Published on Thursday, February 19, 1998
© 1998 The Arizona Republic
Byline: Barry Gilbert
Country: Country Artists Perform the Songs of the Rolling
Your Honor, if it please the court, we have before us the smoking gun, the piece de resistance, the enchilada grande in the argument that tribute albums should be prohibited.
It should be apparent that the Rolling Stones have done far more for country and blues than most of these country artists do here for the Rolling Stones.
Mick Jagger singing "Paint It Black" is one thing. But Tracy Lawrence? Puhleeze.
A tribute album should have a freshness, an attitude . . . a point! Dwight Yoakam on his "Under the Covers" album turns the Kinks' "Tired of Waiting" into a Holiday Inn lounge number. OK, it's gruesome, but he took a chance. Nobody took a chance here.
From the opening, note-for-note chords of "Honky Tonk Women" --
"I object! Your Honor, my name is Travis Tritt, and I juiced up the guitar and gave the lyrics my patented soulful, bluesy wail -- "
And you ended up with a mirror image, down to the cowbell. Just like Collin Raye did on "Brown Sugar." At least, on "Jumpin' Jack Flash," Rodney Crowell added some fiddle and other tweaks. But, Your Honor, listen to Deana Carter's "Ruby Tuesday." The same violins, the same
"Now I object! I sang it in my best little-girl voice, and it's different sung by a woman."
True, Ms. Carter, true. So you couldn't change the arrangement? Sammy Kershaw did, drenching "Angie" in fiddles and steel guitar and that wistful voice.
By the way, Your Honor, we are also asking that you issue an injunction ordering that this is "The Last Time" that the Tractors will be allowed to use that feedbacky-hey-we're-not-quite-ready-yet-intro gimmick.
"Your Honor, we're Blackhawk, and we did what the prosecutor seems to want. We reworked 'Wild Horses' as a bluegrass tune -- "
-- and it sounds like Blackhawk doing bluegrass, possibly the only time those two words will appear in the same sentence.
Oh, and "Beast of Burden" by Little Texas? Aren't they over?
(This work is not a total waste of fossil fuel. The final two tracks are by artists of unquestioned integrity: Nanci Griffith does a fine acoustic "No Expectations," and George Jones shows for "Time Is on My Side." It's loopy, but it's Jones. And both performances are interpretations.)
Your Honor, the prosecution isn't suggesting that these songs aren't well-played, well-sung or even well-intentioned.
It's just that, with the original
versions so readily available, there's no, well, reason.
The "loosest show on Earth," as David Crosby called it, was recorded in October 1971 at the Dorothy Chandler Music Center in Los Angeles during one of the early-but-often breakups of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
Its bookmark in history comes after Stephen Stills' first two solo albums and the hit single "Love the One You're With"; after Neil Young's still-influential album "After the Gold Rush"; after Graham Nash's "Songs for Beginners"; and after Crosby's "If I Could Only Remember My Name" (oh, much too easy a target).
Which is to say, both Nash and Crosby were at the height of their vocal prowess. This concert is from the same tour that produced a celebrated bootleg vinyl LP, "A Very Stoney Evening."
"Another Stoney Evening" benefits from the CD era: crystal, transparent sound of two strong, confident (and even on-key) voices, two acoustic guitars and 15 great songs, from "Déjà vu" and "Wooden Ships" to "Immigration Man" and, of course, "Teach Your Children."
If you're not a fan of these guys in any of their many permutations, this CD won't convert you. If you are, or were, it will remind you of why you loved them in the first place.