Chris Ballew works fast. Diligently, to be sure, but fast. Beatles Baby is his tenth Caspar Babypants album in less than 6 years, and that's on top of his work with the Presidents of the United States of America and his new efforts in the world of ambient music.
Beatles Baby arrives this Friday, almost 2 years to the day after Ballew's first set of Beatles covers, the search-engine-challenging-in-retrospect-titled Baby Beatles. As with its predecessor, its value in a world in which few if any Beatles covers are truly necessary is in its nimble and somewhat pared-down approach to the songs.
Many of the originals' signature touches remain -- Billy Shears gets his shout-out on the transition from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" to "With a Little Help From My Friends" at the start of the album, or the driving bass line in "Lady Madonna." Also nifty is the reprise of "Sgt. Pepper's" near the end (again, just like the original) and the transition from "Golden Slumbers" to "The End" from Abbey Road (sorry, fans, of "Carry That Weight" -- that gets elided out). In some cases, like on "Drive My Car," the simple arrangements are let the melodies shine through even more, though Ballew also pulls out some orchestral synth arrangements. For me, the most interesting tracks are those on which Ballew puts more of his stamp on the piece -- the mellow take on "The End" or the somewhat sped-up take on "Hey Jude," or the "cleaned-up" take on "Piggies" (though some fans of the original might miss the Fab Four's rougher take.
As with all of the Caspar Babypants music, the 49-minute album is most appropriate for kids ages 1 through 5, but of course the Beatles source material will automatically extend the high end of that age range another 80 or so years upward.
It's hard to make a case for this album as essential listening, for either Beatles fans or Caspar Babypants fans (and I count myself in both camps) -- why not listen to the original tracks from 50 years ago, and Ballew's written dozens of nifty pop songs for preschoolers in his own right? But the clean and thoughtful stripped-down pop that's been a hallmark of the Babypants sound is every bit in evidence here as it's been in the past, and, married to one of the best songwriting duos of the 20th century, that's good enough for me. Fast work, yes, but still just as good. Recommended.
Note: I was given a copy of this album for possible review.