Matthew Sweet has been fairly prolific over the past few years, participating in a supergroup of sorts with Pete Droge and Shawn Mullins called the Thorns, and also released a pair of well-received solo albums last year. Susanna Hoffs has also been busy in recent years, releasing a couple of solo albums, and also reuniting the Bangles for a reunion tour, which absolutely smoked in back to back nights at the House of Blues in Chicago on their initial run. She also has a new Bangles album — Doll Revolution. Together, Hoffs and Sweet have united to finish what they started with Ming Tea and the Austin Powers movies. An album was planned at the time, but plans were shelved, because Austin Powers brass thought that the album would conflict with sales of the Austin Powers soundtrack.
That’s all water under the bridge with the release of Under The Covers Vol. 1, which is a 14 track celebration of the 60s, with one lone non-60s cut, “Run To Me”, thrown in to round things out. If you’ve already read DJ Radiohead’s review of this album, I have to admit that I was kind of on the same page with DJ initially. On my initial listen, the first half of the album was a bit touch and go, although I enjoyed the second half much better.
Subsequent listens to this album have really brought it home for me. I was born in 1974, so I grew up with some of this music, which my parents played for me. “The Warmth Of The Sun” was an important track for me to hear, with all of the Beach Boys albums that my dad shared with me in my early years. What makes this album enjoyable for me, is that it doesn’t stick to well-known tracks like the Beach Boys cover. Instead, it is educational, and stretches out with tracks from The Marmalade, Fairport Convention, and even Love — bands that might not be at the top of every person’s CD collection.
Under The Covers Vol. 1 is a win in my book. There is only one track on the album — “And Your Bird Can Sing” — that is a miss to my ears. It’s not that it is a bad rendition, it’s just not the first Beatles song that I would have picked. Hoffs and Sweet sound great, individually with Hoffs on “Care Of Cell #44″, and Sweet on “The Warmth Of The Sun.” Together, they shine on all of the tracks, and the album opening, “I See The Rain”, is just great. If you have heard any Matthew Sweet albums, or any of the albums that Susanna has done over the years with The Bangles, you will already know that they spent many years listening to the albums and songs that are paid tribute with Under The Covers Vol. 1.
Hoffs has long been underrated as a vocalist in my opinion, and Under The Covers Vol. 1 really gives her a chance to show off her talents. The album includes full liner notes and comments on each track from Sweet and Hoffs, and also an opening note from longtime Beach Boys collaborator Van Dyke Parks. Early indications are that this album is selling well, and I hope that to be the case, because I would love to see what kind of songs might wind up on Volume 2!