Strawberry Fields Forever, is her tribute to The Beatles. There are a lot of Beatles tribute albums out there, as you know, in basically every musical genre you can think of. What Daria does on this album is focus mostly on the band's later years, with songs from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band ("When I'm Sixty-Four," "Fixing A Hole"), Abbey Road ("Come Together") and The White Album ("Blackbird," "Julia," "Helter Skelter"). Apparently the original title for this project was The Off White Album. So there you go. The songs she's chosen are all Lennon and McCartney compositions (sorry, George and Ringo), though certainly there is a bit of a George influence heard at the beginning of her rendition of "Strawberry Fields Forever." She gives many of these songs a Latin vibe.
The CD opens with "When I'm Sixty-Four," a cool version with something of a swing to it, some good work on drums by Deszon Claiborne, and some nice work on horns, particularly during the instrumental section (that's Melecio Magdaluyo on saxophone). Daria gives a somewhat playful vocal performance here, which is quite fitting. She follows that with "Strawberry Fields Forever," which as I mentioned has a nod to George Harrison at the beginning. That's Joseph Cohen on sitar. It begins well, but then Daria takes it in a direction that doesn't quite work for me. It just doesn't feel right to my ears, though I do like Jonathan Alford's work on piano.
Daria gives "Come Together" a Brazilian rhythm, which comes as a bit of a surprise, but I did get into it; it just took a moment to adjust, to discard any expectations I had. And I really dig the bass and guitar work here. "Can't Buy Me Love" is the earliest song Daria covers on this album, one of two songs from 1964 (the other being "If I Fell"). And it's one of the most successful, in my opinion. This arrangement works really well, and Daria seems to be having a great time here, even delivering some playful scat. And I love the way the bass and piano work together in the cool instrumental section, along with wonderful stuff on drums. This is one of my favorite tracks. Another big surprise is Daria's rendition of "Helter Skelter." I wouldn't have expected this to work as well as it does. The energy is obviously very different from that in the original rendition, but this version so damn cool and catchy and wonderful. It has a funky edge and is a whole lot of fun. I love this track.
I've heard a lot of versions of "Blackbird" over the years, some beautiful, some not so beautiful. Daria does something interesting with it. She is at first accompanied only by bass, and her delivery is quite pretty - at times almost delicate. She then takes the song in a completely different direction, making it a medley, sliding into Ralph Towner's "Icarus," an instrumental tune to which Daria adds some vocals (though no lyrics). This section becomes a full band song, with a Latin rhythm. Daria then goes into "Bye Bye Blackbird," written by Ray Henderson and Mort Dixon. And though "Bye Bye Blackbird" is not a Beatles song, there is a Beatles connection. Ringo Starr recorded it for his 1970 album Sentimental Journey, and more recently Paul McCartney included a version of it on Kisses On The Bottom (what a cheeky title). Daria then returns to "Blackbird" at the end. I do kind of wish she had kept going with just the vocals and bass, because I really like that, and the rest, though interesting, feels unnecessary, particularly as it breaks the pattern of Beatles songs.
Interestingly, Daria breaks that pattern again, and concludes this CD with an original song, "She's Going Home." The title of course makes us think of "She's Leaving Home," from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. And we think this is perhaps the same girl, quite a bit later, returning home. Interestingly, as the song starts, the girl is in the process of leaving, just as she is in "She's Leaving Home," and we don't immediately know where she is or where she's going. "She turned to look for one last time/Then headed for the door/Left the key by the telephone/Doesn't live here anymore." Apparently things didn't work out too well for her out there. The feel of the song seems to hold the promise of a haven at home. But who knows?