Under normal circumstances, Puddle Of Mudd’s brand of aggro-metal isn’t the sort of thing that really floats my boat. Crap, I don’t even really like these guys. But this album isn’t exactly your typically tattooed trip to the mosh-pit either.
On Re:(disc)overed, this mid-western band of hard rock numbskulls paddle into the muddy waters of the seventies, covering classic tunes by everyone from bands you’d expect like AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, to the more unlikely choices of Elton John and Neil Young. With vintage tracks from the likes of Free and the James Gang rounding things out, the playlist here comes straight from a seventies FM rock radio programmer’s log, and serves as an instant reminder of why that format is so sorely missed today. It certainly beats the hell out of the Black Eyed Peas, Britney and Bieber.
The question here is, do the Mudd boys pull it off? Surprisingly, the answer is mostly yes.
In keeping with the seventies spirit, the cover art of the CD is a celebration of the vinyl album format. The front sleeve features an old record player cut from the original RCA Records “Nipper” days, and the CD itself is designed to look like a vinyl LP. When you open up the seventies style foldout cardboard sleeve, it even smells kind of like an album.
Mudd’s take on the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” maintains this vibe of authenticity, right down to soulful backing vocals that do a nice job of duplicating Merry Clayton’s from the original version. The band also adds just the right touch of nineties hard rock energy here, without ever overdoing it to excess. So far, so good.
Likewise, a nice version of Neil Young’s “Old Man” remains very true to the original, even going so far as to duplicate the pedal steel and banjo. The one minor quibble here is the chorus of background vocals, which sound just a bit overproduced.
The thing that gives each of these tracks a fresh sounding quality though is Wes Scantlin’s vocals, which display a bit of the drawl normally associated with southern rockers like Lynyrd Skynyrd. Come to think of it, these guys probably would’ve done a bang-up job covering somebody like Skynyrd. Maybe, next time.
This approach also works well on a version of “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” where Scantlin pretty much nails the Tom Petty part and guest vocalist BC Jean turns in a likewise near perfect Stevie Nicks. Scantlin also does a very pretty sounding, if just ever so slightly overdone “Rocket Man” by Elton John.
By the time of Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” however, things start to wear a little thin. There is a growing feeling that in their obvious affection for these songs, they are also playing it a little too safe. At this point, you really start to wonder if Puddle Of Mudd is going to bring something a little more original to the mix.
Fortunately, the Mudd-Pudds are much more in their element when they crank up the amps to take on seventies hard rock chestnuts like AC/DC’s “TNT,” Billy Squier’s “Everybody Wants You,” and Free’s “All Right Now.” The band sounds right at home here, having fun and rocking out like a band of stoner kids headlining their very first high school kegger.
Despite a tendency towards safe arrangements and occasional overproduction (particularly with the backing vocals), Puddle Of Mudd’s Re:(disc)overed is ultimately saved by the fact that it was clearly a labor of love for them to make.
This is the sound of a bunch of grown men channeling the sounds of their misspent classic rock youth, and obviously having a blast. Which translates into a very fun, if slightly guilty sounding pleasure for the rest of us.