Sound — 9
Steven Wilson is a seriously talented dude - and he has his hands in so many projects it is hard to keep up. Steven, for those unfamiliar with his work, is a guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, percussionist, lyricist, vocalist and producer (among other talents). You can barely name the projects/bands he's released albums with using the fingers on both hands, and that isn't counting guest appearances and production credits. Steven Wilson's "Cover Version" is a compilation disc made up of twelve tracks, with 6 of those being cover songs, 5 being original songs, and one, "The Unquiet Grave," is actually an old folk song. Each of the covers have gone through Steven's treatment, coming out the other side as something unique. Steven Wilson's music often has a melancholy touch to it, and that is no different with this album. The twelve tracks on the album have a total runtime of approximately 54 minutes and is being released on Kscope Records.
The vinyl and the digital versions of the album seem to have two different orders for the track list. The vinyl and CD version are double versions with the covers on disc 1 and the originals on disc 2, while the digital album alternates between cover and original. I'll be reviewing the digital version. The album opens up with "Thank You," which is an Alanis Morissette cover and which sounds almost nothing like the original except some similarities in the vocal melody. The main instruments on the track are piano and acoustic guitar. "Moment I Lost" is an original, and is mainly driven by piano for most of the track, but gets lush with layered vocals, acoustic guitars and a trippy lap steel or slide guitar. "The Day Before You Came" is an ABBA cover, which really sounds more like an acoustic Irish ballad to me. It builds ambience with layered vocals creating a vein of creepiness that runs through much of the track. "Please Come Home," an original, is another piano-driven track - with Steven coming in with even higher-pitched vocals than normal. "Please Come Home" has an interesting little meandering solo. "A Forest" is a cover of The Cure, and actually one of my favorite songs by The Cure so I was excited to hear this cover as I had missed the original singles these were released on. The genius of this cover is that it is mixed with the beat and the background droning similar to the original version take the front and center of the track. The vocals seem to come to you on the wind or from another room, which is a great effect for this song. The song gains some serious intensity near the end. "Four Trees Down" is an original, mostly just an acoustic guitar and Steven's voice, giving the song a very intimate feeling. "The Guitar Lesson" is a cover of the song by Momus, and this is definitely one of the most "psychedelic" tracks from the album, using quiet/loud dynamics, some seriously creepy melodies, and some kind of crazy synths. "The Unquiet Grave" is a traditional English folk song, and Steven uses a lot of vocal droning to give this track its own type of vibe. "Sign O' the Times" is a Prince cover, and while it doesn't sound anything like the original I think that Prince would approve of the treatment - it stayed heavy with groove and funk, though it mixed in some electronica elements. "Well You're Wrong" is an original track with an almost carnival-vibe to it, and has Steven Wilson singing a little bit like Prince (seeing as it was originally released with the Prince cover, that may explain that). "Lord of the Reedy River" is a Donovan cover, and Steven definitely stays in the same vein of creating a trippy song from the skeleton of what Donovan created. The album closes out with "An End to End," which is a seriously melancholy and introspective track to me.
Lyrics — 8
Steven has a higher range, vocally, which works well for this album, which is mostly carried by piano and acoustic guitar. Steven utilizes a lot of superb production, which occasionally means layering vocals or applying different types of modulation and effects which help to improve the overall listening experience as he does use these things in good taste. The cover songs' lyrics are, of course, dictated by the original tracks. As a sample of lyrics from some of the originals, here are some from the track, "Well You're Wrong": "Don't wanna see anybody/ don't wanna see anybody but you/ don't wanna see anybody/ don't wanna feel anybody/ don't wanna feel anybody but you/ don't wanna feel anybody/ tell me how does it feel, when you want to be real/ but there's nothing inside/ I wish I could explain/ why the sound of the rain/ brings you into my mind/ whatever you think/ well you're wrong/ don't wanna need anybody/ don't wanna need anybody but you/ don't wanna need anybody/ don't wanna leave anybody/ don't wanna leave anybody but you/ don't wanna leave anybody." Basically, this follows along with what I expect from Steven Wilson - trippy lyrics with a strong melancholy edge to them.
Overall Impression — 8
I can't help but get psyched about anything that Steven Wilson does - he is basically the penultimate DIY-er; or at least that is how he began. He has maintained his creative integrity and always delivers something worth listening to, and this compilation is no exception. The album relies on acoustic guitar for large portions, and also as an added bonus is very un-compressed in a world of over-compressed music. My favorite tracks would have to be the cover of "A Forest," and also the originals "The Moment I Lost" and "Please Come Home." I was also blown away by a few other tracks on the album, such as the vibe created in "The Guitar Lesson," and the droning goodness of "The Unquiet Grave."