Sound — 6
Mark Lanegan, while not a household name, has been a busy guy since he began his music career in the mid '80s. While he is best known for his work with QOTSA or for founding the Screaming Trees, he has also been involved with Soulsavers, Mad Season, The Gutter Twins as well as collaborating with numerous other bands and artists. Mark is known for his baritone voice, and has been compared to Tom Waits. "Imitations" is his eighth full length studio album released as a solo album. The album is made up of covers of songs that have had meaning to him ranging from his childhood to modern times. Up front, this isn't going to interest everyone as this is something completely different from Mark's other work and collaborations. The album contains 12 tracks with a runtime of just a little over 40 minutes. The album opens up with a cover of a song by modern-day goth musician, Chelsea Wolfe, "Flatlands." The song starts out with just an acoustic guitar and vocals but slowly builds to include a string arrangement and percussion. Next up is "She's Gone," a Hall & Oates cover, which is a fairly faithful recreation showing Mark Lanegan practicing his chops as a crooner. "Deepest Shade" is a cover of The Twilight Singers, with a uniquely melancholy feel thanks to Mark's unique baritone voice. "You Only Live Twice," a Nancy Sinatra cover, is a very light track made of only an acoustic guitar and Mark's vocals. "Pretty Colors" by Frank Sinatra is the next cover, which Mark somehow lends an almost psychedelic vibe to. "Brompton Oratory" is a cover of a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds track, and this is another cover that stays fairly faithful to the original version. "Solitaire" is an Andy Williams cover, and comes across as a very atmospheric track that just drips with melancholy. "Mack the Knife," an old Bobby Darin tune, has been covered numerous times but none quite like Mark's interpretation - while staying relatively faithful to the original, the little vocal nuances and the mixing give the cover its own identity. "I'm Not the Loving Kind," originally recorded by John Cale, is possibly one of the most textured tracks on the album containing orchestral backing as well as guitar, bass and drums. "Lonely Street" is the second track from the album that was originally recorded from Andy Williams and almost comes across as a country ballad with Mark's treatment. "Elegie Funebre," originally recorded by Gerard Manset, is the only cover not in English. The album closes out with yet another Andy Williams cover - this time the track "Autumn Leaves," which is probably the most emotionally impactful cover on the album. As a whole, the album is great for what it is, but it is definitely not for everybody.
Lyrics — 8
Mark Lanegan has always had a unique voice, and with "Imitations" he probably puts it to the most unique usage of his musical career. At times Mark's voice does show his age, but for the most part his vocal performance is commendable. Mark's voice has always excelled at expressing some deep sadness or melancholy and that translates beautifully on these tracks. The lyrical themes of the album are fairly diverse, as they are the original lyrics of tracks from different artists spanning more than half a century.
Overall Impression — 6
This album is one that you have to almost approach like a personal project of Mark Lanegan instead of stacking it against the rest of his solo career. It just doesn't fit, and is definitely a one-off type of thing, but for what it is it is done well. Not everybody is going to want to hear recreations of old Frank Sinatra or Hall & Oates tracks, and not everybody wants to hear Mark Lanegan doing his impersonation of a crooner. I believe that it took some courage for Mark Lanegan to record this album, as it could potentially chase away a few of his fans. With that being said, I enjoyed his covers of "Mack the Knife," "Deepest Shade," "Pretty Colors" and "Autumn Leaves" more than the rest of the album.