Flush from remixing Elvis to his 30th number one with A Little Less Conversation as JXL, Dutch DJ Tom Holkenborg turned down a request from the Beatles to remix something of theirs and instead reverted to his full moniker for this fantasy league of his favourite vocalists. Along similar lines to Oakenfold's similarly star-studded 2001 Bunkka, the album is based on an imaginary pirate broadcast and mixes Holkenborg's dance/trance sculptures with trademark vocals from the likes of Dave Gahan, Peter Tosh, Solomon Burke and Chuck D, with a real Cure-y jewel in the one sung by Robert Smith, Perfect Blue Sky. Holkenborg reinvents Gary Numan as a trance star and, in a real coup, coaxes Terry Hall into at last revisiting his fabulous early-Specials ska sound for Never Alone. Less successfully, there are a mystifying three awkward contributions from Republica's Saffron, and an accompanying chillout disc is mostly dull. But for all its wobbles and indulgence, this is infinitely superior to a JXL mix of, say, Maxwell's Silver Hammer.
Beatles fans love to explain that the key to the successful partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney was their contrasting songwriting personalities – Lennon was the tongue in cheek sardonic wit, McCartney the earnest balladeer. On John Pizzarelli Meets the Beatles, a sharply conceived tribute which sets the duo's classics in a jazz trio with big-band arrangements, the singer/guitarist hits the mark more often when he's taking on the Lennon persona. He approaches "Cant' Buy Me Love," "When I'm 64," and "Get Back" with a playful wink, jumping off his speedy melody lines and the rising brass sections for extended improvisational tradeoffs with pianist Ray Kennedy, and adding colorful touches like scatting and even ad libbing his own lyrical verses based on the originals. Likewise, he attacks the all-instrumental "Eleanor Rigby" with a jumpy, swinging aggression. Pizzarelli, however, becomes overly schmaltzy in presenting ballads like "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" and "Long and Winding Road" too seriously, with maudlin, straightforward arrangements that grind the party to a halt. The one exception is the more percussive "Oh Darling," where his intense vocal helps the tune rise above the hotel lounge mentality.