I was never a great fan of Wet Wet Wet but there was no doubt that whatever your thought of the band, Marti Pellow had a great voice. He still does, and it’s matured and increased in character in the intervening years – there’s a lot more gravel now, but that’s no bad thing.
Between The Covers is, as you might imagine, Marti Pellow singing other people’s songs. It’s an eclectic selection – Neil Young and Genesis to The Pretenders – and the problem with this album is not the way Pellow sings but the fact that he seems to think all the songs can benefit from the same treatment. Sleeve notes indicate that he’s chosen them on the basis that they are the songs “we all mess about with at sound check and in private moments backstage”. I fear “mess about” is all too apt.
I can just about cope with Neil Young’s A Lot Of Love and Paul Weller’s Brand New Start being given the glossy, big production treatment. But Fire and Rain? James Taylor‘s most affecting song starts quietly enough, but with the first chorus a backing group kicks in and the result, frankly, is appalling. You have to wonder at the taste of someone who treats this song as a vehicle for flashy vocal histrionics.
Leonard Cohen‘s famous wrist-slitter Suzanne gets slightly better treatment – at least he doesn’t try to make it upbeat – but again the backing vocals jar.
I don’t remember the Genesis song Follow You Follow Me (I wasn’t a great fan of them either) but this version is a pleasant but unmemorable ballad that wouldn’t have been out of place in the days when Wet Wet Wet were producing hit singles by the bucketload.
And that really goes for the rest of the album too – it all sounds the same, regardless of the origin of the material. It’s glossy, glitzy, impeccably played and sung, and very, very dull.
OK, that’s not quite fair. Mary Jane’s Last Dance (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) is quite good fun and some harsh synths give it a hint of an edge. The Beatles classic Don’t Let Me Down is also not bad, though one wonders if Pellow was consciously trying to achieve a Lennon-esqe nasality.
The last track is the best on the album – but it isn’t a cover. Hard To Cry is a ’50s style soul ballad with some mellow twanging guitars, taken from his debut solo album Smile. There’s obviously a soul singer in there trying to escape and if he’d just give up the over-the-top production, it could emerge.
Who will buy this album? All those who were screaming teenage girls in the heyday of Wet Wet Wet, one assumes.