Artist: Various Artists
Album: The Beatles and World War II
Label: Gonzo Multimedia
Release Date: 08/15/2016
After a somewhat misguided attempt at replicating some of the Beatles’ classic songs — a genuine challenge in and of itself — producer Sandy Lieberson somehow got the ill-conceived notion that the Fab Four’s songs and the entire trajectory of the Second World War would make a good fit. His short-lived 1976 film proved that notion was as ridiculous on celluloid as most people quickly realized it was on paper, and its critical drubbing (the New York Daily News rated it PG for “Positively Ghastly”) proved that it’s generally better to leave a bad idea alone than to actually put it into practice.
To be sure, the soundtrack — recently reissued with the film itself — has its attributes. It certainly starts with the advantage of being able to source Beatles material — mostly culled from Sgt. Pepper forward — even when it’s covered by the likes of Helen Reddy and old time crooner Frankie Laine. Leo Sayer, David Essex and Bryan Ferry fare far better, and even Keith Moon’s offbeat rendition of “When I’m Sixty-Four” and the Bee Gees’ awkward take on “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight” are effective, if not exceptional. Likewise, Jeff Lynne’s version of “Nowhere Man” and “With A Little Help From My Friends” seem a good match, especially in light of Lynne’s obvious infatuation with the Beatles to begin with. (He’d later produce the “new” additions to the Beatles Anthology.) Likewise, pairing Peter Gabriel with “Strawberry Fields Forever” was a rare stroke of brilliance.
That said, the only authentic Beatles presence comes by way of John Lennon’s assist on Elton John’s “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” which, to be sure, was released as an Elton single a couple of years before the album’s producers usurped it. Various historical soundbites — from Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Douglas MacArthur and Adolf Hitler, among others, find an odd juxtaposition with the music, but then again, as the title suggests, The Beatles and World War II made for strange bedfellows to begin with.
– Lee Zimmerman