Both Paul Anka and Pat Boone have taken liberties with hard rock music by putting these electric guitar-centric songs, and transforming them into swinging, big band recordings. Both men are also crooners, for lack of a better term, even though Anka is also a respected songwriter and Boone considered himself a “rocker” at one time, even though he certainly didn’t rock by any true measurable rock & roll standard.
However, it’s not certain we’ve heard classic rock given the kind of sonic makeover with which Barbara Lusch has bedded these nine popular songs. ‘Lusch’ is the perfect last name for this vocalist because she sings all these formerly relatively noisy songs with a patient, thoughtful and pretty voice.
Some of these songs work better than others. For instance, the jazzy Spanish guitar that supports the meditative “Sweet Child Of Mine” is a nice new approach to one of Guns N’ Roses’ gentler musical moments. Where this collection falls short begins with “Hot Blooded.” This Foreigner song is an unbridled statement of uninhibited lust. You simply cannot take a soft approach to such feelings. The same goes for Duran Duran’s “Hungry like the Wolf.” Once again, this is a lust-filled song that uses the animalistic analogy of a wolf on the prowl to describe an unstoppable passion for sexuality. To slow it down and sing its words in measured tones robs it of its power. Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” which is jazzed up with tinkling piano and muted trumpet, just falls flat for anybody that fondly remembers the original. This, after all, was a Trevor Horn production that somehow took all the 80s sonic excesses and turned them into one of the most arresting singles of that era. Sure, the lyric wasn’t all that deep. But words didn’t really matter because the track simple blasted out of the speakers. In an era when flash was in, this song outshined nearly all of them. Lastly, how can you hear “Dancing with Myself” without also visualizing Billy Idol punch the air? People may dance alone at a disco, but they won’t slow dance alone, as this song advises within this context.
The above examples highlight the necessary point that rhythm is just as essential as melody and lyrics. It’s for the same reason we hear much of the same styled music during, say, chase scenes in movies. The fast-paced sounds match the fast-paced action on the screen. Similarly, the writers of these songs chose music to match their emotions. Yes, there are instances where slowing down a tune can bring out newfound subtleties in certain songs, but the aforementioned songs are not good choices for such reengineering.
With all that said, Lusch is nevertheless a fantastic singer. And given more appropriate material to perform, she is almost certainly a pleasure to hear. However, even with her likely good intentions, Lusch comes off as pop singers did in the 60s when they sometimes tried to cover, say, Doors and Beatles songs in their own personal styles. They many times sounded like old folks trying to prove they sincerely understood where the kids were coming from. And they may have sincerely understand them; their musical explanations just didn’t prove their points all that well.
If you weren’t already familiar with these songs, you’d probably like this album pretty well. Lusch is a first string singer and she is oh so easy on the ears, from start to finish. If we could hear her take on the songs of today’s gentler artists, such as Bon Iver, such an experiment could likely be amazing. Somebody needs to help Lusch get hip to the quieter alternative artists out there now. Then the rock would truly be sweet.