Susanna Hoffs/Bright Lights/Baroque Folk Records
Four Out of Five Stars
It stands to reason that when an artist chooses to do an album of cover songs, success depends not only on the choice of songs but also on how the entire effort is executed. Hewing too close to the initial renditions shows a lack of originality while veering too far from the template runs the risk of alienating all those that prefer the original arrangements.
The key to success comes down to good taste, and happily, Susanna Hoffs has never lacked in that department. As one of the prime movers in the Bangles, as well as the side project known as Rainy Day, she helped further the style affectionately known as “Paisley Pop,” a niche that leaned heavily on ‘60s psychedelia. It’s not surprising then that the choices Hoffs makes here are of the same vintage variety. It’s hardly surprising as well that Hoffs renders them with the reverence they deserve, even though they don’t necessarily weigh in with any overt familiarity factor.
Still, those who tend to dig deep will recognize the bulk of these tracks, which, for the most part, stay faithful to their seminal sound. Emitt Rhodes’ “Time Will Show the Wiser,” originally written for his band the Merry-Go-Round, recalls the version recorded by Fairport Convention for their first album. Nick Drake’s melancholy masterpiece “One of These Things First” retains Drake’s delicate designs. Likewise, “You Just May Be the One,” which Mike Nesmith wrote and recorded for the Monkees, Badfinger’s “Name of the Game” (which Hoffs sings as a duet with Aimee Mann), and Richard and Linda Thompson’s ever-assertive “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight” each have Hoffs maintaining the inherent authority these particular songs require.
Notably too, Hoffs does an admirable job of retracing Prince’s “Take Me With You,” transforming it into a riveting rocker flush with urgency and insistence. Of course, that ought to come as little surprise, considering the fact that Prince bequeathed the Bangles their first hit, courtesy of his song “Manic Monday.”
Consider all this a welcome return.
Photo by Jonathan Kingsbury