Various Artists

The Q People: A Tribute to NRBQ

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Given that, in the truest sense, they were an alternative rock band with a cult following years before either phrase was in common currency with your average music scribe, it's a bit surprising that it has taken so long for someone to put together an NRBQ tribute album, especially considering the high regard in which they're held by so many musicians. With 35 years worth of great songs to choose from, practically anything short of an all-star three-disc set of reinterpretations of the NRBQ catalog would likely seem like a disappointment, and to a certain degree that's the problem with The Q People: A Tribute to NRBQ. Featuring 11 covers of classic tunes by the Q and an audio episode of Spongebob Squarepants that interpolates another half-dozen songs (Tom Kenny, the voice of Spongebob, is a big fan), The Q People not only makes a strong case for the Q's diversity, but shows how the band affected a remarkable variety of artists, with all the performers putting their own stamps on the songs. Yo La Tengo add a lovely and gentle sense of melancholy to "Magnet," as does Ron Sexsmith on "My Girlfriend's Pretty"; J Mascis rocks out hard on "I Want You Bad"; Steve Earle lays on some good and greasy roots rock on "A Girl Like That"; and Los Lobos find a solid R&B groove in "Never Take the Place of You." R.E.M.'s Mike Mills also steps in with a strong solo performance on "When Things Was Cheap," and while Bonnie Raitt's contribution was recorded in 1982, her version of "Me and the Boys" is still pretty stellar. But the performances from Settie and Ware River Club lack the strong personality of the other tracks, and while the Spongebob Squarepants story is fun (and fits in with the band's sense of fun), it doesn't have as much to do with NRBQ as the rest of the disc. Ultimately, it's hard for a fan not to wish there weren't another ten songs on board, with a few more of the group's high-profile fans such as Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney, and Dave Edmunds on deck -- The Q People is a sincere and loving tribute to a great and underappreciated band, but it leaves the fan wanting more...though wanting more NRBQ is hardly a bad thing.

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