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November 10, 1994|RANDY LEWIS

The Bobs

"Cover the Songs Of . . ."

Rounder

How deep do the Bobs' talents run? They're almost bottomless.

For proof, look no further than the first tune, a version of Cream's "White Room" that nails Eric Clapton's wah-wah guitar sound while simultaneously quoting his famous solo in the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."

And just in case you're new to this Bay Area quartet, they do it without so much as a guitar string.

Yes, the baker's dozen songs here are vehicles that carry the Bobs on their mission of celebrating the human voice, which seems capable of just about everything.

The ultra-cool sound of a muted fluegelhorn colors their swinging rendition of Ray Charles' "Unchain My Heart," and they conjure up the spooky aura of Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary" with nary a whammy bar in sight.

The left-field choices provide the most fun. Who ever would have thought to do the Trammps' "Disco Inferno" a cappella? And if they owe much to Big Daddy for the way they reinvent Leonard Cohen's "Bird on a Wire" in the mold of the Rivingtons' "Surfing Bird," it reduces the joy quotient not a whit.

The one original is an ersatz country tune titled "Mess Me Up Again" that is one of the few instances where the group sounds like it's slumming, though the vocal approximation of a haunting steel guitar in the middle is a treat.

The only other anticlimactic moment is the album-closing performance of the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever," in which a couple of the Fab Four's kaleidoscopic chord progressions get smoothed over. But with their vocal re-creation of the tape-loop experimentations of the original recording, the Bobs pull off the musical equivalent of a last-second, game-winning field goal.

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