No less than eight other albums have been titled Cover Me, perhaps the most famous being the Rhino Records collection of Bruce Springsteen copyrights as portrayed/emulated by various artists who had some success with tunes by the Boss. The first release on the It's About Music label is a reason to rejoice -- the return of Andy Pratt with Mark Doyle, the guitarist from Pratt's original band. This compilation is a delight in part because Pratt is not known for doing renditions of OPM -- other people's music. His excellent 1980s version of the Beatles' "I'm Only Sleeping," produced by Modern Lover Leroy Radcliffe, got limited distribution until recently, while covers of "19th Nervous Breakdown" and "Town Without Pity" are on the I'm Alright album released after this. There aren't the production values of Fun in the First World or Pratt's Christian discs; produced and arranged in Doyle's home studio in New York, it is a remarkable look at a serious artist -- repeat, an artist known for being very, very serious -- having some fun with a friend from his past. Pratt lets his hair hang down in Charlie Rich's "Behind Closed Doors," a truly innovative take on the country-pop classic, while Aaron Neville's 1966 signature tune, "Tell It Like It Is," works even better.
But the key to the record is the totally open nature of the liner notes. Andy Pratt writes about his personal life, his relationship to music, his wife, and his thoughts on the music -- which the listener presumably reads while the disc is playing. It is, indeed, a revelation. The Temptations' "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep," also from 1966, gives further insight into the artistic psyche of the man who crafted the brilliant and disturbing self-titled Columbia Records disc from the 1970s. The manic and quite complex answer to James Taylor from that era returns here to reinvent Fred Neil's timeless "Everybody's Talkin'" (retitled "Everybody's Talkin' at Me"). Nilsson would be proud, and so would Neil -- it's eerie and charming all at the same time. "Don't Worry Baby" doesn't have the majesty of Bryan Ferry's masterful version from his first solo album, one of the greatest "cover" discs in the history of rock. That's not what this "cover me" is about, because this episode in the eccentric artist's life is really "uncover me," where listeners learn more about Andy Pratt, the person, through the music and words of others. Quite a feat when you think about it. "Under Pressure" and "Give Peace a Chance" are the bookends that hold this music, nods to Grandmaster Flash, Carole King, and Jimmy Cliff that just might tell you more about the man who wrote "Avenging Annie" than his entire recorded output. This enigma is back with a vengeance, with an album that is not your typical collection of favorite songs. Then again, Andy Pratt is far from a typical artist.