There’s something exciting about cover versions. I just enjoy the idea of a person interpreting someone else’s songs, I particularly like it when the artist does not replicate the cover note by note, thankfully Jim James does this.
For those who don’t know Jim James is the lead singer of psychedelic group My Morning Jacket so I was expecting covers with rich instrumentation with a strong cosmic vibe. However with one exception, I was completely wrong.
The album starts with a cover of The Beach Boys I just wasn’t made for these times and it is a stunner. It’s as grandiose and spectacular as I expected. The song bursts into a flurry of brass and even features an Isaac Hayes sample. It is a triumphant opener, despite the dour lyrics of the tracks.
From then onwards Tribute to 2 is a sparse album. The Sonny and Cher cover, Baby Don’t Go is a track that features the piano, the 30’s standard Midnight, the Stars is another piano heavy track but has a bit of a Disney feel to it, there’s acoustic ballads (Elvis Presley’s/The Orioles Crying in the Chapel), a spattering of country (Willie Nelson’s Funny How Time Slips Away and Bob Dylan’s I’ll be your Baby Tonight) The standout is definitely the cover of Emerson Lake and Palmer’s Lucky Man it’s an acoustic ballad that has some haunting keyboard sounds, and probably is the track where James’ sentiments about Trump’s America comes clear. Despite the bare bones arrangements there’s variety.
Other than the execution of these covers, Tribute to 2 shows depth. Within these eleven tracks we get the picture of someone who is dissatisfied with the world and yet believes that love will still prevail. In order to channel that sentiment through other people’s songs is something I find admirable.
As covers albums go Tribute to 2 is a strong one, especially if you ‘collect’ cover versions. Personally I see it as one of the few times a covers album can be a statement about the inner feelings of a musician.