Rotations 45

Space doesn't allow us to do justice to each of the twelve cuts, so we'll note the highlights. The Brothers Four's dull, white-bread reading of the Beatles's "Revolution" takes on new meaning in the post-Republican landslide era of the Angry White Male; the Manhattan Strings's Muzak-inspired treatment of "(Theme From) The Monkees" takes a snappy pop tune and reduces it to the level of a funeral dirge; Bing Crosby bum-bum-bumbles his way (literally) through the chorus of "Hey Jude"; Jim "Gomer Pyle" Nabors tediously saps every ounce of soul out of Stevie Wonder's "You Are the Sunshine of My Life." And Mitch Miller, the crotchety sing-along bandleader who never made a secret of his contempt for rock and roll, stammers his way through the free associations of "Give Peace a Chance" with such apparent pain that even Captain Beefheart would have to admire the old guy's spunk.

That's not to say that all the cuts are severely painful. Velvet-voiced Mel Torme gets down with a definitive lounge version of Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" which actually improves on the original. When the Vegas vet croons "'Cause I've made my mind up/You're going to be mine/I'll pick up your hands and slowly/Blow your little mind," you can almost hear the cocktail glasses tinkling in the background.

And then there's a cover of Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," by the Living Voices who, in their less drug-induced phases, collaborated with Henry Mancini on such film scores as Breakfast at Tiffany's. All diction and no fire, the song is so utterly without redeeming qualities that it's fucking brilliant and, ultimately, far more evil than the original from which AM radio programmers of the Sixties hoped to protect their innocent listeners.

By Jim Murphy

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