Album Reviews

Various Artists – Tom Middleton Presents Crazy Covers Vol 2

(Spectrum) UK release date: 20 August 2007

There’s always one isn’t there? The random friend who entices you back to theirplace post-pub to hear some �top tunes’ (you are promised) or the �wacky’ friend who can’t resist putting a ‘hil-ar-i-ous’ tune to spoil an otherwise decent mix CD. When what is wheeled out are some bottom-drawer, chortle-mungous ker-azy cover versions of classic songs murdered by a band having a credibility lapse. Cheers for that.

Before you get your coat though, Tom Middleton does have some exceedingly good tunes here. In anyone else’s hands this could be an exercise in chortle-by-numbers and quite frankly an unlistenable endless teenage joke. But, as he admits himself, the taste is of the ‘Marmite’ variety here; you’ll either love it or hate it. No half measures.

After the shock success of first volume Cosmosonica here come the second installment. The art of the cover version is a much-maligned genre, which some of these tracks go some way of reconciling. For a nascent band this can be the opportunity to inject a little humour into their otherwise bleak angst-fests, gain some credibility props, shine new emotional depths on the original’s intentions or just dick about.

The temptation for all-stars to succumb to the power of the cover version is strong here. Some well-known, some global, some clearly seemed like a good idea at the time… So where else can you get a steel drum version of Gary Numan that turns this bleak track of alienation into a Caribbean party? Or where Missy Elliot‘s Get Ur Freak on gets a Tarantino Surf Rock makeover. Even glum-mungers Radiohead get High and Dry reworked (albeit in tasteful fashion by the ‘jazz Hobbit’ Jamie Cullum. Shame, when there’s an album’s worth on the reggae-tastic album of covers Radiodread. Can’t have it all eh?

Split over two discs with the theme of �party’ on disc 1 and disc 2 featuring more subtle gems. There seems to be a predominantly country-ish slant towards things as Mamma Mia, I Don’t Feel Like Dancing and even Prince‘s Alphabet Street (given a bluegrass makeover) are dripping with twang and torch instead of disco moves.

There are few household names here, and a few cult curios gathered together under one double album roof: Sugababes doing the Arctic Monkeys (shame it’s not Sir Tom Jones – tee hee) Teen Spirit covered in swing style by crooner Paul Anka treads and Ian Brown honking his way through Michael Jackson‘s Thriller tread a shaky line between fool and genius.

Even sister Janet Jackson‘s What Have You Done For Me Lately and the easy-listening classic Fly Me To The Moon get given an almighty soul-pasting with some seriously great reworkings. There are even some classy bits of exotica: the Indian version of Rock The Casbah, the orchestral take on Kasabian to name but two.

In all it’s 42, yes! 42! cuts of prime cover version. There’s barely a duff track amongst ’em. But of course, if you can’t stand the stuff leave well alone. So for those sad cases who raise a guilty pleasure-type smile when hearing a pop classic re-made and re-modelled into a new unfamiliar shapes. So, what does that make me?…Doh!

buy Various Artists MP3s or CDs
Spotify Various Artists on Spotify

More on Various Artists
Various Artists – The Big Stiff Box Set
Various Artists – Tom Middleton Presents Crazy Covers Vol 2
Various Artists – Rough Trade: Counter Culture 76
Various Artists – The OC Mix 6: Covering Our Tracks
Various Artists – Mr Scruff’s Big Chill Classics… Big Up Your Tent