Various Artists

Covered: A Revolution in Sound: Warner Bros. Records [12 Tracks]

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Part of Warner Brothers' ongoing celebration of their 50th Anniversary, Covered: A Revolution in Sound has current Warner recording artists covering songs from classic Warner recordings artists -- i.e., following the rubric set by Rubaiyat, the 1990 compilation that had current Elektra artists covering classic Elektra artists. Elektra was always a weirder label, always reflecting its independence, while Warner always was a bigger label -- the quirkiest and strangest of the majors, particularly during their glory days of the '60s and '70s, but still a major label with no overruling identity, a situation that is especially true in 2009, where the Warner-affiliated labels boast a roster heavy with active rock bands and anonymous singer/songwriters. Both camps are represented here on Covered, but the producers have gone out of their way to showcase Warner's more interesting acts, some of which actually do some interesting work: the Black Keys twist Captain Beefheart into their own image, not necessarily an easy thing to do, the Flaming Lips turn Madonna's "Borderline" inside out, while Mastodon come close to giving ZZ Top's "Just Got Paid" a clenched revamp, perhaps ratcheting up the grind just a notch too tight. While Misty Higgins does her best to strip the sensuality away from Roxy Music's "More Than This," turning it into a breathy triple-A ballad that makes 10,000 Maniacs' version seem muscular, and the Used turn Talking Heads' into a garish car wreck, the rest of Covered finds artists treating the originals as sacred texts. In the case of Avenged Sevenfold's "Paranoid" and Disturbed's "Midlife Crisis," the fidelity is embarrassing; in the case of Michelle Branch's "A Case of You," it's just bland. James Otto fares a bit better with "Into the Mystic," giving it a little bit of heartland soul, but Against Me! should have known better than to replicate the Replacements' one-take wonder "Here Comes a Regular." And that just leaves the most bewildering track here, Adam Sandler's mimicking of Neil Young's "Like a Hurricane." Sandler plays it straight, never cracking a joke, and it's not just unintentionally funny, it's just fascinatingly odd -- and in that oddness, it has a leg up on much of the rest of Covered.

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