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Category:    Home > Reviews > Rock > Pop > Vocal > Standards > Under The Covers Vol. 1 - Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs (CD)

Under The Covers Ė Volume One (Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs)



Sound: B†††† Music: B+



The one on one duet album has become a lost art.Of course, there have been plenty of duet albums where one star sings 15 duets, but all with different artists.However, it is a long way from the days of Marvin Gaye and his various vocal partners, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway or the few other such projects that usually worked.Now, the great singer/songwriter Matthew Sweet pairs up with the underrated Susanna Hoffs for Under The Covers Ė Volume One, a new album of remarkable cover songs as good in tasteful choices as in terrific performances.The duo have been part of the Austin Powers in-house band (bet you didnít realize the film franchise had one) called Ming Tea, itself a referential in-joke to one of the many earlier films Mike Myers has pastiched into the framed film series.


The songs here are:



1.I See The Rain (The Marmalade)

2.And Your Bird Can Sing (The Beatles)

3.It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (Bob Dylan)

4.Who Knows Where The Time Goes? (Fairport Convention)

5.Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young And Crazy Horse)

6.Alone Again Or (Love)

7.Warmth Of The Sun (The Beach Boys)

8.Different Drum (The Stone Poneys, featuring Linda Ronstadt)

9.The Kids Are Alright (The Who)

10.Sunday Morning (The Velvet Underground)

11.Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Neil Young And Crazy Horse)

12.Care Of Cell #44 (The Zombies)

13.Monday Monday (The Mamas And The Papas)

14.She May Call You Up Tonight (The Left Banke)

15.Run To Me (The Bee Gees)



Well, no doubt these two love great music and this is great stuff.That they would dare to take on some of these classics and do such a good job shows how above and beyond they are of most of their piers and competitors.In the case of tracks 1 and 14, they are lesser-known cuts by bands only known for a hit or two.The Marmalade had one hit in 1970 with Reflections Of My Life, while Walk Away Renee is the big 1966 hit by The Left Banke, often considered the first Art Rock single a year ahead of The Moody Blues.The covers here of their other songs show these bands were not getting the respect they deserve.


The cover of The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Bob Dylan are also lesser-known songs, but obviously by giant acts.The cover of Cinnamon Girl is so good, they almost make that song their own.I cannot say that as much about The Kids Are Alright, but Different Drum is formidable and has some of the spirit of the original.As for Sunday Morning, it is a bittersweet cover that proves the roots of that classic are inescapable.It makes for one of the most unusual tracks here because the pop sweetness outlining the bulk talent here mixes oddly with the lyrics.


Monday Monday reminds me of Hoffs work with The Bangles, specifically on the underrated Eternal Flame, where her vocals could go wrong considering the material, except that she never hits a bad note.Though she is doing the Mama Cass Elliot/Michele Phillips part, it is as distinctive as their singing on other John Phillips lead-vocals Mamas & The Papas tracks.Remember how amazing her voice is, as when her group The Bangles did great backing vocals on Cyndi Lauperís fantastic hit Change Of Heart.


Run To Me is one of the last songs The Bee Gees cut and had a hit with before they went falsettos crazy in 1975 and this cover is on par with the original, which says something considering the empathetic vocals on the original 1972 single.Sadly and ironically, with Maurice Gibb gone and Robin Gibb not participating on the Barry Gibb/Barbra Streisand reunion project Guilty Pleasures, this cut works far better than what they cut for that very disappointing album.That from a critic who loved Guilty (1980) and is a fan of the better works of Miss Streisand and The Brother Gibb.


The PCM 16bit/44.1kHz is a very goods recording, clear, distinctive, layered, rich and sonically superior to most albums we have heard of late.Cheers to the singersí producing talents, as well as that of engineer Sweet himself.So strong, it demands an SACD release and if this is not a ringer for multi-platinum sales and multiple Grammy awards, I canít imagine what will come out this year that will be better.Easily, Under The Covers Ė Volume One is one of 2006ís best albums.



-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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