Remember, a while back, movie director Gus Van Sant made his painstakingly boring frame-by-frame remake of the classic horror Psycho? I never understood the point of that - and it made me think of covers artists who flawlessly recreate the original. There's no denying there is some skill in that - but it's showing off chops and showing no heart. Technique is great. But if all we're seeing and hearing is technique then we are not really hearing or seeing anything.
I've been thinking about this recently because I reviewed Evolver by One Man Bannister. It is a song-by-song cover album of The Beatles' Revolver. And One Man Bannister is Matthew Bannister (you may remember him from Sneaky Feelings - he had a couple of other bands too). Here he is, as his new moniker announces, in one-man-band mode.
So, recorded at home - as some sort of lark I would have to assume - we have Bannister's reimaginings of a double handful of classic pop tunes, for Revolver - I don't need to tell you (even though it seems I'm about to anyway) - is one of The Beatles' best albums; one of the best collections of pop songs by anyone. Ever.
That's not even opinion. It's a fact. Well, all right, it's an opinion - but it has the benefit of also being the truth. So, there's that bonus.
So, really, you'd have to be mad to take on this album. Unless perhaps you were aiming for some quirky deconstruction.
The One Man Bannister album is, in part, a quirky deconstruction. It's also a loving (and lovely) tribute. It's well worth your time. Because if nothing more it should be considered a talking point: how well has he handled/mishandled these tunes? How would you go about tackling this lofty task?
I settled on feeling like these were the versions of these great pop songs if Bannister had written them. That might seem obvious to say, but what I mean is that he hasn't tried to recreate them, he's reimagined them. He's remade them as if he wrote them in the first place; as if they were his ideas. Yet, through that, it's a respectful tribute to an album that clearly means a lot to him.
I've heard other step-by-step remakes of albums - often they're underwhelming. Most crushing was hearing a rather awful set of covers of the album that is Blood on the Tracks, one of Dylan's finest. And, well, as you might guess given this blog's title, I did not find that funny. That album, by the way (if you must), was a live recording by a band called Mary Lee's Corvette. I should have run for the hills, but hey, you have to check these things out. You have to be a little bit curious...
And that's how I arrived at One Man Bannister. I was curious. I was - almost - ready to dismiss it, you know. Because I couldn't imagine some back-shed approach to a revered pop album working. But it does. It really does.
Have you heard Evolver by One Man Bannister? Click here to sample/buy the album.
Also, here's a question for you - a hypothetical, you don't have to be a musician to answer this. You can just have a bit of fun dreaming: if you were to choose one album to remake yourself as a one-man or one-woman band, what would it be and why?
And do you have any other song-by-song full-album remakes in your collection? What are some of your favourites? What ones work for you? Or have you had an experience like my Mary Lee's Corvette debacle? You go for the cover album because you love the original and - as perhaps expected - it is grossly underwhelming, borderline embarrassing.
You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts.