Ah, the ubiquitous tribute album. Good, bad, moderately competent, many artists were presented as well as music genres through tributes, replicas of famous songs or genres and anniversary celebrations. From 1952 Oscar Peterson plays Duke Ellington to Harry Nilsson who sings all of Randy Newman’s songs on his Nilsson sings Newman, a bunch of artists meet Two rooms: We celebrate the songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin and even the mighty Rolling Stones manage theirs Blue & lonely 2016 Grammy-nominated blues tributes have been and most likely always will be. I still wish you were here – A tribute to Pink Floyd and RAM ON – A 50th anniversary of Paul & Linda McCartney’s RAM are two of the more recent examples, but with a twist: these are tribute albums to … albums.
What Pink Floyd created in 1975 I wish you were here is in part a tribute to the band’s original songwriter, singer, and guitarist – the illustrious Syd Barrett. In itself, the album is a high point of the progressive rock era and is considered to be one of the best music Pink Floyd has ever recorded. On I still wish you were here – A tribute to Pink Floyd, we get names like keyboardist Rick Wakeman, drummer Ian Paice and guitarist Joe Satriani, plus punk masters like Rat Scabies from The Damned and Jah Wooble from PiL.
Geoff Tate’s soaring vocals, Mel Collins’ lively flute and Hackett, who recreates the legendary David Gilmour guitar part, are highlights of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 1-5”). Todd Rundgren and Rick Wakeman change it to “Welcome To The Machine”. It’s fascinating to hear Wakeman’s flourishes on the song’s solo. Rod Argent noodles a direct keyboard lead homage to Rick Wright, and legendary funkster Bootsy Collins lets his bass bang like crazy through the jazzy jamming center of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 6-9)”. While some of the vocals stretch parts of the melodies, this precise, song-by-song regeneration hardly deviates from the original Floydian masterpiece.
RAM ON – A 50th anniversary of Paul & Linda McCartney’s RAM contains even more musicians, over 100, who come together to make the popular one R.A.M. by Paul and Linda McCartney. Elton John guitarist Davey Johnstone, acclaimed bassist Will Lee, singer Carnie Wilson, Wilcos Pat Sansone and Death Cab For Cutie’s Dave Depper all contribute to the album.
With the blessing of Sir Paul McCartney R.A.M. The songs were recreated under the guidance of producer and multi-instrumentalist Fernando Perdomo and drummer Denny Seiwell, the original drummer with Paul McCartney & Wings performing on the original R.A.M.. The album’s original guitarist, David Spinozza, performs here, as does the horn player Marvin Stamm, who plays the flugelhorn on “Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey”. What you get here are perfect, energetic replicas of the original tracks, as well as off-album additions from the time, including the single “Another Day” and its B-side, “Oh Woman Oh Why.” Singers like Dan Rothchild, Pat Sansone and Timmy Sean all deliver exceptional vocal performances.
Certainly no one could claim that tributes like this could even come close to surpassing the original albums. These are interpretations, nothing more and nothing less. Whether others will follow is a guess. However, there is little to suggest that the original songs and the artists who made them should be appreciated again when musicians of this caliber bring their talent to iconic works like this one.
~ Ralph Greco, Jr.