Saturday, March 28, 2015

Run For Cover - The Living Sisters

Run For Cover
The Living Sisters
Vanguard  79269

A mini-album from my favorite pretend sisters.  I had mixed feelings when I read that the Living Sisters were releasing a covers album.  These women are first-rate songwriters and all my favorite songs on their debut album, "Love to Live" had been self-penned.  A covers record seemed like a regression to me.  On the other hand I saw these ladies deliver some spectacular Patsy Cline covers back in 2011 at Disney Hall so I knew they had the chops to deliver a quality covers record.  Thus I bought this as soon as it came out and I have to admit that my first instincts were correct.  I was a little disappointed by it.  It is beautifully sung but it doesn't engage me that much.  It opens with "Make Love To Me" which was a big hit for Jo Stafford in 1954.  The Sisters give it a western swing style arrangement which is a big improvement over Stafford's big band version.  Most of the song is sung jointly by the quartet, but they also trade solo vocals for some lines which is their style for the entire album.  The song has humor and energy, it even has a swinging guitar solo.  It is easily my favorite track.  Surprisingly the ladies take on George Clinton next with a cover of Funkadelic's "Can You Get To That?"  Predictably it is a lot less funky than the original despite some greasy guitar work.  The Sisters' style is to smooth over the rough spots and although I admire the creativity and skill of their vocal arrangement, I'm not convinced this was a good idea.  It is interesting though.  Side one concludes with a glacially slow cover of the Doris Day classic, "Que Sera, Sera."  I'm not a big fan of the original, but it is more propulsive and lively than this cover.  I like the prominence of the rhythm section in this arrangement, it does rock in a way and there is no denying that the singing is fantastic, but I find the track rather dull and I lose interest well before its nearly 6 minute running time expires.  Side two opens with a cover of Patsy Cline's 1956 single "A Poor Man's Roses."  Cline's original was country with sophisticated pop touches, the Living Sisters' version is sophisticated pop with country touches.  It sounds wonderful but Cline's version has a bigger emotional punch.  Next up is an a cappella arrangement of Dolly Parton's "Jolene."  It is a remarkable piece of ensemble singing showing the Sisters' mastery of harmony vocals.  It really sends me but it lacks the urgency that Parton brought to her original version.  The side ends with another Patsy Cline cover, her immortal performance of Don Gibson's "Sweet Dreams."  It is my favorite Cline record and no one is ever going to make a better version, not even great vocalists like the Living Sisters.  Their version is certainly beautiful but it lacks the heart that Cline brought to the song.  There is much to like about this record.  The quartet's taste in covers is eclectic and tasteful, a mixture of the familiar and the obscure.  The singing is impeccable, you don't hear these kind of harmonies in pop music anymore.  However the record does leave me a little cold, I feel it is an exercise in style and technique and doesn't express much.  I know from their solo work that these women have plenty to say and I'd rather hear another album where they do their own songs.  Recommended to Linda Ronstadt fans.

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