Flo Morrissey/Matthew E. White – Gentlewoman, Ruby Man
There’s a basic formula for a great cover version. It’s when a well-known song is so totally transformed that it’s turned into what amounts to a new composition. Bob Dylan and Neil Young are masters at doing this to their own songs. Here, Flo Morrissey and Matthew E. White have a go with other people’s. Of course, what counts as a well-known song is highly personal. If you’re of a certain age, then you’re probably more familiar with Tales From Topographic Oceans than Frank Ocean. In which case, the cover of ‘Thinking Bout You’ here might sound like an original song in the first place. And a good one too. There’s a similar formula for a disappointing cover version. It’s when a song is so well known that no matter what’s done to it you can’t get the original out of your head. And there are some culprits here in that regard. The cover of ‘Grease’ can’t dispel the iconic image of tight black leather trousers and slick-backed hair. ‘Suzanne’ and ‘Sunday Morning’ elicit an equivalent reaction, though without the thought of the leather trousers. On Gentlewoman, Ruby Man, the best moments are when the signature late-night, ’70s, white soul, Spacebomb sound creates something a little unexpected. Top of the list is the closing track, ‘Govindam’, a traditional Hindu song that came to a certain prominence in 1971 on an album that was produced by George Harrison. Here, the original influences are clear, but the track has been Spacebombed just enough to make it sound like a fresh composition. And that’s the secret of a great cover version.