In 1966, legendary guitarist Chet Atkins released an album of music from The Beatles.
I’ve been a big fan of both The Beatles and Chet Atkins for a long time. So, when I was finally able to get a copy of Chet Atkins Picks On The Beatles, I must say that I was not at all disappointed with the results. It is nothing short of outstanding. There is not a bad cut on the disc. This is one of my favorite albums to just sit and listen to.
The album starts with a rollicking version of “I Feel Fine”. Chet gives it a high-octane, but controlled treatment, immediately grabbing the listener’s attention. This arrangement is a great showcase for the talents of Atkins.
“Yesterday”, one of the most recorded songs in history. I mention this, because it helps to put in perspective what I’m about to say. This is the best version I’ve ever heard of this song, outside the original. George Harrison noted in the liners how Chet could make songs “sound like they were written specifically for him”. This is a great example of what he was talking about. Stripped down, much like the original, with a simple arrangement. It lets both the song and performer stand on their own merits, and what merits they are! The result is an outstanding rendition of one of the best songs in the Beatles’ repertoire. Later in the album, Chet performs “I’ll Follow the Sun”, with similar results.
“If I Fell” is another exceptional recording that shows the virtuosity of Chet’s work. The emotion that he could show with a guitar string is incredible.
“Can’t Buy Me Love” doesn’t rock as much as the original; but that’s okay. While keeping the tempo. Chet takes it somewhere between swing and honky tonk, and it sounds perfect.
In his liner notes, George Harrison comments that “I’ll Cry Instead” has a country feel to it. I say Chet’s arrangement has more of a folk feel. Legendary harmonica player Charlie McCoy shows off his talent on this track.
Ever wondered what Chet Atkins doing rock and roll would sound like? Listen to “Hard Day’s Night” and “She Loves You”. You will know and you will like. Both tracks have that sound of musicians cutting loose, jamming, and loving every minute of it.
“Things We Said Today” and “She’s A Woman” are both nice recordings, as well.
Chet gives “And I Love Her” a bit of a south of the border feel; it also has a bit of a haunting feel to it.
“Michelle” is the most heavily produced song on the album, including a string section. It adds a nice touch, without overpowering the track. The cut has a definite easy listening feel to it. One can only imagine how this would have sounded blaring from a 33 1/3, through the speakers of a big console stereo.
All the songs lend themselves well to Atkins playing. This is a testament to quality of the songs. To me, one of the aspects of a song that helps make it great, is how well a song can play in multiple genres. That is something that many of the Beatles songs can do. That is a testament to the writing quality of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
I’ve been aware of this album since my childhood, but was never able to get a copy, until about ten years ago. I happen to find it on a CD in Indianapolis. It was worth the wait. How good is it? It even blew away my wife, who is not particularly a country music or Beatles fan.
This is an outstanding album, that holds up well. I rate it a 5 out of 5. You will not get enough of this one.
About Thy Author
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, focusing on classic country and top 40 oldies music. He actually convinced Vincennes University to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting. He’s worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina, including his current gig. He hosts the weekly World Famous Ultimate Twang Radio Show. You can listen Thursdays, 4-7p ET on WSFM-LPFM/AshevilleFM, at 103.3 FM in Asheville, North Carolina, and online at ashevillefm.org. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.