PUDDLE OF MUDD – re(disc)overed

Since Puddle of Mudd began life as a bunch of post-grunge Nirvana wannabes with a strong connection to Fred Durst, the idea of them recording a covers album made up of (mostly) seventies rock classics is a little baffling.  However, that’s precisely the path they’ve chosen for their 2011 release ‘re(disc)overed’.

The idea that Puddle of Mudd could even attempt to record a creditable version of Free’s ‘All Right Now’ is a very odd one indeed, given that the original is something of a classic rock sacred cow.  Yet somehow, they manage to record version of this timeless classic which is surprisingly enjoyable in its own way.  This is largely down to Paul Phillips’s abilities as a guitarist, and his tones on ‘All Right Now’ mimick Paul Kossoff as best as he is able.  Even Doug Ardito’s bass playing maintains the presence of Andy Fraser’s take on the original cut, so that too, really should be applauded.  Naturally, Wes Scantlin is no Paul Rodgers so it falls down a little (ie: a lot) in the vocal department.  However, it works well enough all things considered.  Likewise, a sturdy run through of The James Gang’s ‘Funk #49’ has moments of great playing from Phillips, who really seems to get the most out of its bluesy tones.  Steve Miller’s ‘The Joker’ comes with a well crafted arrangement – as close to the original as POM can muster – where Phillips has some great fun on the slide guitar, and Scantlin’s nasal vocals occasionally give this well known number a slightly country vibe, particularly on the chorus.  It’s never going to match the original for most people, but it’s respectful enough.

Scantlin’s nasal approach is a little unsubtle with regard to Bad Company’s ‘Shooting Star’, but he does the best he can, especially since it doesn’t completely suit him.  As before, though, it’s the rest of the band which really hits the mark.  Shannon Boone’s drumming is incredibly solid throughout, and Phillips’s electric guitars have plenty of presence, but it’s the mandolins and acoustics which prove the most effective ingredient.  The featured solos have plenty of gusto (perhaps even a little too much) and the addition of female backing vocals and an old organ give the end of the song a fairly rousing send off.  One of the disc’s lesser known tunes, ‘Everybody Wants You’ (originally by Billy Squier) is a decent-ish rock tune, and although POM play it a little harder all round, it doesn’t really lose much in translation.  Squier’s limited vocal range also means that this is also one of Scantlin’s better efforts.

Perhaps best of all is a spot on take of Tom Petty’s ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around’.  The arrangement is almost identical to the original, perhaps a little tougher, thus suiting the slightly rootsy end of Paul Phillips’s playing.  Obviously it doesn’t really challenge Scantlin in the vocal stakes either.  His range handles Petty’s words admirably, but once BC Jean challenges him with her take on Stevie Nicks’s counter vocal, he appears a little out of his depth.  BC absolutely nails the Nicks part, and although she doesn’t possess the same degree of wobble in her voice, she definitely has the presence to make the track work very well indeed.

Led Zeppelin’s ‘D’Yer’Mak’er’ doesn’t come off anywhere near as well.  The drums lack John Bonham’s power and the cod-reggae which the mighty Zep just about made enjoyable comes across here as weak.  The guitar parts are okay, though nothing special, but Wes Scantlin’s voice really struggles throughout.  Robert Plant was able to lend the original a bit of style, but Scantlin rasps and drawls his way through a very painful four minutes.  For all of its awfulness, though, that doesn’t grate as much as the version of Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man’.  Piano – check.  Swirling strings – check.  Choir of backing vocals – check.  Wes Scantlin’s vocal no better than a grungy dirge – check.   There aren’t enough words to describe how misguided this cover version is.  Trust me when I say that once you’ve heard it, it can never be unheard.  And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time before you ever choose to listen to it again.

Elsewhere, POM tackle the Stones ‘Gimme Shelter’ like any number of pub bands, AC/DC’s ‘TNT’ with a reasonable amount of gusto but none of Bon Scott’s cheeky charm, and absolutely drag Neil Young’s ‘Old Man’ through the pain barrier.  You never want to hear their version of that ‘Harvest’ classic…you really don’t. As with ‘All Right Now’, Phillips’s guitar work is commendable, but once Neil Young’s distinctive, fragile whine has been replaced by a Kurt Cobain-esque drawl, the magic is lost. A selection of female backing vocals help the chorus, but it’s just not enough.

It has a couple of high spots, but overall, ‘re(disc)overed’ is a very average disc, only of interest to hardcore Puddle of Mudd fans.  Still, if this makes a few of those fans check out a Free, Bad Company or Steve Miller album, at least it’s not been an entirely pointless exercise.

August 2011