KELLEY STOLTZ - Crockodials

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UK only.

I noticed on Amazon that Kelley Stoltz recommends as a favorite album Echo & The Bunnymen's "Porcupine." I'd love to hear him interpret that LP as well as he's done what's "based upon" Echo's 1980 debut here. Tribute albums run the risk (as at times with his fellow San Franciscans Doug Beatty & Carolyn Hilsinger's similarly ambitious take on Eno's "Taking Tiger Mountain") of sounding too much like the original, leaving you as with many cover versions wondering why the artist carbon copies the original; on the other hand, of course, the willfully iconoclastic remakes of LPs--often as tribute collections by various bands, one of those early '90s rock fads-- may leave you nonplussed at the mediocrity of many of the remakes/remodels.

"Crock-o-dials" can be found only as an English import, but it's well worth it. My 15-year-old son liked it as much as I did, an Echo fan from the start. He noticed, knowing nothing about Stoltz, his integration of glam styles and early-'70s textures while I'd have expected more of a Doors influence that the original band worked with and also revamped (improving on the Doors themselves, I'd say). Stoltz, on an 8-track the last week of 2001, gets down the feel of demo tapes that Echo might have made; the sound's both rawer than the wonderfully rich Echo studio recordings and viscerally true to the neo-psychedelic aggression that the post-punks recovered from their love of the '60s era combined with the tension in late '70s British punk and earlier garage "Nuggets" distortion.

As the album moves on, it wanders into more of a spaghetti-Western guitar twang and reverb that considers Wil Sergeant's attack in an intelligent manner. Stoltz manages to pay homage to Sergeant, for me one of the overlooked talents of the six strings in the past thirty years, while stamping his own feel on the music. No mean feat when he channels Ian McCulloch's somber yet playful delivery extremely well, more inhabiting the singer as an actor immerses himself in a role than mere mimicry. Stoltz also keeps the Les Pattinson steady bass and Pete DeFreitas persistent drumming pushing the singing and chording along.

Finally, Stoltz improves upon some of the originals, which had been for me weaker tracks when done by Echo, heresy though that may be to admit. "Do It" turns more messy, the too-often-heard "Rescue" also unwinds into a looser beat, and "Read It in Books" by a sterner vocal turns more world-weary. This album grows with each listen. I've only heard samples on Amazon of his other LPs, but this curio's sparked my interest in his own recordings.