Between 2003 and 2010, Steven Wilson released six CD singles, each featuring a cover version backed with a new original song. Titled, appropriately enough, Cover I through Cover VI, the first of these singles was significant because it was the first release issued under his own name. All of these were almost ridiculously limited. The titles were all compiled before -- when Cover VI was released, the other singles were included in a lavishly designed box -- but this marks the first time all 12 tracks have been widely available. The music presented here is performed completely solo save for chamber and orchestral elements on some tracks that were added on later, and showcases a different, more intimate side of Wilson. On some of these readings, such as Alanis Morissette's "Thank You," he accompanies himself solely on acoustic guitar. His vocal performance is restrained, vulnerable, and revealing. His reading of the Cure's "A Forest" is not only moody but almost angry. It's startlingly industrial even with such a skeletal mix; its loops are downright creepy. Another highlight is the English folk song "The Unquiet Grave," which has been recorded by everyone from Joan Baez to Weezer. Wilson's reading is taken to nearly avant boundaries, but it loses none of its resonance. The funk in Prince's "Sign 'O' the Times" is brittle and somewhat jagged, and displays both admiration for the original and Wilson's sense of humor. Among his originals, highlights include "Please Come Home," which juxtaposes a catchy hook and jaunty melody with a desperate lyric. "Four Trees Down," with its prog architecture and canny percussion, would have been right at home on more recent offerings. "Moment I Lost," a ballad played on piano and acoustic guitar, contains orchestral accompaniment. The penultimate cut here is a ghostly, lovely take on Donovan's "Lord of the Reedy River" (from HMS Donovan). Using the sparse acoustic nature in the songwriter's version, Wilson's is just as slow, but his layered backing vocals and pointed, brief electric guitar break and twinkling keyboards and ambience add another dimension. With a more minimal approach in both instrumentation and production, Cover Version may be less formal than his later solo work, but it is no less creative, well-conceived, or executed; therefore it is just as enjoyable as his later work. Having these singles now available in one place is a prize for fans who missed them initially.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek