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MORRISSEY California Son gets 5/10


Morrissey

California Son
BMG

5/10

Morrissey returns with California Son: a collection of 12 cover versions. The record takes the listener on a curious trip through the contrarian singer’s eclectic musical tastes. Given the majority of the tracks are originally from the mid-60s to mid-70s, these tracks provide an insight into the music that has thus far shaped the singer’s musical career.

The first single, It’s Over (Roy Orbison), is delivered in a bold grandness, with Phil Spector-esque production and Morrissey’s vocals soaring, it could easily find a home on an all-time classics hour on AM radio. Opener Morning Starship (Jobriath) is also a solid step, drawing from Morrissey’s confident gay swagger – his vocals are spritely and combine with the band’s muscular pull on the glam rock fuse perfectly.

The second track, Don’t Interrupt the Slow (Joni Mitchell), however, is delivered with less aplomb and drops us right into a languid vapidness. Add its pesuedo-Celtic synths and guitar riffs, topped with a sax solo in the break weakening the track’s political lyrics, and the band’s entry into adult contemporary lounge is not for the best. Morrissey’s duet with Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong on Wedding Bell Blues (Laura Nyro) is also a mixed affair. The swinging pop of the original is lost in translation and they pair end up sounding more 50s doo-wop without a solid groove.

The Jerry Fuller penned Lady Willpower retains the 60s-band vibe of the original with its horn flourishes, fuzzed guitar lead and driving drum track. Suffer The Little Children is a well-thought out take on the 12-bar blues original featuring sparse instrumentation and a hand-clap only rhythm section, while Days of Decision (Phil Ochs) is beautifully orchestrated.

Ultimately, the record is a mixed bag of tracks and thus the result is inconsistent; some of the tracks we could have easily lived the rest of our lives without hearing. But others are genuinely enjoyable and a great gateway to exploring those artists more. If nothing else, this album serves as an insight into Morrissey’s current, nostalgic state of mind.

MICHAEL D HOLLICK

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