2014 / Hear & There Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Gently Sleeps: A Calming Tribute To The Beatles is the second release from pianist/composer/arranger Mike McCarthy, following his 2012 debut, This Piano. It’s hard to believe that The Beatles made their US arrival fifty years ago this month, and who would have thought that the music that caused so many girls to swoon and scream would continue to be so popular this far into the future and beyond? McCarthy’s collection of thirteen solo piano arrangements includes “B” sides, tracks that are more meaningful, and a few chart toppers. I have to admit that there are several songs that I don’t recognize or remember, making this a truly interesting and engaging bit of musical history as well as a beautiful album to listen to. McCarthy took several of the songs and slowed them down to showcase a different depth and a more minimalistic attitude. Recording with an electronic piano allowed him to add reverb and atmospheric sounds to some of the songs to give them a more “open,” floating feeling.
Gently Sleeps begins with “Thank You Girl,” which was originally recorded in 1963 as the B side of “From Me To You.” McCarthy’s arrangement is dreamy and ethereal - much slower than the original. “I’ll Get You” is a tender yet very passionate love song with a simple melody and sparse accompaniment - a very effect arrangement and performance. “P.S. I Love You” is one of the better-known songs and McCarthy plays it with the same depth of emotion that melted our hearts back then - definitely a favorite! I also really like his version of “If I Needed Someone,” the only song written by George Harrison that was sung during any of The Beatles’ tours. Slow, haunting, and kind of sad, it’s a great arrangement. “The Night Before” is another favorite. Spare, dark, and emotional, the reverb on this song is especially effective. McCarthy uses atmospheric keyboard sounds to good effect behind the plaintive and heartfelt melody of “We Can Work It Out,” my favorite of the thirteen tracks. “Blackbird” is a true classic and covered by many artists, but McCarthy still makes it his own with ethereal sounds behind the piano’s strong melody and soulful expression. “Goodnight” is the last track on The Beatles 1968 The White Album, and John Lennon composed the song for his son, Julian. It’s a beautiful closing to Gently Sleeps, and ends the album with a peaceful sigh.
If you’re looking for some calming music to unwind with (and who isn’t?), Gently Sleeps could be just the ticket. It is available for download from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Relax and enjoy!
February 8, 2014