“… from ‘63 to ’70, I drink, ate, smoked and breathed Beatles. I was forever drawing their silhouettes everywhere, but my very best pictures of the four were the ones I drew of every one of them, in pencil, on the best quality paper I could get: the sort the bakers wrapped the bread my father used to buy each morning…” – Rita Lee.
Half American and all Brazilian, Rita Lee’s commercial success has blazed a generational trail for the rest of Brazil’s female pop singers to follow. Her signature sound; lightly tropical pop-rock mixed with sassy and often irreverent and suggestive lyrics has garnered Gold and Platinum albums for decades.
But here, Rita Lee takes a different approach to give us a very personal, intimate look at some of the Beatles best-known songs. In fact, it’s fair to say that her musical mindset reinvents these 11 tunes, with a freshness that’s surprising, considering Lee’s highly entertaining and energetic background. And there’s no doubt that Lee, who grew up as a Beatles fan just as here own career was taking off, taps into the full breadth of her talent for this homage.
And that brings us to the substance of this CD’s success.
Lee’s Brazilian perspective takes the emphasis off our well-entranced memories of these songs and places it back on the quality of songwriting that (mostly) Lennon and McCartney created on a continuing basis. And it’s clear that Lee – who sings in English throughout this album - was mindful of this fact when she entered the studio to record this collection.
Overall, the Brazilian style stays lightly focused on Bossa Nova – straying only occasionally on songs like ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ which gets a more earthy and rustic Forró arrangement, complete with accordion. The CD opens with a rock-tinged Bossa version of ‘A Hard Days Night’ before settling into Lee’s interpretative stance for these classic songs. And full credit should be given to her long-time friend and former husband Roberto de Carvalho, whose arrangements, direction and production allows for this CDs near-perfect pacing: easy and natural – never sounding forced or contrived.
Musical moments flow from one to the next: ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ eschews the Brazilian trappings to give us an unqualified glimpse at Lee’s interpretive honesty while ballads like ‘In My Life’ and ‘Here There and Everywhere’ are so surprisingly pleasing to the ear that they’ll require constant replay. Three bonus tracks give us Portuguese versions, including ‘If I Fell’ which became a radio hit for Rita Lee in Brazil. A final bonus? Her music video for that same song… and of course, those four famous sketches.
After four decades on non-stop airplay and literally hundreds of cover versions and tribute recordings, it’s no easy task to make these Beatles songs sound as exciting and as vital as they were originally – perhaps that’s just not possible. But Rita Lee’s reinvention is the closest thing to it in many, many years – in any style or language.