Through The Wilderness of a) long time no post and b) a Madonna tribute album

Boy oh boy, it’s been what? 12 days since I last posted? I feel terribly sorry. Alien month was fun and really had me posting on a regular basis, once that pressure was gone…. well and life and all, plus now I’ve got a cold, whiny whine…who even cares?

So, let’s get back to some more regularity and start with some good old reviewing of music. And today we go Madonna! Whoa, kids, calm down. It is only my humble review of a tribute album with the wonderful title “Through the Wilderness – A Tribute to Madonna” which I can only recommend, cause it is really good. Believe me, I could go so much harder on your asses in terms of Madonna, you’d be thankful if you knew…

via amazon.com

The album was released in 2007 by Manimal Vinyl Records (though it unfortunately was never released as a vinyl, though promised), and 25% of all earnings are donated to Raising Malawi the foundation that Madonna herself set up in order to help people in need in Malawi.
I’m gonna talk a little about the cover-versions I really liked on the album and group together all those I rather didn’t, to save up space and nerves.

Jonathan Wilson – La Isla Bonita
Listening to this version of La Isla Bonita I always end up thinking: “this is where I long to be.” Haha, no, what I really think is that this is actually what the song probably always was meant to be, this sort of melancholic, road-movie-esque piece. It’s sad and it’s sweet and it still is La Isla Bonita, surprisingly.

Golden Animals – Beautiful Stranger Blues
One of the biggest surprises on the whole album for me. Now, covering a “recent” Madonna song (meaning non-80s) is a big plus for me, and on top of that Beautiful Stranger is kind of a really cool Madonna song. Now this version is super-different, but keeps the level of overall awesomeness. It’s fun and it doesn’t stick 100 percent to what the original does and says, but in all the good ways and what we get is a song that could also not be a Madonna-cover, but somehow is, and it’s all the more awesome.

Giant Drag – Oh Father
Gem-time! Oh Father in the original is a beautiful song, but Giant Drag is taking it, making it her own and taking it to new heights. Love the fragility of her voice, love the drama, love how much more grounded in reality it all of a sudden sounds. Like a huge art-film-drama taking place inside a motel room, strictly dealing with overcoming the shattered relationship with her dad. Precious!

The Tyde – Hung Up
Hung Up is one of only two non-80s songs on the album and just as the other one, this cover rocks! Hung Up is a very recent Madonna single, but also one that has become very iconic for her very quickly and it is nice to hear that other folksy take on it. It works surprisingly well as an acoustic piece and while Madonna has tried to make it more of a rock song on her recent tours, she kinda failed, while this version most certainly does not. Thumbs up! Makes me wish the artists featured would have been a little more courageous and covered other more recent material rather than the 80s classics.

Alexandra Hope – Lucky Star
Let’s face it: Lucky Star is one helluva song. And this version does not diminish that fact. It’s stripped down, playing more with the naiveté of the lyrics, but it works so well. It is very beautiful, and while I don’t think it outshines (haha) the original version, it is a very nice take on it.

The Chapin Sisters – Borderline
While the original Borderline is an ok song for me, this version blows it out of the water. Seriously, three sisters going all choir on it is about the best thing that could have ever happened to that song. Plus, the Chapin Sisters are super-worth checking out, their cover-version of Britney’s Toxic is equally fantastic. I sorta wish they would have done a whole Madonna cover album by themselves.

Apollo Heights – Dress You Up
Dress You Up is a terrific song, and this trippy version of it is absolutely amazing. I love how it takes me into that kind of drunken-stupor melancholy and leaves me at an emotional place that makes me feel like I am so much more in touch with the rest of humanity while I am at the same time feeling even more secluded. Does that even make sense? I think it is a wonderful cover, doing what any good cover should do.

The Prayers – Cherish
Love the Beach Boys take on this iconic Madonna song. It’s fresh and yet strangely old-school, adding another layer of Bripop-esque don’t-give-a-fuck-tude on a song that is all light-hearted joy and surfer-dudes dancing around a bonfire.

Lavender Diamond – Like a Prayer
The problem with this song is that it is a cover, but not a really awesome one. It’s nicely done, and sounds good, but is way too close to the original version. And that means that I will compare it to the original version and sorry dear Lavender Diamond, but Madonna’s Like a Prayer is so much better in its pop-perfection that yours is but a mere cover. And since we’ve witnessed stellar ones on the album it is kind of sad to see what happens when artists are too literal with the original versions.

And now for those that get no major love from me:
Jeremy Jay – Into the Groove
Tough ground, I’m not a fan of the original Into the Groove, and unfortunately, this version does not convert me to one.
Winter Flowers – Live to Tell
The original Live to Tell is a beautiful song, but much of its impact stems from the fact that it’s the hurt female singing solo about it. The group-choir-y folksy version of that just doesn’t pack the same emotional punch.
Mountain Party – Material Girl
It is the effin’ Material Girl, so if you cover it, there needs to be some ironic distance, right? And I see, dear Mountain Party, you’re trying, but just not hard enough for my taste.
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffitti – Everybody
I know a few people who love Ariel Pink, but sorriez, this does not convert me. Too close to the original, which is not that mind-blowing after all either.
Lion of Panjshir – Crazy for You
Kinda blah, kinda ok. Doesn’t really convince me of the need to cover songs. Too much pseudo-drama I guess.
Bubonic Plague – Who’s that Girl?
This does absolutely nothing for me. Sorry, but it sounds like the worst attempt at a remix/youtube-cover ever, and I wonder: they could not find anything better?

Geez, Alex, you say, why do you even review it if you dislike so much on it? Well, I love at least 8 songs on it, so hey! Plus not only good stuff is review-worthy, so there. All in all, I totally recommend checking the album out. I guess you kinda have to have a thing for Madonna to really get into it, but let’s just admit it to ourselves, some of her songs are just very well written, so it is very interesting to see what other people do with the basic premises and create out of them.

Go get it, sez I.

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One thought on “Through The Wilderness of a) long time no post and b) a Madonna tribute album

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