I'm not much for covers albums but I'm giving a big kenixfan stamp of approval to Lifelines by Andrea Corr, out today everywhere, because the former lead singer of The Corrs has really done a masterful job of remaining true to the spirit of the original tracks while transforming quite a few of them in such a way as to make the covers essential interpretations.
With any sort of covers collection like this, it's probably best to go track-by-track so here goes:
"I'll Be Seeing You"
Andrea delivers this old standard almost like you'd imagine she would. It's a lovely performance and the fact that she opens, not closes, the record with it is a bold choice.
"Pale Blue Eyes"
This Velvet Underground classic is one of those songs I thought best left alone but Andrea Corr actually morphs the song quite a bit into something spacious and jazzy, life-affirming and warm where the original was jaded and dour.
For most Americans of my generation, this song is very closely associated with Linda Ronstadt. That monster hit in the fall of 1977 was inescapable when I was a kid and I almost started to hate the song until I heard Roy Orbison's original.
Andrea Corr manages to hit the right mix of longing and anticipation and when she comes to those familiar lines of the song -- "And those fishing boats with their sails afloat...if I could only see that familiar sunrise through sleepy eyes..." -- it's the sort of moment of vocal beauty that tugs at the heart-strings and gives a listener chills.
It's the ephemeral made into the transcendent. And those moments always remind me that a simple pop single can be a work of art.
"From The Morning"
Sprightly, like an Elbow track, this Nick Drake cover is less inward-looking than the original but the slide guitar anchors the song in the decade of its composition. Andrea brings a certain lightness of touch to her vocals here and the result is something that sounds wonderfully of-the-moment and effortless.
"State of Independence"
From Jon Anderson and Vangelis, this track sounds more like a jig now. With backing vocals and a prominent plucked guitar, the track has more of a folk-y edge as Andrea pours a lot of emotion and energy into it. The vaguely Irish-sounding backing bits add a lot here as well.
"No. 9 Dream"
As a Lennon fan -- who isn't? -- it was, at first, hard for me to appreciate this cover. Frankly, there are cuts that shouldn't be touched; sure, "Imagine" lends itself to covers but this?
That said, while nothing will ever replace the very distinctive way Lennon delivered the original track, Andrea Corr at least finds the tune at the heart of this trippy classic.
She's not trying to better the original but, rather, remind us of the great melody at the heart of John Lennon's very personal reverie.
And for that effort, she gets high marks as a performer on what is a very bold choice of a song to cover.
"Tinseltown in the Rain"
I hold The Blue Nile very, very dear to my heart, not least because of my very memorable dinner with the band. Wisely, Andrea doesn't attempt to replicate the mood of the original and, instead, turns the song into something expansive and lively.
This cut -- the lead single from Lifelines -- is exactly how to do a cover!
Andrea clearly loves the song and she molds it into something different enough from the original that it works on its own terms and doesn't do a disservice to a very special piece of music.
Not only that, Andrea's voice fits the song perfectly.
"They Don't Know"
Written by Kirsty MacColl, this song was a big hit in 1983/1984 for Tracey Ullman and the song fits Andrea's voice just as well. What was almost a tongue-in-cheek pop pastiche for Ms. Ullman, is now delivered in a more straightforward manner and Ms. Corr manages to find the emotion buried beneath the artifice of the track.
This is a Harry Nilsson track that sounds perfectly suited for Andrea's voice. Nilsson had a very unique style but his songs did lend themselves to covers and the wonderful thing is that it doesn't sound so much like a Nilsson song anymore; it doesn't sound like a cover, and on a covers album, that's quite an accomplishment for a performer.
"Tomorrow in Her Eyes"
Ron Sexsmith is a criminally underrated singer-songwriter. With the piano and delicate instrumentation here, the song almost sounds like something The Carpenters could have ridden to the top of the charts when I was a tot. One of the loveliest performances on this record, really.
"Some Things Last A Long Time"
Andrea Corr finds the real beauty at the heart of this Daniel Johnston song. The guy sometimes gets pegged as a pop oddball and, clearly, he is. But he's also a great songwriter and this rendition of one of his compositions proves it.
The production on this album by Brian Eno and John Reynolds is fairly unobtrusive and Andrea's vocals are the star of the show.
Lifelines, from Andrea Corr, is a very pleasant record and one that should reward both new and old fans of the fantastic Irish singer.
Follow Andrea Corr on her official Facebook page.
And be sure to check out Andrea Corr's lovely official site here:
In the US, you can buy the album on US iTunes here.
You can buy the album in various formats on Amazon.co.uk here.
You can buy the album in various formats on Amazon.com here.