Mother Nature's Son

Ramsey Lewis

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Mother Nature's Son Review

by Bruce Eder

This album was another brainchild of Marshall Chess' regime at Chess Records and, in a sense, is of a piece with Electric Mud by Muddy Waters -- here, he's getting Ramsey Lewis, supported by an orchestra conducted and arranged by Charles Stepney, to do jazz improvisations on ten songs from The Beatles (aka The White Album). The results are a good deal more impressive and a lot less awkward than Electric Mud, Lewis and company being in far greater sympathy with this material than Muddy Waters was with Rolling Stones material. The orchestrations are occasionally a bit thick and treacly, but when Lewis jumps in and his playing takes flight, songs such as "Julia" soar off in all manner of unexpected and delightful directions, while "Back in the U.S.S.R.," divorced from its Chuck Berry sound, still serves as the basis for some funky improvisations by the pianist. The album probably didn't do much more for Lewis' career than Electric Mud did for Muddy Waters, but it's a better fit with Lewis and an enjoyable excursion. The cover art is also funny enough to almost make it worth the price of the LP, which was reissued in Japan in 2002 in 24-bit digital audio.

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