Cover versions are not a new idea. Every band and their groupie have done one. Some are good (for example Joe Cocker‘s version of The Beatles‘ classic With a Little Help from My Friends, and more recently, Joss Stone‘s version of The White Stripes‘ Fell In Love With A Girl/ Boy), while with others earplugs are a bona fide option. American Kelley Stoltz has gone one further. He’s covered a whole album.
Crock-O-Dials is a re-envisaging of renowned Liverpool band Echo and The Bunnymen‘s 1980s album Crocodiles. Now, recording another musician’s entire album is a tad quirky. But for someone who has The Cones Project (a series of traffic cone photos) on his website, it’s not that far out. In fact, Stoltz is quite a unique guy. Like Ed Harcourt, he plays every instrument on Crock-O-Dials (as he did on previous album Antique Glow in 2004) and personally recorded each song on 8-track, DIY fashion.
When listening to Crock-O-Dials, one question begs an answer: why Echo and The Bunnymen? Simple – the Bunnymen are one of Stoltz’s biggest influences. What better way to pay homage? (There’s even a bunny on the album sleeve…reading too much into it? Nah…)
Crock-O-Dials opens with Going Up, an electronic drumbeat starting the song. Apt really, considering that before the Bunnymen employed the late Pete de Freitas as drummer, Echo was their drum machine.
The beautifully melancholic and haunting song Stars Are Stars is slower than the original, somehow giving its lyrics more meaning, such as: “All your dreams are hanging out to dry/Stars are stars and they shine so cold”. It also has a twangy guitar lick similar to the famous one in The Shadows‘s Apache, which adds new life to this twenty-year old song.
All That Jazz (no relation to the number from musical Chicago) starts off very chilled with acoustic guitars and Stoltz singing in his David Bowie-esque voice, very different from the sound of the Bunnymen.
It’s true to state that every song on Crock-O-Dials seems fresher, with additional eclectic sounds (such as a xylophone in Pride, and crazily fast tambourine playing in Crocodiles) – more 2005 (or 2001, when Stoltz recorded it) than 1980.
Crock-O-Dials is a novelty, one that may pave the way for future album covers. (Perhaps even coaxing Ryan Adams to release his version of The Strokes‘ Is This It? that’s currently gathering dust on his shelves.) Sure, a reworking of a perfectly good album is redundant, but it’s like the musical equivalent of a young model having a face-lift – unnecessary, but the end result is still great.