Beatlemania – has swept the world – has embraced the young and old – has epitomized the great social changes in today’s attitudes. And, above all, the music of the Beatles is just great! It was only fitting that the world’s largest recording orchestra, 101 Strings, and a swingin’ British rhythm section cover the Beatle bag. These stone hits composed by Lennon and McCartney headline a ‘now sound’ program orchestrated by I. Disenhaus, who has added another dimension to the fabulous world of the Beatles. (album liner notes)
A legendary 101 Strings album, arranged with loving enthusiasm by Monty Kelly (hot on the heels of his Sounds of Today breakthrough), this effort validates its existence by offering supercharged interpretations, not mere covers, of the Fabs’ celebrated psychedelic transformation – a transformation paradoxically made possible by their extended use of orchestration. If critics are correct in assuming Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band was the negation of the generation gap, an inspired attempt to bridge it, then it is as logical as a Mister Spock axiom to further the effort with increased orchestral complexity – a task falling, naturally enough, to the orchestra obsessed with finding a place within the counterculture.
Although padded with a few earlier arrangements (the cosmopolitan finger-poppin’ “A Hard Day’s Night” with its mod sequels, “She Loves You” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand”), Kelly goes all out to demonstrate that his testosterone is amped higher than that of George Martin. The inclusion of his rococo boogie, “Blues for Guru,” settles that easily enough, but there is so much more…
“Penny Lane” is a Renaissance explosion of styles. At turns baroque, grandioso, comic and tragic, Kelly keeps his time-tripper moving around the May pole with pizzicato strings, quadrille snares, merrymaking flute and capricious whiffs of brass. A few unexpected minor chords, wrought by violins, add exquisite pomp.
“Yesterday” is also given the kinetoscopic treatment. With church organ, cowboy guitar, arpeggio cello, pastoral trombone, it is epic superrealism. “Eleanor Rigby” is cotton candy Pepperland, swirling with neurotic harpsichord and perturbed piccolo. “All You Need Is Love,” with its flaming William Tell Overture intro, trots out Edwardian piano and Guy Lombardo glissandos with champagne audacity. There’s more zip in these tracks than the originals.
Plus, there are two custom compositions (by “I. Disenhaus,” a pseudonym for Kelly). “Six Pence And You” is Carnaby Street A Go-Go, ‘whistling’ flute, natty bass and dashing tympani, while “Tropic of Chelsea” offers a Jetsons conception of the token Ringo song.
Postscript. In 1996, Madacy Inc. bought the Alshire catalog and set about generating buzz for their CD re-issue of 101 Strings’ Beatles material by adding a special new 101 Strings interpretation of “Free As A Bird.” Since most of the original players from the 1950s and ’60s were no longer alive, this posed particular challenges … which were eventually overcome by the application of technology – that is, Gred Sims, the conductor tasked with producing the session, placed fiber optic cable over the London graveyard in which most of the orchestra members were laid to rest and had them “phone in” their string parts … the results of which are now yours to admire …