29 December 2004
Different For Girls -
Women Artists And Female Fronted Bands Cover Joe Jackson
(Skipping Discs (USA), 2004) is the third female covers compilation CD in a series that has seen the label dedicate previous CDs to The Doors and David Bowie.
The most successful covers tend to be those which bring something new to a song, often completely reinventing it. Too often on tribute albums 'cover' has become synonymous with 'copy', a trap that the Doors compilation largely avoided but which the Bowie album didn't, though at least with this series the very fact that you have female singers interpreting songs originally performed by men means there's an immediate shift of focus (and occasionally, of necessity, of lyrics too), so they are never anything less that interesting.
Arguably Joe Jackson is the most accomplished (and probably the least well known) song writer so far tackled in this series and thus should give greater scope for interpretation, and the fine opening track "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" from elaine k bodes well.
Fiona Lehn's mostly faithful interpretation of "On Your Radio" retains, indeed, adds to the original's energy and power and, of the 'copies' on the album, is clearly the highlight. Essra Mohawk's reading of "Steppin' Out" is competent, but very safe. Amy Fox's "Be My Number Two/Shanghai Sky" is a straightforward piano/voice interpretation with some subdued strings. Whitney McCray's dynamically flat "Breaking Us In Two" is a disappointing take on a fine song, while "Home Town" is efficiently handled by Mary Lee's Corvette and has nice changes of atmosphere and tempo.
It's Maxine Young who takes on the challenge of "It's Different For Girls," probably Jackson's best known song, and chosen as the title track for this collection. She does a thoughtful job, not attempting what would be a fairly futile task of a straight copy, but prepared to take the opportunit to put enough of herself into it to give it a new slant. It's not entirely successful, but still very worthwhile.
Reinterpreting songs can be a risky business and while Idle Mirth's take on "Another World" deserves plaudits, it doesn't quite come off as there's a lack of dynamics and while it floats along beautifully, ultimately it's too repetitive.
On the other hand, Lisa Mychols work with "Look Sharp!" shows what can be done with a little imagination. One would imagine this to be one of the more difficult songs to put a new spin on, but it is standout track on the album. It opens faithfully before bursting into some stunning Steely Dan type harmonies and it builds and sways and powers and dips and the vocals have terrific character.
The album closes with two of the strongest tracks, Alice Lee's soulful "Sea Of Secrets" and darkblueworld's deceptively complex and powerful "Take It Like A Man"--both bringing more than their share to this particular party.
As is almost always the case with compilations, the quality varies as much as the interpretations. The inclusion of back to back readings of "Got The Time," by Beth Thornley and Fabulous Disaster is an interesting and instructive piece of track listing.
Overall this is a good and thoroughly enjoyable album with the two undoubted highlights being Lisa Mychols "Look Sharp!" and Fiona Lehn's "On Your Radio." -By some distance these are also the two finest vocal performances on the disc as well, both instilling great character into their respective songs.--Jamie Field in Kington, England and Russ Elliot in New York