THE BEAU BRUMMELS: BEAU BRUMMELS '66 (1966)
1) You've Got To Hide Your Love Away; 2) Mr. Tambourine Man; 3) Louie Louie; 4) Homeward Bound; 5) These Boots Are Made For Walkin'; 6) Yesterday; 7) Monday Monday; 8) Bang Bang; 9) Hang On Sloopy; 10) Play With Fire; 11) Woman; 12) Mrs. Brown, You've Got A Lovely Daughter.
In a blazingly inane move of complete incompetence, Warner Bros., under whose wing the Brummels found themselves with their old record label, Autumn, in early 1966, demanded that the band stop producing original material and release an entire album of covers instead. Apparently, the thinking process behind it went like this: «This band is not producing any big hits — maybe they suck at writing songs — but they have a lovely style of playing — maybe they can fare better covering other people's material — after all, some of our biggest hits are covers». That the issue was essentially out of the band's hands is made evident by the fact that they were recording original material — some of it resurfaced later on archival compilations — but had to put it down in order to make way for...
...you know, one curious thing that I realize from time to time is that, even though ʽYesterdayʼ is supposed to be the most frequently covered pop song of all time, I don't seem to have any covers of it in my not-too-small collection, except for maybe the Ray Charles version. Of course, this does not say so much about the song as it does about the average type of artist covering it. But this already does not bode well for the Beau Brummels. You're risking quite a lot if you decide to cover ʽYesterdayʼ — simply because the very act may land you in a category to which you wouldn't really want to belong.
Anyway, if there is one thing that Beau Brummels '66 proves to us, it is that they had a pretty good reason to stay away from covers on their first two LPs: as a cover band, the Beau Brummels are a completely, utterly incompetent bunch. Half of these songs are incompetently chosen, and the other half incompetently performed — to the point of sounding like clumsy high school parodies on the artists. It could have been better if the band tried faithfully sticking to the original arrangements; in keeping with the times, they decided to «brummelize» them, and the results are almost uniformly disastrous.
Chief culprit here is Sal Valentino, who thought it would benefit the recordings if he kept straying away from the melody, changing notes in mid-air, adding extra vocalization, and throwing in all sorts of annoying mannerisms. What's up with all the "eveyyy-wheey people stayyyy" and "yes, and I hear them say" stuff on ʽYou've Got To Hide Your Love Awayʼ? With the "why don't you play a song for me" and the "I'd like to go far, far from the twisted reach..." on ʽMr. Tambourine Manʼ? Why is Simon's ʽHomeward Boundʼ, a song that should really be performed at barely-audible level to reveal its full potential, sung with the flamboyance of a Tom Jones? Why do they think that the last verse of the Stones' ʽPlay With Fireʼ should rise from the quiet menace of "now you've got some diamonds..." to the ugly barking threat of "...or start living with your mother?" There was a good reason why Mick Jagger never did that, even though the thought might have visited him — there is no good reason to dump the subtlety here.
But the band's musical decisions are not that far advanced, either. Extending the Beatles' songs with extra repeated verses and additional solos — including a solo on ʽYesterdayʼ — seems cheap (for that matter, completely instrumental versions of these songs might have been a better move). The decision to do ʽLouie Louieʼ, a lonesome garage rocker among a sea of folk-pop, is extremely strange — the Brummels were never a rock'n'roll band, unless, of course, they actually wanted to prove this by covering the song. They fare a little better with their moody R'n'B arrangement of Nancy Sinatra's ʽBootsʼ — the combo of melancholic jangly guitar, fuzz bass, oddly placed chimes, and sneering kill-it-kid vocal delivery adds some serious spice, but it's also quite telling that the only song in this batch that somehow stands competition with the original is a cover of Nancy Sinatra.
«Embarrassing» choices, other than the Beatles songs and ʽLouie Louieʼ, include ʽMr. Tambourine Manʼ (which can only remind us of the time when the Byrds came into existence and blew the Brummels off the stage), and ʽMonday Mondayʼ — actually, a decent arrangement, but the choice, all by itself, places the Brummels on the «oldies» shelf, since The Mamas & Papas themselves pretty much owed their existence to the BBs, and now here they are basically acknowledging that somebody already outdid them at their own game.
All in all, this is one of the most inane cover albums of the decade — worth a curious peek, perhaps, as a reminder that even a bunch of absolutely great tunes may be easily spoiled with wrong attitudes and poor translation from one artist's language to another's. And although the Brummels would recoil from this artistic disaster, and get their act together the following year, the damage was done: it struck one further blow at their reputation, tougher and meaner than all the previous ones. Completely justified at the time, alas. Thumbs down.