One Man Bannister is Matthew Bannister (he of Sneaky Feelings, The Dribbling Darts of Love and The Changing Same) in one-man-band mode. Evolver is his one-man-band set of cover versions of The Beatles’ Revolver. Recorded at home, a lark, a folly, and – hey, yeah, of course – a tribute, it’s a fun romp through these songs we all know. It’s enjoyable then as both tribute album, reworkings, and it’s also (well, here I’m guessing) something that could/should stand up on its own.
What I’m trying to say there is that I could imagine people who haven’t heard Revolver (is there such a person? And if so – why?) still digging on this set of covers. You see Bannister isn’t trying to remake them in that painstakingly/painful Gus Van Sant-does-Psycho kind of way. These are The Beatles songs – song we all know and love (right? Right?!) and these versions are those same songs if written/as imagined by Bannister.
The reason – obviously – I’m coyly suggesting someone might like it if they didn’t know the originals is because I was raised on The Beatles and can’t really imagine why anyone else wouldn’t be. But if you were – say – raised on Sneaky Feelings (and that wouldn’t be such a bad thing either) then you’ll hear where he’s coming from here as the One Man Bannister creator of songs that sound eerily familiar yet dart off – sometimes – in new directions.
To wit, Good Day Sunshine kicks off with a very-Kiwi sounding “G’dday Sunshine”, Taxman loses its stabs and is (sacrilege alert) better for it. You see, part of the point of Evolver – surely – is that good as Revolver was and is – a classic, no question – it’s a little played-out. So the greatest trick Bannister manages here is to rework these songs, to come at them from new angles, to then breathe new life.
It doesn’t always work.
The fact it doesn’t always work is part of the album’s charm. (Turn weaknesses into strengths eh).
I’m not at all convinced by the bouncing-happy version of Eleanor Rigby. But, hey, I like that it exists. I sure don’t want to hear anyone else try to do it like McCartney did it on the record. And Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin have owned it their way. So hey, this is kinda kooky, kinda crappy, but kinda fun. I don’t rate it as a successful cover – but I don’t skip it. I still enjoy it as a detour.
I’m Only Sleeping is a weary triumph though. Actually kinda gorgeous, very sweet.
Same with Here, There And Everywhere.
And the cod-reggae vamping of this Yellow Submarine makes for a better song (to tolerate) than the original. Though that’s hardly pushing the, er, boat out. It actually sounds a lot like if Wings covered the tune. (Wait, come back!)
Throughout these versions of the songs you hear other songs – not just other versions but actually other songs. Hints of how The Beatles influenced so many. And Your Bird Can Sing (a highlight) traces around the Cat Stevens songs of the early 1970s – his peak. Dr Robert bounces along with a bit of the Sesame Street theme echoing in my ears. Got To Get You Into My Life feels a bit like how an ELO cover of that song might have worked. And one of the trickiest songs to rework (again – I’m guessing), Tomorrow Never Knows, well it has something of The Rolling Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil in the feel of it. Before it um, evolves, into something resembling the Madchester scene.
Oddly – and brilliantly – the closest Bannister comes, vocally, to sounding like The Beatles is on his Hamilton hillbilly-huckster treatment of For No One; his version a million miles from the original. A great vocal and the Country Calendar guitar works a treat.
Of course this doesn’t replace Revolver. And that was never the aim. But it might replace Revolver in your listening rotation for a while – and that’s pretty cool. That might have been the aim. That’s certainly worked for me. I’m far more interested in hearing this – and that’s exactly what it is: interesting – than I am in retreading Revolver again. And again.
Ultimately it’s a feel-good romp too. And I like that. I really like that. That in fact is what carries it.
In one go, as one man – or a one-man-band/One Man Bannister, Matthew has done as well as any of those Uncut/Mojo magazine multi-artist tribute efforts.
The album’s launch gig is this Friday in Auckland.