Review : Duncan Sheik - Covers 80’s
PopmattersEveryone loves a cover song. Ok, that’s not entirely true, but for a performer there is no greater crowd-pleaser than playing a recognizable cover song in a different style—most audiences will cheer louder when their favorite artist, who they just dished out their hard earned cash to see, whips out a different rendition of a song by their other favorite artist. 1980s covers are particularly hot these days, especially considering the majority of currently popular musicians grew up listening to the Psychadelic Furs or Tears for Fears. Their childhood and nostalgia rests in the ‘80s, so it only makes sense that we’re hearing more and more needless renditions of classics by the Smiths, New Order or the Cure.
There is a difference, however, between a one-off cover song in a long set list of predominantly original material versus an entire full-length album of covers. Tori Amos did it, Johnny Cash did it, k.d. lang did it—many popular musicians growing stagnant with their own writing capabilities and nearing out the latter half of their career dabble with releasing a full-length covers album. Now it’s Duncan Sheik’s turn. Sheik has had a long and windy musical career seeing major dips with 2002’s Daylight and even worse with the god-awful 2006 White Limousine. The only saving grace of the latter was that it was accompanied with a DVD-R featuring all the stems of all 12 songs, so you could remix one or all of the songs yourself—which I did, and it’s the only way I can listen to that album. But Sheik learned well in advance of the music/Internet crisis. He took on writing musical theatre with the popular Spring Awakening. His previous full-length album, Whisper House, is a collection of tunes that he wrote for a musical released later that year. The album was a welcome change, and although PopMatters’ review wasn’t incredibly favorable, this reviewer thought it was a stellar album of folk/pop tracks, nicely accented by careful craftsmanship and beautiful harmonies from Holly Brook. It was good to hear that Mr. Sheik wasn’t permanently stuck in a downward spiral....full text
PamusicsceneCovers 80s is Sheik’s personal take on his early musical influences such as The Smiths, Tears for Fears, Dépêche Mode, Thompson Twins, New Order, The Cure, and Love and Rockets. The CD features 12 highly personalized takes on the decade’s smashes and lesser known gems. The album features guest vocals from Rachael Yamagata & Holly Brook. Singer-songwriter turned Broadway composer Duncan Sheik reinterprets 80s alternative and synthpop classics which will include new versions of his old favorites.
Covers 80’s includes the tracks “Stripped”, “Hold Me Now”, “Love Vigilantes”, “Kyoto Song”, “What is Love”, “So Alive”, “Shout”, “Gentlemen Take Polaroids”, “Life’s What You Make It”, “William, It Was Really Nothing”, “Stay” and “The Ghost In You”.
His first release from the CD “Stripped”, originally by the Deprece Mode, is done with a nice touch. His vocals are clean and refreshing and his acoustic prowess is highlighted on this track. Duncan keeps it simple with some nice backing vocals. The strings are the highlight of this amazing tune! The Thompson Twins hit “Hold Me Now” is tastefully done. The tempo change adds so much more to this song. “Love Vigilantes” originally by New Order sounds amazing as an acoustic number. Duncan’s vocals are excellent and the added backing vocals by the ladies add that little extra. The Cure’s “Kyoto Song” is way cool. The amount of feeling that this tune exudes is way cool. Howard Jones “What is Love” is nice as a ballad. This change gives new meaning to this song. The piano work is simple, but full sounding. “So Alive” by Love and Rockets presents a new vision of why this song was originally written about. Well Done!
“Shout” by Tears for Fears features some nice synth and acoustic guitar work, the multiple vocals sound really neat. This is a rather decent version of this classic! “Gentleman Take Polaroids” from Japan is one of those obscure numbers that get a nice renovation with some nice island type effects and the ever-present synth strains. Talk Talk’s “Life’s What You Make It” is a complete change from the original. The harmonies are smoking and the keys are a killer. Fantastic sound! “William, It Was Really Nothing” from The Smiths takes this 84 release to another plane of existence. This recomposition is so refreshing! The Blue Nile’s “Stay” is another obscure number that is so much of a change from the pop sounding 80’s version. I like the way Duncan just pours himself into this tune. “The Ghost in You” from The Psychedelic Furs gets a great big WOW! I like what has been done here with this revamped version of one of my favorite 80’s songs....full text
Suite101Covers 80s would be a fantastic EP of reinterpreted New Wave classics. It is too bad that Covers 80s is not an EP, but is stretched into a full length album. The sparse arrangements are the equivalent of tearing up carpeting and hoping for hardwood floors underneath. On some songs, like the painfully earnest and sensual “Stripped” by Depeche Mode and the Thompson Twins’ classic “Hold Me Now,” the removal of synthesizer and unnecessary production reveal some truly great songs. The hook on The Cure’s “Love Vigilantes” sparkles in this atmosphere, as does the melody of “The Ghost in You” by The Psychedelic Furs.
On other songs, removal of its synthetic shroud reveals very weak songwriting, especially lyrically. Best that these songs hide beneath their production instead of coming out into the light....full text
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