If orchestras around the world perform the works of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, why shouldn’t the same reverence be given to The Beatles, Bowie and Billy Joel? That’s the concept at the heart of Classic Albums Live, a collective that recreates classic rock albums, note for note. The outfit will return to the FM Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre on Friday to perform The Beatles classic record “Abbey Road.”
“I’m in my 50s, I grew up with all the music we recreate,” says Classic Albums Live founder Craig Martin. “I got fed up with like tribute bands with costumes and silly stuff. We treat this music properly. This is classical music. We don’t impart any of our personality on it, we don’t jam, we take no poetic license. We don’t talk to the audience.”
So painstaking is Classic Albums Live’s re-creation, even the bubbles on “Octopus’s Garden” are “played” live.
“It’s just the greatest piece of art ever created, how’s that?” Martin says with a laugh regarding “Abbey Road.” “It’s just a magical record. It’s the best. We love Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd but Abbey Road has a special place in everybody’s heart. It’s tough to play. The Beatles guys weren’t schooled musicians, but the stuff they pull off is tough.
“I will say after 17 years we know how to play this record, we’ve honed it. The two-guitar tradeoffs on ‘The End,’ how to get the bubbles on ‘Octopus’s Garden’ in the mix. It’s a masterpiece.”
Classic Albums Live has several lineups on tour, with Tom Petty, The Doors, Floyd, Zeppelin and Supertramp among the productions on the road through the end of the year.
The “Led Zeppelin II” and Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” will also hit the Kirby, on Jan. 18 and April 25 of next year, respectively.
“I dare you to find a better Zeppelin band out there,” enthuses Martin, a Toronto native and resident. “The first call I made was to the drummer from a Zeppelin band. He knows how to fall on the drum like John Bonham. Just the feel. He became the cement rock that we built the band on. … There’s a lot of choices out there for hearing Led Zeppelin recreations, but ours, by far, is the best.”
Some of the albums have proven particularly difficult to nail.
“‘Abbey Road,’ for sure, and Queen ‘A Night at the Opera’ was exceptionally hard,” Martin says. “[The Eagles’] ‘Hotel California,’ we thought would be a lot easier than it was. [Fleetwood Mac’s] ‘Rumors’: ‘Dreams.’ that bass and drums, trying to get that to sound just right and fit was tough.”
When Classic Albums Live covered Rush, “[Rush guitarist] Alex Lifeson was my third guitarist” for one of the shows. “John Paul Jones freaked out about us doing ‘Zeppelin 4’ and doing the recorder in the intro to ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ He said, ‘Good bloody luck with that.’ Brian May from Queen got in touch when he saw that we were doing ‘A Night at the Opera.’ The Stones know what we do. I don’t try to endear myself to them, but they know what we do.”