles and an array of other non-electronic devices. A galloping samba treatment of "Eleanor Rigby" offers an impressive arco solo from Kowalewski on acoustic bass. A couple of tracks, given more literal treatments, including "This Boy" and "And I Love Her," are merely pleasant and mellow. With Beatles, Brazil and Beyond is increasingly creating music on its own terms, taking chances, and doing the unexpected. It will be interesting to see where this strategy leads.
AllMusic Review by Jim Todd