Remakes, Reinventions & Reinterpretations
It’s always pleasant to imagine two musical giants teaming up and changing the world together. Unfortunately, history has been both horrible (i.e. Dylan & The Dead) and brilliant (i.e. Billy Bragg & Wilco’s Mermaid Avenue) for this idea. Tortoise & Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s all covers album, The Brave and the Bold plays like a conversation piece for elitist music lovers everywhere. This is mainly because of the song selection. This isnâ€šÃ„Ã´t to say that the music is not interesting, but it works where theyâ€šÃ„Ã´re faithful to the original. However, their re-imagination of Springsteen’s once rebellious road anthem, “Thunder Road,” is so stripped back that it feels like an ominous, crushing defeat. Springsteenâ€šÃ„Ã´s is one of those songs that’s a classic for a reason. A more faithful interpretation of “Daniel,” originally by Elton John, is the best example of both Tortoise’s fierce experimentalism and Billy’s sparseness and scratchy voice. This ably brings a new sense of melancholy loss to the 70’s pop staple. “It’s Expected I’m Gone” exchanges the Minutemen’s unique, post-hardcore edge for chainsaw guitar work.
Apart from “Thunder Road” and “Daniel” it’s possible that most listeners may not be familiar with the originators of this material. To the album’s credit, unique introductions to these artists and songs are provided. However, proper appreciation for both Tortoise and Billy’s work can’t occur here without familiarity to the originals.
In the end, Tortoise and Bonnie “Prince” Billy brought their A-game for the interesting, sometimes entertaining The Brave and the Bold. Although some of the songs didn’t need the reinvention, others are re-introduced to a world that mightâ€šÃ„Ã´ve forgotten their influence. Such is the success of this album.