Various Artists: Tribute Albums

Indifferent or Mixed Vince Guaraldi -- 40 Years: A Charlie Brown Christmas (2005) -- A adult contemporary/jazz recreation of many of the Vince Guaraldi songs from the A Charlie Brown Christmas album, with a few other Christmas songs thrown in for good measure.  David Benoit is the guy behind the album, and he brings in singers like Vanessa Williams, Brian McKnight, and Chaka Khan to sing on it as well.  Nothing will replace the original, and sometimes the adult contemporary nature of the collection rubs me the wrong way, but the CD is nice for some variation at Christmastime. C

Like It The Human League -- Reproductions: Songs of the Human League (2000) -- If you approach these already-good Human League songs with any ounce of creativity, you shouldn't go wrong, and the guys on this album did a good job of putting their own spins on the songs while maintaining the electro-pop flavor that made The Human League great.  Stephin Merritt, Future Bible Heroes, and The 6ths are featured, as well as Ladytron, Momus, and Stars. B

Like It Daniel Johnston: The Late Great Daniel Johnston--Discovered Covered (2004) -- A tribute album on disc 1 and a collections of the songs covered in their original form on disc 2, making the second disc a semi best-of.  People like to cover Daniel Johnston.  I know why, too.  His songs are so minimal (especially the early ones) that people are dying to get their hands on them and make full-blown productions.  This, to me, is a little annoying: as if they're saying, "These are good songs, but man wouldn't they be good if they were recorded for real?"  The idea of what being recorded "for real" is is what's annoying to me, especially since it's been years since lo-fi took off and people should know better.  And especially since they claim to enjoy the simple charm of his recordings but feel the need to produce them.  Anyway, in spite of the annoying premise of this compilation, the songs turn out okay for what they are, even though none really add anything to what Daniel already did.

Really Like It R.E.M. -- Surprise Your Pig: A Tribute to R.E.M. (1992) -- I seldom care about tribute albums.  The people who do them usually idolize the artist they're paying tribute to so much that they basically sound like watered-down versions of them.  But this collection sounds like people who were brought in to obliterate the original versions, and many of them are extremely interesting for that reason.  Many of them are very smart and funny too.  Just Say No's "Radio Free Europe," for example, takes the idea of Michael Stipe's mumbled words and makes that delivery even more apparent.  Steel Pole Bathtub takes the thunderous pool-playing sample from the original song, adds some doodles, and makes a very atmospheric piece that doesn't even have lyrics.  When People Were Shorter and Lived Near the Water does a superfast and growly version of "I Believe" that gets the same energy of the original song, but in a different way.  And King Missile's "Get Up" sounds like it's being sung (and played) by hyper puppets.  People like Mitch Easter (their early producer who does "Shiny Happy People" here) stick closer to the original, and Vic Chesnutt's version of "It's the End of the World as We Know It" is pretty annoying, but for the most part, even the blander covers here make the collection worthwhile.

Copyright (c) Jul 2002 - Nov 2006 by Rusty Likes Music