OK, I need to preface this write-up with a few disclaimers. First off, I am, in many ways, not a man of great depth – If I like it, I like it because my gut liked it. I can typically decipher what it is I like or don’t like about something (musically or otherwise) after the fact, but my first reaction is typically what I go with. This is not to say things – music, people, food… whatever – won’t grow on me, as they often times do. But the things I LOVE, I loved from the start.
Second, I am a man who acknowledges my tendency to get into a particular mind-set for a season. In the past few weeks I’ve been listening to this release from Reckless In Vegas, the world has lost the incomparable and brilliant Pete Seeger, the Olympics started, I’ve been reading insane amounts of Chuck Klosterman (if you haven’t yet, read his stuff – it’s brilliant) and listening to more Randy Newman / Harry Nilsson / Carl Perkins than most people my age will hear in a lifetime. That being said, my affection for the Great American Songbook is, to say the least, off the charts at present.
However, Reckless In Vegas has absolutely crushed any concern I may have had regarding butchering any classics in my eyes… er, uh… ears. A word on cover songs- I LOVE ’em. Every now and then a band will completely floor you with something they’ve done (Example: Gwar covering Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son”) and I have long expressed my affection for bands that do not fear a good cover (Bowling For Soup, Reel Big Fish, and Me First & The Gimme Gimmes being prime examples). The crux, of course, is to make it your own, and there is no road-map for that, but plenty of opportunity to take wrong turns. To their eternal credit, Reckless In Vegas have honed in on something that brings a modern and fresh approach without compromising emotive or song writing and stylistic inflections on the original versions we love.
I now desperately want to see this band live… hell, I might just try to get married just to have them play the reception. A straight up three-piece with a healthy appreciation of the early rock and roll sounds but without fear of taking some liberties, Reckless In Vegas is as legit as it gets. There’s little pretense, and I have a feeling that these incredibly clean and well-produced recordings are merely a shadow of the raw intensity that a live performance would bring.
Of particular note, this collection contains several covers that deserve to be played loud enough for your neighbors to hear. “Luck Be A Lady” is done in such an awesomely dark orchestral rock style I can honestly say I would have never expected, but again, the production on this track in particular highlights the band’s ability to play both intensely and dynamically without ever negating the intrinsic song-writing brilliance of Frank Loesser.
Additionally, the inclusion of the Sonny Bono penned hit “The Beat Goes On” – one of my all-time favorite songs- is spectacular. The boys step it up, giving it a more pop-punk treatment, with vocals like butter and velvet anchoring it from getting so obnoxiously punk as to lose the melodic genius of it all. A total left-field pick, but they have nailed it. Sonny would be proud, no doubt.
Deeper in the album is the Neil Diamond tribute of “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon / Solitary Man” that I can say echoes the sentiments of Neil’s song-writing lustrously. Having grown up with a major Neil Diamond fan as a mother I’ve probably heard these songs at least 500 times each. This version is wonderfully melodic, and absolutely Rock ‘n’ Roll throughout.
A nod to the surprising appearance by Rumer Willis on “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” adds a very sweet feminine side to a song I’ve heard so many times in the past without ever really paying attention.
In all, this collection not only legitimizes the songs, singers and composers they honor, but intelligently re-works classic gold back into a brilliant luster. I hope to hear more from these guys, and that you take the time to check them out. I promise it’s a gamble worth taking.