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The John Lennon Song Project: Imagined (Red Engine) 

John Lennon would be celebrating his 70th birthday this Saturday. In a labor of love, adoration and respect, Rex Fowler of Aztec Two-Step and Tom Dean of Devonsquare have created the John Lennon Song Project, an acoustic montage that not only pulls at our nostalgic heartstrings, but presents Lennon's music in a way that makes these songs anything but mere cover tunes.

Inspired by Beatles producer George Martin's Love recording, the JLSP combines several tunes in unique and creative ways one would not think possible. Before "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" segues into the bridge of "Norwegian Wood," it weaves chords from the latter into the former, serving not only as a tease, but as a new part of the former. And going back and forth between "A Day in the Life/Across the Universe" works as the kind of call-and-response one might hear in a rock opera.

These tunes, of which several are rarely covered, are given surprisingly fresh treatments. "I'll Cry Instead," "You Can't Do That/I Call Your Name" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" are all groove-oriented and given a refreshing contemporary feel.

Lest you think these are a couple of old folkies getting their John Lennon jollies out, the arrangements are alternately complex, freewheeling and stirring. "Help" is presented with the poignancy Lennon often cited, while "Julia," dominated by the cello, packs its emotional punch through its extended instrumental break.

Covering the Beatles is often a crapshoot at best. The JLSP reminds us how relevant and affecting this music still is.

More by Jim Lipson

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