Under The Covers, Vol. 1

Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs

Shout! Factory, 2006


REVIEW BY: Shane M. Liebler


Remarkably, very few other artists have used Under The Covers as a title for their cover albums. Unremarkably, that may be because cover albums invariably suck.

There, I said it. I doubt there are few, if any, exceptions.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

When you take a respected artist's work and offer a new take, it either sounds exactly the same as the original and offers nothing new to the composition, or it's so unfaithful to the original it does the exact opposite of its intention to praise. However, as staples of recording careers akin to the "double live" LP, cover records do offer fans a glance into their loved one's roots, as this collection certainly does.

Covers are fine on stage or even placed sparingly on some full-lengths, but they should never comprise an LP (see Rod Stewart's American Songbook series, a clear case of idol worship). Even a duo as enticing as 80s popster Susanna Hoffs (The Bangles) and 90s singer-songwriter Matthew Sweet can't make a good cover album.

The interesting cover choices of Marmalade's "I See The Rain," Love's "Alone Again Or" and Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning" just make me want to dust off the originals.

The well-paired team sound damn good on all 15 tracks, particularly on Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl" and "Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere." But, Sweet and Hoffs neither improve nor desecrate any of their choices -- cuts from the Beatles, Bee Gees, The Mamas And The Papas and the Zombies among them.

Lowlights include a stiff-sounding rendition of The Who's "The Kids Are Alright" that dates the song beyond its years. The cover of Dylan's "It's Alright Now, Baby Blue" sounds empty and out of place.

The collection on the whole suffers from pointlessness. The sum of the recognizable parts does not convert in the delivery, and really, the best feature of the Under The Covers is its criminally underused title. But the second chapter-implying Vol. 1 is a release I could do without.

Rating: C-

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© 2006 Shane M. Liebler and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Shout! Factory, and is used for informational purposes only.