Cover Two

Joan as Police Woman

(CD - Sweet Police #JAPW 2CD)

Review by Heather Phares

As its title suggests, Cover Two is the second collection of covers from Joan as Police Woman's Joan Wasser (her first, 2009's Cover, was initially sold only at her shows and on her website). Considering how versatile and distinctive Wasser's own music is, it's not surprising that she's skilled at putting her own stamp on the work of widely different musicians. Even Cover Two's cover is a rendition of sorts, channeling Loverboy's Get Lucky and its iconic red leather jumpsuit. But what could be just a karaoke lark is much more in Wasser's hands: Cover Two is musically nimble and reflects a songwriter's appreciation of other songwriters. As on Cover, Wasser samples from an eclectic array of artists. She begins Cover Two with the challenge of reinterpreting Prince's "Kiss," transforming the original's sudden flirtation into sultry, slow-burning foreplay that turns the line "women, not girls, rule my world" into a mantra. Later, she closes the album with a breezy vocal pop arrangement of Rizzo's lament "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" from the musical Grease and a graceful, piano-driven interpretation of Gil Scott-Heron's "Running." In between, Cover Two's highlights include a cozy version of the Strokes' '60s soul-pop homage "Under Control'' where her voice dances over its caressing melody, and a minimalist reading of Michael McDonald's "Keep Forgetting" that showcases all the nuances of her singing. On "Out of Time," she reimagines one of Blur's sci-fi ballads into something that could've appeared on Tapestry. By contrast, she focuses on her music's experimental side on "Not the Way," setting Cass McCombs' searching lyrics to meditative drones and saxophones. Not everything on Cover Two is quite this successful. Wasser's version of OutKast's "Spread" is daring, but she ends up sounding like a guest on her own song, while the hypnotic cover of Talk Talk's "Life's What You Make It" may be the only moment here that doesn't distinguish itself enough from the original. Much more frequently, however, Cover Two brings out the best in Joan as Police Woman's music as she revisits some of her favorite songs.

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