by Christel Loar
Bedtime With the Beatles Part Two
US release date: 17 June 2008
UK release date: Available as import
Bedtime With the Beatles Part Two, much like its 2001 predecessor, is billed as being specifically for sending young ears off to dreamland. However, once again, Jason Falkner’s reimagining proves pleasant for infants and insomniacs alike (not to mention the Beatlemaniacs). And for the truly nostalgic among us, the CD is a treat not only for the music. Those of you over a certain age will also appreciate the cover art, which features an original Corgi toy Yellow Submarine from the late ‘60s or early ’70s, complete with Fab Four figurines.
As with the first Bedtime With the Beatles, the liner notes suggest that this recording is “suitable for playback” at both “sleep-inducing and maximum levels.” And maximum levels may indeed be suitable, if you’d like to captivate a classroom full of preschoolers, or perhaps, just put your nasty neighbors in a better mood. Primarily instrumental, Bedtime With the Beatles Part Two was indeed “designed to lull the listener to sleep (or at least to a sedated, yet engaged, place).” Yet beyond their calming qualities, these tracks thankfully stay faithful, though not slavishly so, to the classic melodies we all know and love.
The album opens with a wavering, shimmering “Norwegian Wood” that instantly invokes a dreamy drifting mood. The redesign of this first classic sets the tone for the rest of the album’s obviously reverent, yet wholly original, arrangements. This time out, Falkner reworks a couple of George Harrison tunes in addition to the Lennon and McCartney compositions. Harrison’s songs were noticeably absent on the first Bedtime, presumably because of licensing issues. “Something” is, arguably, one of the finest love songs ever written, and it makes for a stunningly lovely little lullaby here. Gorgeously intricate, unexpected flourishes accompany the familiar melody, which is played alternately on several instruments. “Here Comes the Sun” is the other Harrison-penned track, and although it might seem more suited to breakfast than bedtime given its title and theme, here it becomes the most subtle of sweet cradle-songs.
Other highlights include the quite literally hypnotic “She’s Leaving Home” and a lush, leisurely interpretation of “Penny Lane.” Falkner’s organ- and percussion-based arrangement of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is one of several tracks that, unlike the first Bedtime with the Beatles, feature vocalizations, if not always lyrics. “Hey Jude” also features Falkner’s voice. For most of the song he simply hums the lyric, to beautiful effect. It’s only near the end that he adds the chorus, actually singing, “Hey Jude”. Children, especially, are going to love this soft and simply lovely version.
Next Falkner tackles “I Will” and “Yesterday” Both originals were spare acoustic tunes. Here that is honored even as they are expanded. “I Will” is based around piano and a rich, amplified guitar line accented with finger snaps and Falkner’s spoken “Doo doo doo”, which seems to anchor the song in the manner of a bass line. “Yesterday” again transfers much of what was acoustic guitar to keyboard, to beautifully resonant effect. The familiar melody seems to just float along.
Falkner sends us off to our dreams with John Lennon’s own lullaby for his son Julian. “Good Night” employs the tinkling twinkling of a xylophone and swells of various string sounds in place of the original’s vocal melody. It’s as if he has opened a window on the night sky and every shining sound is a starry step into sleep. Bedtime With the Beatles Part Two is a must for fans of Falkner and the Beatles, both. It’s a wonderful way to drift off, and well worth waking for as well.