Album Reviews: Under the Covers, Vol. 1 by Susanna HoffsAn album full of beloved '60 pop-rock covers is a slippery slope that most should never attempt to scale. But this is Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, so we can throw the rules out the door. Both are well-versed in and heavily influenced by the decade they pay homage to here. This is not your average wedding cover band butchering CCR and trying to add their bar-band flare to a perfect song that need never be tampered with. Instead, Sweets and Hoffs hold true to the original versions, down to the specific arrangements and harmonies.
So why do an album of covers? It's ridiculously fun, that's why. It's fun for the listener to hear these songs by two of the great pop vocalists of the last 25 years -- Sweet, whose solo albums like Girlfriend remain among the most underrated power pop of the '90s, and Hoffs, whose sweet voice leant a classic touch to even the most inane of the Bangles' hits (i.e. "Walk Like an Egyptian"). And it's even more fun to hear the love these two have for these songs. This is not a feeble attempt by two aging rockers to get back into the limelight. It's two people that love music and want to share some amazing songs that mean a lot to them and should mean a lot to the listener...or will soon.
The song choices alone make this '60s pop aficionado giddy: "And Your Bird Can Sing" (The Beatles), "Alone Again Or" (Love), "The Warmth of the Sun" (Beach Boys), "Care of Cell 44" (Zombies). The entire album feels like the ultimate concert encore. And a huge thank-you needs to go out to Sweet/Hoffs for bringing attention to obscure and difficult to find gems like "I See The Rain" (Marmalade) and the album's highlight, "She May Call You Up Tonight" (The Left Banke). My one complaint with the album is the use of Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl." It sticks out like a rough sore thumb in the middle of my pop dream. It's also a song we've all heard one too many times on classic rock radio. It's one of two Neil Young songs on the collection. Why two by Neil? "We had to do them both," says Susanna. That's the kind of wonderful non-logic and passion that makes an incredibly fun record. - Doug Kamin
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