Marc Cohn – Listening Booth: 1970 (Saguaro Road) – CD review –
When an artist does an entire album of covers, it’s usually a sign that they’ve run out of ideas. But when it’s done in such earnest, as is Listening Booth: 1970, you have to take notice. Every big music fan has a particular time in their life when the world was exploding musically. For me, it was 1978, with LP’s by ELO, Todd Rundgren, and the Cars. For Marc Cohn, that time was 1970 and he’s put together an album of twelve tracks that were released that year.
Typically, when an artist does an album like this, they either stay faithful to the original or attempt to drastically reinvent each song. Cohn actually does neither, instead he filters these songs through his own musical skin. So, they’re not note for note copies, but they all manage to sound comfortable. There’s no “oh sheesh” moment where you realize how he’s reworked something. Take the opener, “Wild World,” originally done by Cat Stevens. Here, he gives it a marching beat, which is a novel idea, yet it’s accompanied by acoustic instruments and great harmonies, as was the original.
The cheesy Bread number “Make it With You” sounds like an Al Green outtake, with it’s slinky guitar and Rhodes piano. “After Midnight” is fairly faithful to the JJ Cale original, yet there’s room for a little lick from Clapton’s “Layla,” and some swamp guitar accents. And, the Badfinger power pop classic, “No Matter What,” is slowed down and twanged up, with a guest vocal from Aimee Mann. While all of this might seem blasphemous on paper, once you hear the tracks, you realize how much love and respect went into this project. For once, a covers album that doesn’t make you want to go listen to the originals; instead you want to hit the repeat button. –Tony Peters