Surprises, the occasional let-down and a wealth of intriguing reinvention.
Lou Thomas 2009
Some suggest there is no skill in copying another artist’s work, while those in favour claim reinventing a song with originality is worthwhile.
To err on the side of those in favour, it could be argued that Jimi Hendrix’s All Along The Watchtower, Jeff Buckley’s Lilac Wine and Ronson-and-Winehouse’s Valerie are all superior to the original recordings. Now Brighton independent Tru Thoughts, via their Unfold imprint, have collected 17 songs re-imagined by acts on their roster and thrown them together in one place.
Perhaps the best work here is Hot 8 Brass Band’s fantastic cover of Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing. In the capable hands of these New Orleans musicians Gaye’s seduction classic is reworked in celebratory, arms-aloft fashion.
The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army has been covered by more than 40 acts so credit is due to Nostalgia 77 (aka producer Benedict Lamdin) for his surprising take from 2005. It’s far more understated and slower than, say, the Joss Stone version; features spiky, jazzy guitar, and a soulful Alice Russell vocal; and, controversially, almost removes the original’s guitar-as-bass riff.
Quantic & His Combo Bárbaro brazenly take on Portishead’s Wandering Star and replace dubby moodiness with jovial salsa. Elsewhere Will Holland (aka Quantic) grabs his Soul Orchestra to rework 4 Hero’s Hold it Down in the vein of Stevie Wonder’s I Wish, and produces a decent Hammond love-in when attempting Mr Scruff’s Get a Move On.
Jumbonics make the wrong decision when they drop the pace of The Strokes’ Last Nite, while Me & You make the same mistake when they try Roni Size’s Brown Paper Bag. Surely it would’ve been braver to make it even faster?
Two great moments come with new interpretations of chart dance tracks. TM Juke & The Jack Baker Trio get righteously, filthily funky on Put Your Hands Up For Detroit, greatly improving the somewhat laughable Fedde Le Grand hit. But Jamie Woon’s mysterious dub-folk-tronica cover of Olive’s trance hit You’re Not Alone is utterly captivating.
Surprises, the occasional let-down and a wealth of intriguing reinvention equals a covers album worth checking out. Mark Ronson may have some stiff competition.