I’ve always liked Mandy Moore. Despite her disastrous debut album, I’ve always been somewhat interested in Moore’s career. Admittedly, I’m a bigger fan of her acting choices than her music, but I decided to take a chance recently and buy her fourth album, Coverage (released in 2003).
It must be said that technically, Moore does not have a great voice. However, she is a great singer. Which means that while she can’t perform the same vocal runs that contemporaries like Christina Aguilera or Beyonce can (though their vocal styling tends to annoy me sometimes anyway), Moore knows how to work with what she has. She has a very pure voice, and a lovely tone that’s always pleasant to listen to, and she seems to have figured this out right in time for Coverage.
The album is a collection of covers of classic music from the 70’s and 80’s. Though the disc wasn’t very successful commercially, it’s easy to say that it’s Moore’s best release to date. Producer John Fields and Moore worked together to create an album of covers that doesn’t feel like karaoke and instead has a genuine pop/folk sound that works very well for Moore.
The album begins with Senses Working Overtime, which was originally sung by British pop band, XTC. Acoustic guitar and heavy drums accompany Moore’s vocals, and the song has an upbeat and fun feeling to it that makes for a great start to the album. The Whole Of The Moon follows (from another British rock band, The Waterboys) and brings the tempo down a bit. Still, the song is another good track; Moore’s vocals are nicely highlighted and the addition of saxophones and trumpets during the choruses is especially nice.
Moore’s reworking of the Todd Rundgren classic, Can We Still Be Friends is one of the albums stand outs. The mid-tempo melody sets a lazy and somewhat sultry mood for the song, and Moore sounds great as she sings to an ex,”Let’s admit we made a mistake, but can we still be friends?” The harmonizing of Moore and the backing vocalists throughout the song is also quite nice, and this track has become a favorite of mine already.
Carol King’s classic, I Feel The Earth Move is up next, and is truthfully, nothing remarkable. Moore’s version doesn’t add anything fresh to the original, and I think I’ve seen this same performance on an episode of American Idol. However, Moore saves herself once Elton John’s song, Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters appears. Again, she doesn’t stray far from the original, but the result is better, and the song has a bluesy feeling that works really well.
Suddenly, the album takes a bit of a dive with Drop The Pilot. The song was originally done by Joan Armatrading in 1983, and I honestly think it should’ve been left there. Nonsensical lyrics (“Drop the pilot/Try my balloon/Drop the monkey/Smell my perfume/Drop the mahout/I’m the easy rider/Don’t use your army/To fight a losing battle”) and cheesy synthesizers fit in fine in the early 80’s, but Moore should’ve strayed away from this song. The same could be said of Moore’s reworking of Cat Stevens’ song, Moonshadow. The melody is slowed down significantly from the original, and the result is a boring blend of Moore’s vocals and acoustic guitar. Even when the tempo picks up towards the end, the song is still pretty blah. It’s glaringly obvious that Stevens’ version is much better. One Way Or Another is the corniest I’ve ever heard it, with the only exception being the version created for the Rugrats movie. I’ve admittedly never been a big fan of the Blondie song, but Moore’s version is filled with busy backing music and synthesized vocals, which makes the song even worse.
Things get much better with Breaking Us In Two. The Joe Jackson song is a delight; Moore sounds lovely during the mid-tempo number, and the saxophone solo towards the middle of the song is extremely classy, making the song another favorite. The Carly Simon hit, Anticipation is present, and is another great track (Coincidently, Simon wrote the song about waiting to go on a date with another of the artists Moore covered on the album- Cat Stevens). Again, Moore doesn’t move far from the original, but her reworking is still fresh and delightful to listen to.
The album comes to a close with a Joni Mitchell song and a John Hiatt classic. The first of the two is Help Me, a light song about falling in love with someone who can’t reciprocate the feelings (“Help me/I think I’m falling/In love again/When I get that crazy feeling, I know/I’m in trouble again/I’m in trouble/’Cause you’re a rambler and a gambler/And a sweet-talking-ladies man/And you love your lovin’/But not like you love your freedom”). Moore’s vocals are sweet and airy, and the song as a whole is quite charming. Have A Little Faith In Me lacks the soul that Joe Cocker’s version had, but Moore’s rendition is still quite nice. Her vocals are a bit stronger this time around, but it’s really the acoustic guitars and the breakdown towards the end that make the song.
Though Mandy Moore hasn’t seen a very successful music career in the recent years, Coverage is still a very good album. Moore did a great job of picking songs that are well suited for her styling and her voice, and while she doesn’t “top” the original artists with most of the songs on the album, she does offer a fresh interpretation of them, and the result is a collection of well done songs.
1. Senses Working Overtime
2. The Whole Of The Moon
3. Can We Still Be Friends
4. I Feel The Earth Move
5. Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters
6. Drop The Pilot
8. One Way Or Another
9. Breaking Us In Two
11. Help Me
12. Have A Little Faith In Me