Full Album Cover Edition: The Hillbenders, John Vanderslice & Alan Jenkins & The Kettering Vampires
The Hillbenders: Tommy: A Bluegrass Opera
It’s Halloween week which traditionally has been a time for covers. So this week I’ve got some full-album covers worth your while. First up are The Hillbenders dressing up The Who’s Tommy in full bluegrass regalia…not a rock opera, but a bluegrass opry, naturally. At first, it might sound like a strange combination, but once you dig into this, you realize how perfectly their instrumentation and talent lends itself to Pete Townsend’s masterpiece. Even when they’re just playing it straight, the material sounds fresh and fun and then on those moments when things “breakdown,” the album really shines.
Alan Jenkins & The Kettering Vampires: Nico and the Velvet Underground
OK, this one’s fun: album-cover album as concept album. The band is The Kettering Vampires and the album is the Velvet Underground and Nico. Although it’s more like they held up the classic album into a funhouse mirror so that the song order (and album title) are reversed and the music is now a weird, wild, distorted surf-rock instrumental record. It’s an idea that sounds more like an art school project, but the thing really works, more or less. The covers are really great with varying levels of adventure and recognizability while showing plenty of love for the source material. Certainly a must-listen for any Velvet Underground fan or lover of great covers…and c’mon, you’ve always wanted to hear a 15-minute, experimental-surf- rock version of “Heroin,” haven’t you?
John Vanderslice: Plays David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs
This one actually came out a couple years ago, but I believe it just popped up on streaming services and it fits this week’s theme too well, so I’m including it. The classic album here is David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs and the artist wearing the costume is indie rocker/producer John Vanderslice. Great covers balance the spirit of the original with a unique angle or twist. Vanderslice succeeds on both fronts, sort of bringing his producer background to imagine what the album might sound like were it to be recorded today. The most recognizable “hit” from the album, “Rebel Rebel,” is the one he takes the deepest off-trail, bringing a dreamy, new- psychedelic sheen that turns the original deliciously inside-out. Trick or treat!