CD Review: Yim Yames — Tribute To

YimYamesTributeTo Yim Yames

Tribute
To

ATO Records

By Scott Roberts

A successful tribute record should
accomplish at least two things: one, the chosen source material should reveal
some historical insight into the musical influences of the particular artist
performing the songs, and two, the new performances should pique the curiosity
of the listener enough to explore the original artist’s work. The recently
released Tribute To, a six-song EP of
George Harrison songs interpreted by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James (using an
inexplicably slight — possibly Swedish influenced? — variation of his given name) equally
and effortlessly achieves both of these goals.

All six songs on the EP, recorded a few days after Harrison’s
death in 2001 and just released last week, feature the signature MMJ saturated
vocal reverb paired with minimalist acoustic guitar accompaniment. A couple of
the songs do add another instrument to that mix: piano on “Ballad of Sir
Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)”; banjo on “Love You To,” one of the two Beatles
songs recorded (the other four are from Harrison’s solo epic All Things Must Pass, originally a
triple LP) and really the only one that’s quiet, stripped-down arrangement
offers any significant deviation from the original’s hypnotic, sitar-driven
chaos giving it more of an Appalachian feel than an Indian one. Generally, however,
James chooses to allow the haunting melodies and lyrical heft of the original
arrangements stand unfettered, as on the opening cut, “Long Long Long,” first
found on The Beatles’ White Album. The
nakedly emotional “How I love you” refrain underscores the juxtaposition of
spiritual and physical love that shone through on many of Harrison’s
best songs.

Tribute To’s quiet beauty and
somewhat mournful quality makes it easy to understand George Harrison’s
influence on Jim James, and it’s difficult to imagine anyone more suited than
James to capture those aspects of Harrison’s
songs. Of course, it’s also difficult to imagine anyone doing the songs any
better than Harrison himself, making this EP a sonically pleasant and rewarding
listen, though ultimately a non-essential one.            

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