Friday, 14 October 2011

Little Roy - Battle For Seattle - Review

The 20th anniversary of Nirvana's 'Nevermind' has seen the album revisited and celebrated in many quarters. However instead of investing in that remastered deluxe version of the album, some people might prefer to celebrate Kurt Cobain's legacy in a different way: by purchasing a record like this which casts ten Nirvana classics in a completely different light, reinventing each one as laid back reggae treasures. Rather than just cover 'Nevermind' from start to finish, Little Roy has drawn from various tracks featured on the other releases as well.

The murky downbeat howl of 'Dive' is recast as a prime time slice of roots, complete with surprisingly suitable trumpets and an excellent vocal making it an undoubted album highlight. It even matches the original from 1989's 'Bleach' in terms of quality, but obviously in a completely different way. Same goes for the sunny ska makeover given to 'Lithium' which closes the album , it's a fine example of a clever and accomplished cover and as far as covers go it's perfect. The two tracks that bookend the record are the strongest here, but everything that comes in between either works or doesn't. The hysterical thud of 'In Utero''s 'Very Ape' is superbly reinvented as a near relative of 'Ghost Town' by The Specials with its creepy organ and brilliant percussion. The trombone solo during the awesome reworking of 'Come As You Are' is most satisfying and provides a nice touch to another album highlight. A dubby 'On A Plain' is also well worth buying this record for. Also given a pleasing dub dressing is 'Son Of A Gun', which has a most relaxing effect.

The adequate renditions of 'Polly' and 'About A Girl' are OK, they work well enough but don't really hit the heights of the five best moments here, and just tend to follow the general formula of the project. 'Sliver' certainly doesn't work that well, clearly not a song suited to the Jamaican flavoured treatment it's given here. Neither is 'Heart Shaped Box', which sounds awkward and perhaps a step too far. Perhaps as a four or five track EP, 'Battle For Seattle' would have been an all time classic. However Little Roy's determination to create an entire album's worth of these covers after only just having heard Nirvana for the first time is admirable, and his ability to completely transform these songs is impressive. Plus the fact that Kurt Cobain's music can be reinterpreted so successfully through the channels of a completely different genre and musical culture is testament to how strong his songwriting was.

As far as cover albums go this one isn't a complete triumph, but that's only because of a few frustrating filler tracks. Those weak moments aside, this record will do just fine for anyone who likes both reggae music and Nirvana. 7.5

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