B-Sides and Rarities


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B-Sides and Rarities Review

by Hal Horowitz

After five mostly successful studio albums, the time seemed ripe in 2007 for a cash-in "Best Of" from irony-heavy pop/rockers Cake. But instead of a typical romp through the band's catalog highlights, frontman John McCrea and company gathered this set of "rarities." While there are some interesting and hard to find sides here, this is a far too brief 12-track, 40-minute compilation. There are virtually no liner notes nor any indication of what year the songs were recorded, or in the case of the B-sides, what the A-side was, which is an unforgivable omission for a historical overview of this type. Everything screams quickie, from the haphazard track sequencing, to the lack of information in the pamphlet and the lackluster graphics. If this is indeed made for die-hard Cake fans, and who else would even pick it up? It's a shoddy, short set that doesn't show respect for the group's dedicated followers, of whom there are many. A full ten minutes of the album's already meager running time is dedicated to two versions of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs," with the opening one a studio recording, and the unlisted final cut a live performance. While both are interesting angles on a song that appears to be outside even Cake's eclectic scope, they are similar enough that the repetition only pads the disc's slim contents. McCrea exposes his love of country with respectful run-throughs of Kenny Rogers & the First Edition's hit arrangement of "Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town" and Buck Owens' "Excuse Me, I Think I've Got a Heartache" that don't add anything interesting to the classic versions. Much better is Cake's take on Barry White's "Never Gonna Give You Up," which twists the tune through McCrea's built-in sarcasm resulting in the album's most attention-grabbing performance. The spoken word "Thrills" is a cool and strange oddity that gives trumpet player Vince DiFore a chance to solo. Live recordings, although ones without any crowd sounds including applause, of "Short Skirt, Long Jacket" and "It's Coming Down" aren't substantially different than the originals. A smarmy, unfunny "Strangers in the Night" sounds like it was done as a goof in rehearsals, and the short instrumental "Conroy" appears to be cooked up in McCrea's home studio in a few minutes when he was bored. There isn't much of interest for devoted Cake followers and nothing for newcomers, who are advised to avoid this in lieu of the band's first few releases. The better selections would have made logical additions to a hits assemblage, but this is a disappointing odds and sods product for the longtime fans it is clearly geared to attract.

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