Monday, June 25, 2012

Macy Gray - Covered (429 Records)

Rewind 13 years, and it was hard to picture Macy Gray achieving anything less than world domination. The acclaim flowed thick and fast, the sales figures rose quicker than river levels in a UK “drought” period, and her mantelpiece heaved under the weight of many an award.

But for whatever reason, things petered out for Macy Gray, and pretty quickly. So after a decade of non-starter albums and a ropey stint on Dancing With The Stars, she’s decided to return with what can either be described as a clever move or a desperate gimmick: a covers album.

A subdued start via Eurythmics’ Here Comes The Rain Again may not be the huge, audible bang needed to kickstart a record, but it’s a tender, affected and stirring rendition. There’s no overall theme on Covered; merely a selection of tracks given the once-over, and for the most part, successfully.

It’s a fairly predictable exercise on Radiohead’s Creep, but in all fairness, there’s little that can be done with Creep without it verging on sacrilege. Similarly, it’s no huge surprise on Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters.

However, her take on My Chemical Romance’s Teenagers is truly inspired. The melody is adhered to strictly, but a plinky, jazz-lite arrangement almost gives it a bizarre lullaby quality. And the frenetic, quickening race through Maps by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is brimming with character.

I Try makes an appearance in the form of an ill-advised skit, in which the odious Nicole Scherzinger rips the piss out of Alanis Morissette, Shakira and Britney Spears. It’s hard not to wonder whether the latter comes from some X Factor-related sour grapes, but whatever the hell it is, Covered isn’t the place for it.

On the subject of I Try, it was a track which, in spite of its successes, proved to be quite the albatross. There were those who identified its classically-brilliant songwriting but didn’t take to the package Gray offered as a performer; and since, there’s been those who have stamped her with the one-hit wonder tag.

What Covered does is underline exactly what Gray can do as an artist. These are songs that are (largely) well-known and much-loved, and thus, the only scrutiny to apply to the project is based solely on the choices Macy Gray makes as a vocalist. And while the Marmite quality is still indubitably there, Covered is an album of personality, of intelligent choices, and of tracks which showcase a genuinely unique talent rather nicely indeed.

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