Aztec Camera's Covers & Rare is mainly for the group's fans; however, the album can also be utilized as an introduction to the Scottish band. Some of their finest tracks -- "Back on Board," "All I Need Is Everything," "Walk Out to Winter" -- are included here, albeit in different versions. Anybody who hasn't heard the bright, poetic songwriting and soulful croon of Roddy Frame (vocals, guitar) can see why Aztec Camera has always acquired critical praise. "Walk Out to Winter," an engaging tale of romantic discontent, was one of the best songs on the debut LP, High Land, Hard Rain. On Covers & Rare, the track becomes an epic with a glorious instrumental intro that is more than five minutes long. Taken from the 12" vinyl, "Walk Out to Winter (Extended Version)" easily surpasses the original. Chiming synths add charm to "Deep and Wide and Tall." The live performances of "Back on Board" and "We Can Send Letters" lack the soaring emotions of the studio renditions on High Land, Hard Rain, but they're still moving ballads. The folk-rock remake of Van Halen's "Jump" is hilariously irreverent. Frame sings the heavy metal lyrics with a country drawl, and then the acoustic riffs climax into a barrage of guitar feedback. While "Jump (Loaded Version)" will probably offend Van Halen purists -- that was probably Frame's intention -- the cover of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" is poignant and beautiful. The sunny "(If Paradise Is) Half as Nice" and the stinging "Bad Education" should've been included on Aztec Camera's previous albums. Covers & Rare offers devotees plenty to feast on, and strangers to Frame's talent will be similarly aching for more when it's over.
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AllMusic Review by Michael Sutton