Pianist David Lanz has tackled the Beatles’ songbook for his latest release Liverpool: Re-Imagining the Beatles. Not content to provide by-the-book cover versions, Lanz offers drastic reinterpretations of a handful of the band’s classic songs. The results are both a testament to strength of the source material as well as Lanz’s own musical vision.
David Lanz wasn’t always a New Age composer and musician, but that has been his bread and butter for many years now. As such, these are atmospheric mood pieces rather than straightforward pop versions. The results are quite beautiful, with most tracks stretching out far longer than the average Beatles’ song. “London Skies – A John Lennon Suite” lasts eleven minutes, joining three songs together in an ethereal, hypnotic soundscape. The centerpiece of this album-closing suite is a reworking of “Tomorrow Never Knows,” which digs deep to find the song’s subtly rich melodic potential.
I recommend listening to Liverpool without consulting the tracklist. The arrangements are so inventive, the songs aren’t immediately recognizable. Sometimes Lanz takes his time introducing the piece before revealing exactly what song he’s performing. In several cases, he has ingeniously combined different songs in very unexpected ways. “Rain” combines with “Eight Days A Week,” while “Because” melds with “I’m Only Sleeping.” In some cases the medleys are not even listed on the tracklisting, which makes the listening experience more delightfully unpredictable.
A Lanz original serves as both the album’s opener and title track. “Liverpool” is an effectively Beatlesque way to open the collection, with Lanz deftly weaving in melodic quotations from Beatle songs. Listen closely for riffs lifted from “A Day In the Life,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Here Comes the Sun,” and others. The inventive piece packs a considerable amount of invention into its three minutes. A second (and very brief) original piece, “Teatime For Rita,” features a snippet of spoken word from Richard Olivier.
Lanz shares billing with a pair of additional musicians, Gary Stroutsos and Walter Gray, for this collection of instrumental music. Stroutsos figures prominently throughout Liverpool, playing xiao (a Chinese flute) and mark tree (a set of chimes). Gray contributes cello. There are numerous other musicians gracing the album, including Eric Eagle on drums and Keith Lowe on upright bass.
Liverpool: Re-Imagining the Beatles showcases the instrumental talents of some very talented musicians. David Lanz has worked hard to deliver these Beatles classics in new, interesting ways. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea. There is a thriving market for Beatles “tribute bands,” dedicated to slavishly recreating every arrangement as close to the original as possible. Lanz has taken a far more challenging route, creating an infinitely greater tribute.