It’s hard to go wrong with an album that consists entirely of compositions by John Lennon and Paul McCarney (with a few little numbers by George Harrison for good measure), and the I am Sam soundtrack album certainly doesn’t disappoint. As the Beatles have a strict policy of not allowing their music to be used in films, we get covers by contemporary artists rather than the originals, but the interpretations are, for the most part anyway, intriguing enough for it not to matter. Not all of the songs work (The Black Crowes’ version of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is too lackluster to stand up to scrutiny, while the less said about Heather Nova’s eyebrow-raising version of We Can Work It Out, the better), but when they do (as on Rufus Wainwright’s soaring Across the Universe and Ben Folds’ gorgeous Golden Slumbers) the results are sensational. Released in January 2002, the album proved a hit, peaking at number 20 on the US Billboard 200 and number 2 on the Billboard Soundtrack Albums chart. If you like the Beatles, I am Sam, and have a hankering to listen to some great music, here’s how we rank all the songs on the I am Sam Sountrack in order of greatness.
15. We Can Work It Out – Heather Nova
If Heather Nova had heard We Can Work It Out before covering it, it’s not immediately obvious from this somewhat painful rendition
14. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds -The Black Crowes
Considering their penchant for retro rock, the Black Crowes’ cover of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds should have killed. Instead, it falls flat.
13. Julia – Chocolate Genius
Chocolate Genius’ version of John Lennon’s tribute to his mother Julia might lack the touching poignancy of the original, but it’s still an enjoyable listen.
12. I’m Only Sleeping – The Vines
Contrary to urban myth, John Lennon (a man of whom a friend once said “He can sleep almost indefinitely, he’s probably the laziest person in England”) actually wrote I’m Only Sleeping about the joys of staying in bed all day rather than drugs.
11. Mother Nature’s Son – Sheryl Crow
The original Mother Nature’s Son may have been credited to the Beatles, but as the rest of the band were busy doing something else while it was being recorded, it could just as easily have been released as a Paul McCartney solo effort. Either way, it’s a gorgeous thing – as is Sheryl Crowe’s cover.
10. Nowhere Man – Paul Westerberg
If anyone was going to be able to capture the pathos of Nowhere Man, it was the former frontman of the Replacements, Paul Westerberg.
9. Revolution – Grandaddy
When it comes to covering a masterpiece like Revolution, you can either play it safe and recreate the original or do your own thing. Grandaddy did their own thing – fabulously.
8. You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away – Eddie Vedder
Paul McCartney described You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away as John Lennon “doing” Bob Dylan, something Lennon himself admitted when he said “That’s me in my Dylan period again. I am like a chameleon, influenced by whatever is going on. If Elvis can do it, I can do it. If the Everly Brothers can do it, me and Paul can. Same with Dylan.” Here we get Eddie Vedder “doing” John Lennon – surprisingly well, in fact.
7. Blackbird – Sarah McLachlan
Sarah McLachlan does excellent justice to Paul McCartney’s sweet, simple lullaby with this faithful take on Blackbird.
6. Two of Us – Aimee Mann and Michael Penn
Putting your own spin on a classic can pay off, but there’s no point messing with something if it’s not broke… and as this faithful interpretation by Aimee Mann and Michael Penn shows, Two of Us is definitely not that.
5. Let It Be – Nick Cave
Nick Cave might be an acquired taste, but if you want to acquire it as quickly and painlessly as possible, take this beautifully haunting cover of Let It Be for a spin.
4. Don’t Let Me Down – Stereophonics
Stereophonics’ Kelly Jones’ sandpaper vocals add a raw grittiness to this sublime version of Don’t Let Me Down from the Let It Be sessions.
3. Across the Universe – Rufus Wainwright
Rufus Wainwright shows off his powerful pipes on this soaring cover of Across the Universe, which first appeared in its original form on the 1969 charity compilation album No One’s Gonna Change Our World.
2. Strawberry Fields Forever – Ben Harper
John Lennon described Strawberry Fields Forever as his favorite work with the Beatles, something a lot of fans agree with. Fortunately, Ben Harper’s shimmering, psychedelic cover does the original justice.
1. Golden Slumbers – Ben Folds
As All Music notes, Ben Folds’ gorgeous Golden Slumbers might be a trifle short, but those soaring choruses are nothing short of anthemic.