PART TWO OF A GUEST POSTING by ECHORICH
TRACEY THORN – A COVERS ICA
From the earliest days of Everything But The Girl, Tracey and Ben recorded some astonishing covers of popular and not so well known songs that spoke to them. Their first single, Night And Day, Kid, Time After Time, I Don’t Want To Talk About It, The Only Living Boy in New York, English Rose, are just a few.
As a solo artist, Tracey hasn’t shed away from sharing her take on a rather eclectic series of others’ songs. The majority of her 4th solo album, Tinsel And Lights features 10 covers of songs related to Christmas and Winter. None of her covers are perfunctory or covers by numbers. All of them are imbued with the magic Tracey has as a performer and some, for me, outshine the originals because of that magic.
Here are 10 covers performed by Tracey Thorn from her solo work of the last 13 years that show off that magic.
1. Under The Ivy – Kate Bush Cover – released as a digital single in December of 2014. Just a piano and Tracey with strings filling in on the second verse. The intimacy is intense.
2. Come On Home To Me – Lee Hazelwood cover – a track from Love And Its Opposite, it’s a duet with Jens Lekman. Lekman’s baritone adds to the darkness of the song arrangement.
3. Kings Cross – Pet Shop Boys cover – originally a bonus track on the iTunes version of Out Of The Woods and was initially slated for inclusion, but cut due to running time of the album. It was released as a stand-alone single in December of 2007 with a Hot Chip Remix and a thank you to Neil Tennant who Tracey states motivated her to record a new solo album after 25 years. Tracey softly presents the song with pastoral addition of English horn and respect to the simplicity of the PSB original. I hold this version as an equal to a song I think is certainly among Pet Shop Boys best.
4. Sister Winter – Sufjan Stevens cover – a Christmas single released on Ben’s Strange Feeling label for Christmas 2010, it would reappear on the Tinsel and Lights album two years later. Tracey approaches the track with a simpler arrangement and a bit more focus on the vocals.
5. Get Around To It – Arthur Russell cover – released as a track on Out Of The Woods. The most eclectic track on Tracey’s wonderfully eclectic 2007 solo album, she and producer Ewan Pearson play up all of the wonderful mutant disco sounds so familiar to fans of Russell and the Sleeping Bag Records label. It’s a joy filled musical romp.
6. Smoke And Mirrors – Magnetic Fields cover – b-side to the Raise The Roof single. Where the original is all cool, dark, synth-folk and very knowing, Tracey brings a much more feminine, yet still knowing feel to her interpretation.
7. Hard Candy Christmas – Dolly Parton cover – released as a track on Tinsel and Lights. A song I had never heard before and approaching it as a cover is a bit difficult. Popularized by Dolly, but also recorded by Cyndi Lauper, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, Reba McIntyre, it’s a bit of a modern Christmas standard that no one really deviates from as written by singer/songwriter Carol Hall. But Tracey captures a quiet, lonely Christmas in her version that sounds so much like an EBTG song, no least of all because husband Ben contributed to some very familiar-sounding electric piano.
8. Night Time – The XX cover – released on the Night Time EP. Originally chosen to be included on a covers compilation of The XX songs at the invitation of the band, the project fell through, but Tracey with Ben assisting still recorded the track with producer Ewan Pearson. Again there is some EBTG DNA in their version of the song that really works.
9. Snow in Sun – Scritti Politti cover – released as a track on Tinsel and Lights. Another very contemporary cover by Tracey, the original can be found on the wonderful 2006 Scritti Politti album White Bread Black Beer. Tracey smartly doesn’t attempt anything too far from the perfection of the original here, instead paying homage to Green’s own reading of the song.
10. You Are A Lover – The Unbending Trees cover – released on Love And Its Opposite. From Strange Feeling stablemates The Unbending Trees, Tracey give a much more approachable, I might say less suicidal sounding, outing here, making it a more subtle form of torch song.
Any excuse to offer up a Jens Lekman track on which Tracey provides a co-vocal. From the album Life Will See You Now
and here’s the remix mentioned above:-
Huge thanks to Echorich for this incredible effort and for sending me down a Tracey Thorn cul-de-sac for a couple of days after I pulled all the track together….and above all else, for introducing me to that astonishing cover of King’ s Cross, a release I wasn’t previously aware of.