Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

THE VAULTS / CD Reissues

Covering the Stones: Hits and Throwaways

April 24, 1998|ROBERT HILBURN | TIMES POP MUSIC CRITIC

*** VARIOUS ARTISTS

"Cover You: A Tribute

to the Rolling Stones"

Hip-O

What happens when some of the greatest artists of the modern pop era tackle some of the songs written by some equally celebrated pop-rock figures?

That's the question that producer Andy McKaie lets us explore in a series of separate albums devoted to cover versions of songs by the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and Chuck Berry.

The cast in the Stones collection includes such Rock and Roll Hall of Fame talents as Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash and Otis Redding. The diverse group also features Steve Earle, Linda Ronstadt and Leon Russell.

The result ranges from inspired to misguided, but most of the key recordings pass the Vaults CD Test: Repeat Play (those so good they deserve an immediate second listening), Single Play (appealing enough for one listening) and Skip (nothing there).

When you are working with songs as flavorful as the Stones' "Brown Sugar" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash," the challenge isn't to come up with something catchy, but to bring something interesting to the recording that separates it from the original.

Here's a look at nine of the album's 14 selections.

Otis Redding's "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"--In this 1965 hit single, the great soul singer sidesteps the teen-flavored lament aspect of the Stones' classic rock version in favor of a more mature, soul revue workout, complete with spicy horns. It doesn't match the original, but it's got a solid, swirling groove. Repeat Play.

Linda Ronstadt's "Tumbling Dice"--Though this 1978 single lacks the renegade swagger of the Stones' landmark rendition, Ronstadt and mates do a good job of turning the song into a pleasing pop-rock exercise. Single Play.

Jason & the Scorchers' "19th Nervous Breakdown"--For a moment in the mid-'80s, this outfit was looked upon as a possible heir to the Flying Burrito Brothers' country-rock crown. But the Scorchers never approached the originality or soulful edge of the founding Burritos. The band gives us a reasonable treatment of the Stones' hit here, but nothing more than what you'd find from any adequate Southern bar band. Skip.

Johnny Cash's "No Expectations"--Cash is a master when it comes to songs that touch on redemption and regret, and he captures the mysterious undertones of the song in this late-'70s recording, which has the clean, uncluttered sound that characterized Cash's marvelous '50s sessions at Sun Records. Repeat Play.

Little Richard's "Brown Sugar"--It's fun for a few seconds, but ultimately Little Richard's trademark vocal shrieks sound too cartoonish here to make you stick with the track for long. Skip.

Leon Russell's "Wild Horses"--The jack of all musical trades tries to turn this tale of wistful obsession into a lullaby of sorts, and the song sort of disintegrates before your ears. Skip.

Ike & Tina Turner's "Under My Thumb"--Ike keeps the beat going and Tina packs the vocal with the tension and venom that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote into the song. Exceptional. Repeat Play.

Aretha Franklin's "You Can't Always Get What You Want"--When the arrangement ventures from gospel to semi-disco in the opening seconds of this 1981 recording, you might be tempted to push the skip button. But stick with the record. This version will never make you forget the Stones', but the arrangement on the 5 1/2-minute number is imaginative and Franklin delivers a nicely disciplined vocal. An unlikely highlight. Repeat Play.

Steve Earle & the Dukes' "Dead Flowers"--Where Franklin turns "You Can't Always Get" inside out, Earle heads straight for the wasted honky-tonk feel that the Stones had in mind on what was one of the band's premier country excursions. In the process, Earle, one of the most absorbing artists to come out of Nashville since Cash, gives the song a strong, individual stamp. Repeat Play.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|