Faced with waning creativity and aging record-buyers, the music business has increasingly turned to strip-mining its past. After the obvious candidates have been celebrated, we’re finally getting around to rediscovering that woefully underappreciated pop genius—ta-dum!—Sonny Bono.
This twisted but inventive tribute to the music of the Palm Springs Mayor and would-be Senator (he wrote or co-wrote all the songs) is performed by alternative and underground bands from around the country. Their pro-Bono work has its moments. North Carolina’s Flat Duo Jets buck and weave through that timeless classic “Needles and Pins.” New Jersey’s Ben Vaughn renders “Koko Joe” as a rockabilly rave-up. Pittsburgh’s Frampton Brothers transform “Bang Bang” into a ravishingly melodramatic gypsy lament. The Cynics, also from Steel Town, turn “I Got You Babe” into a smash-and-grab guitar raid.
The most affecting track and the least ironic is a deeply felt, acoustic cover of “I Look for You” by Peter Holsapple, formerly of the dBs. The weirdest has to be the 10-minute psychedelic reading that Seattle’s Young Fresh Fellows give “I Just Sit There.”
The record is a powerful reminder of how much a radical reinterpretation can change perceptions. BY the time groups like Otis Ball or the Spuds are through, the pop pooh-bah sounds positively punky. Eat your heart out, Cher. (Bogus)