There are few musicians who can imagine, let alone attempt, to execute the kind of wild control of a body of songs that Eugene Chadbourne can. His restless muse is ever-wandering over a vast body of music from the popular vernacular. On this set -- a vocal music companion to Intakt 25, Strings -- recorded in 1992 in Switzerland, Chadbourne tackles not only his own wondrous tales of terror, depression, and imagination, but also those of Tim Buckley, Nick Drake (long before the Volkswagen commercial), Willie Nelson, Eric Dolphy, Frank Perkins, and Floyd Tillman. Fans of Chadbourne have long been accustomed to these flights of artistic Weltanschauung, but even they would be hard-pressed to take in the seamless nature of Chadbourne's attack. The set opens with Buckley's "Hallucinations," and in a radically different read, Chadbourne's banjo adds a deep, Dock Boggsish feeling to Buckley's nightmarish lovelorn tale. With shifting, sliding fingers on the hammer end and twisting rhythmic invention, Chadbourne reads the same words but offers an entirely different meaning on them. Likewise, his slide guitar grammar on Phil Ochs' "Knock on the Door" brings the song to the doorstep of an America Ochs had imagined when he wrote the song, but couldn't see out on his front lawn. The guitar version of Dolphy's "Miss Ann" is savvy, street-smart, and tough in its ragged elegance. But Chadbourne's own songs, such as "This Cold War With You," "Captain Hook," or even "Hello Ceausescu" offer a much more poignant and hilarious view of the world of popular song. In fact, these are popular songs that no one else has recorded yet. But that's their problem; at least listeners have these versions. Awesome.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek