But the real failure of One Step Up, Two Steps Back lies in its lead single -- a miserable version of "Atlantic City" sung by former BoDean Kurt Neumann. He turns in such an uninspired, ill-conceived performance that he singlehandedly disproves the song's chorus. "Maybe everything that dies someday comes back"? No, sometimes things die and they stay dead. Interest in this cover, for instance, dies after the first 30 seconds.

The tone is as wrong as tone can be, replacing Springsteen's ghostly, mythic pessimism with an antiseptic optimism. Can you imagine Night of the Hunter with Chris Farley in the Robert Mitchum role? Of course you can't. It wouldn't be Night of the Hunter any more. And this isn't "Atlantic City." It's Donald Trump's Atlantic City. The Band covered the same song a few years ago, and their version was fine, if not revelatory. Neumann's cheery butchering makes the Band's version seem revelatory.

The Neumann cover is so awful that it taints the rest of the Springsteen album. Or perhaps it's just that many of the other covers are equally awful. If you can get through the entire 28-song atrocity, you'll begin to question the title -- it's not obvious how any of this is one step up, and it's much more than two steps back. Perhaps the collection's producers should have spun the album's name out of another Springsteen song. But who, you ask, would buy an album named Don't Cover Me? Exactly my point.

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