Let's Go to Bed (The Cure)
Kite (Nick Hayward)
Say Goodbye (Papas Fritas)
Streets of Your Town (The Go-Betweens)
I Don't Know Why I Love You (House of Love)
Only a Fool Would Say That (Steeley Dan)
Digging Your Scene (Blow Monkeys)
L'Anamour (Serge Gainsborough)
Be My Baby (The Ronettes)
I Guess I'm Just a Little Too Sensitive (Orange Juice)
10 cover versions from New York based Ivy's Guestroom released in 2002.
The trio Ivy originally formed in 1994, since then they have released several EPs/Singles, and half a dozen albums, the last one in 2005. I am eagerly awaiting a new release said to be available early this year. I have all their releases, but here I am going to focus on this release of cover songs. You can learn more about Ivy and their multitude of musical side trips at their site, which has a particularly pretty home page.
Guestroom reveals a lot about Ivy's diverse musical taste and influences. Listening to these ten tracks is interesting because of the comparisons you inevitably make to the originals. As a longtime Ivy listener it is especially interesting to hear them apply their skills to interpreting and making these songs their own. Ivy are excellent musicians, multi-instrumentalists, creative in the studio, you can count on an attention to detail both in their playing and recording. Guestroom has a lot of multi-tracking and effects, but none of these announce themselves. Ivy's recording techniques are subtle and the playing is always tastefully restrained and relaxed.
Along with the variety of instruments and effects on Guestroom, there are consistent elements from song to song. The multi-layered vocals are by Dominique Durand who has a soft, smooth style - many would compare her to Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier. The drumming sounds very live, steady and to the point, Ringo's playing came to mind. An acoustic guitar is usually the strong rhythmic base for the songs, with lots of over laid electric guitar work that I particularly enjoy. Often this involves the use of a wah pedal, always in a controlled, delicate manner, a technique I really appreciate hearing, given the excess you usually experience when guitarist step on these pedals.
Guestroom overall is a fine album, one of those rare ones you can safely play in a large group and know the majority of people will like it. Since these are cover versions you have the added fun of watching people slowly recognize the songs. Overall Guestroom works well on the surface but stands up to more attentive listening and repeat playing. Their are two songs that I tend to skip, personal taste prevents me from ever listening to a Steely Dan song again in this lifetime, and honestly Ivy does little to change the song, unlike most of the other tracks. The other track is The Cure's "Let's Go to Bed", Ivy does an excellent job covering the song and they have a video of it here. I just never liked this dance oriented song much, seemed like the downfall of The Cure to me.
The rest of the album I really enjoy, three songs in particular:
- I love "Kite", written by Nick Hayward, perhaps best known for his Haircut 100 days. If you go to the link he has the original "Kite" recording, a truly beautiful song. Ivy doesn't radically change the song, it still rides on a nice mandolin line through out. This is a wonderful selection by Ivy, suits them perfectly, and the song really comes alive with Durand's vocals, taking on new meaning being sung by her.
- I've always been fond of Orange Juice, going way back to their work on the Postcard label. Orange Juice's "I Guess I'm Just a Little Too Sensitive" is covered by Ivy with a light touch overall. Acoustic guitar, multi track vocals, excellent wah effects, with a slight build through the addition of organ, melodica, a touch of backwards guitar, and a nice finish with an understated guitar solo.
- Ivy really dug in on The Ronette's "Be My Baby". The original is a famous Phil Spector Wall of Sound production, and a song he co-wrote as well. With that knowledge it is a treat to hear Ivy expand on the production of this classic, really stretch it out, and pump up it's atmospheric level. It starts with a Trip Hop drum pattern, joined by a looping and warped guitar line, drums that sound underwater, all leading up to huge echoing vocals. This song builds slowly, the atmosphere gets thicker and thicker with the addition of church organ, swirling background vocals, a sinister bass line, and some slow wah effects.