Various Artists – Pravda Records, Star Power!

Erick Zeidenberg

By Erick Zeidenberg

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

To some bands, the idea of a cool cover is to take some guilty-pleasure tune and play it at either high-octane speeds or super-sloppy, as if to suggest that the whole pursuit is nothing more than the wink of a musical eye. Other bands (the Minutemen, the Clash, Van Halen) have paid homage to the original artist by infusing a song with their own style to create something far more memorable than a drunken encore. You can file the highlights of Star Power! under the latter category. It's a collection of great artists who have (in some cases) radically re-packaged songs you already know but might not admit you love.

Southern Culture on the Skids present the Shocking Blue's immortal 1969 hit "Venus" as a fuzzified lounge-swing that would fit the playlist of some dark burlesque club in the bad part of town. The pop-punk take on "Starsky and Hutch" co-star David Soul's "Don't Give Up On Us Baby" as delivered by Brown Betty is catchy enough to dilute the saccharine we remember, which helps the song to avoid falling into the trap described above. The A-Bones 'take on the disco classic "Rock The Boat" may sound nightmarish to those of you who used to strut to the original back in the day or rocked it at a karaoke bar somewhere, but their Bo-Diddley-in-the- basement-club swagger creates an entirely new beast. "The Night That the Lights Went Out in Georgia," as re-imagined by Vic Chesnutt, becomes a much more moody affair framed by the haunting piano introduction and the somber organ in the chorus.

Not every song on here hits the mark, but the best songs on Star Power! are more than just curiosities. If you've got a couple of spare downloads this month, here's a good place to burn 'em.