A Box of Birds
Bands generally record cover songs for one reason - they don't have enough original material to finish out an album. Chances are, one or two covers on a record is a clear signal of writer's block. However, an entire record of covers is another thing entirely. On A Box of Birds , long-time Australian popsters the Church spin 10 of their favorites, coming up with a good mixture of semi-obscure tunes. The record opens with "The Faith Healer" by Alex Harvey, and moves onward from there, touching on everything from George Harrison ("It's All Too Much") to Iggy ("The Endless Sea"). Some of songs, such as Ultravox's "Hiroshima Mon Amour," we could have done without, but the final four cuts are great. "Friction," from the first Television record, captures all of the stumbling, nervous charm of the original, with the added benefit of having a vocalist sing the song on key. Next up is the glam chestnut "All the Young Dudes", the Mott the Hoople classic. Yeah, we've heard it a zillion times, but this might be one of the best versions ever. Hawkwinds "Silver Machine" grinds into place next, full of punk guitar energy coupled with bizarre sci-fi lyrics. Finally, Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer" brings the disc to a close with washes of guitar that retain the fractured emotion of the Crazy Horse version.
If anything, this record will cause listeners to scurry around to find the original versions, and for others, to enjoy a new take on some old favorites. Either way, it works.
Thirsty Ear Recordings, 274 Madison Ave., Suite 804, New York, NY 10016; http://www.thirstyear.com