I’m not sure why but I’ve had a fondness for cover songs…not just any cover songs, of course, but the good ones that bring out new nuances in songs that are already familiar. The newest CD from KCRW, a leading public radio station with a great reputation for breaking and encouraging new music and musicians, is an interesting collection of cover tunes (mostly) recorded in their studios by an eclectic lineup of performers for their show Morning Becomes Eclectic. Sounds Eclectic: The Covers Project is 15-track collection with several sparkling gems.
Girls in Hawaii (a 6-member group from Belgium with no girls in the band at all :-) lead off the proceedings with a fine reading of Neil Young’s “Out on the Weekend”. The Kinks’ “I Go to Sleep” is covered by Sia but the rendition is too similar to the wonderful version done by Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders to be really satisfying.
The acoustic version of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” by the Magic Numbers is fun and Damien Rice slips into the alienated vibe of Radiohead’s “Creep” quite effectively accompanied only by his guitar. Nikka Costa gets sultry and soulful with her steamy version of Nina Simone’s classic “I Want a Little Sugar in my Bowl” (which includes her vocalizing a trumpet solo in a charming and cool way.)
Dido’s cover is a sweet and crystalline take on James Taylor’s breakthrough hit “Fire and Rain”. Paul Weller strips down the R&B classic (perhaps best remembered from the version by Rose Royce) to an acoustic, two-guitar ballad to very nice effect.
Rufus Wainwright and Chris Stills (son of Stephen) dip into Neil Young’s songbook for their plaintive stroll through “Harvest” while R.E.M. offer up a relaxed version of Glen Campbell’s first hit “Gentle on my Mind”. Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” is stripped down to a very effective piano ballad by Gary Jules while the Flaming Lips take on Radiohead’s “Knives Out” is typically both lush and laconic.
Robert Plant rocks out a throbbing version of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” (and yes I guess it still counts as cover even though he sang lead vocals on the original :-) with throaty vocal phrasing that sounds very Bob Dylan-ish and some very crunchy guitar riffs.
Missy Higgins is passionate and compelling on her cover of Patty Griffin’s “Moses” while M. Ward makes the most radical revision here as he strips David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” down from a funky dance tune to a mournful ballad featuring acoustic guitar and a nice harmonica solo.
k.d. lang closes the disc with a glorious version of Leonard Cohen’s classic “Hallelujah”; her vocal is so sublime that you’d think the song had been written for her to sing (and maybe, after a fashion, it was.)
Sounds Eclectic: The Covers Project, put out by Starbucks’ Hear Music, is a fine, soothing, engaging CD indeed.