Instrumental covers of pop songs have always been tricky business, a razor-thin line separating interesting reinterpretations from elevator music. Of course, there are few better candidates to navigate safely across that razor's edge than Pat Metheny, who throughout a four-decade career as the most popular guitarist in the jazz world has consistently managed to inject his own voice in interesting ways, no matter the content or style. Even then, What's It All About is a dangerous affair: 55 minutes of solo guitar interpretations of some of the most well-known (and often worn-out) tunes in the pop canon, from Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" to the Beatles' "And I Love Her." An attempt, in Metheny's words, to "get under the hood" of some of his favorite tunes, the album does generally succeed in bringing some fresh perspective (certainly no easy task when taking on songs like the Carpenters' insipid "Rainy Days and Mondays"). But despite his best efforts, the choice of material ultimately dooms the record from the start, with even Metheny's finest playing unable to revive these mostly limp selections. It all makes for pleasant, if uninteresting, listening; not elevator music perhaps, but certainly not out of place as the soundtrack to your next visit to the dentist.
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