‘The Taste Of’ sees former Bluetone Mark Morriss offer up a selection of cover versions, lovingly curated and infused with new life and purpose so that the listening audience can absorb and admire how an artist’s work, when understood and respected can be elevated by the touch of another.
At least this is what I was hoping for before I embarked on what turned out to be an at times enjoyable but ultimately uninspiring journey through this record. That is not to say there are no positives to be taken from Morriss’ third solo album.
The opening trackis evidence that he maintains a sense of humour in his music that was such an integral part of The Bluetone’s appeal. This Pullover is a faux calypso ballad originally performed by Jess Conrad that has regularly been voted in the top ten worst songs of all time. Morris embraces the undeniably naff lyric with tongue firmly in cheek. However, having this at the top of the track list is unfortunately the bravest decision that was taken when creating this album.
Where track one is a play on a famously bad song, track two – a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s Rock and Roll Woman – makes little attempt to depart, let alone build on the original. The same is true of Laura Branigan’s Self Control and Duchess, taken from Scott Walker’s landmark release Scott 4. Where the original is infected with a yearning laziness and melodrama, Morriss’ version simply cannot live up to it in either vocal performance or production.
On the other hand OMD’s Souvenir is delivered with a sincerity of vocal and a smart arrangement replacing synth lines with glockenspiel. He manages to embrace the distant forlorn of the original and transport it from the lament of a lonely drive to the solace of a warm duvet. It is a highlight.
By track seven – first single release Lucretia (My Reflection) – interest is waning. But this one is a winner. Where the 80s classic is all industrial dystopia and brash aggression this version is underpinned by a sense of unease and foreboding somehow reminiscent of The Exorcist theme song. This more subtle approach is a revelation and an all too brief flash of the heights this LP could achieve.
Another that hits the mark is Don’t Let Go. It sees Morriss take a one dimensional, uncharacteristically flat Weezer song and inject it with a sense of urgency and a light-heartedness that although hinted at is sorely lacking from the original.
Large parts of the remainder are easily forgettable. Versions of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Almost Gold, the Pet Shop Boys Love Comes Quickly and REM’s Good Advices are too similar to the originals to significantly add or subtract to the project whilst Madonna’s Angel is best skipped.
It is difficult to judge such an album other than by comparing the songs to their originals, Mark Morriss has the ability to write solid pop songs infected with a self-deprecation and humour that is always welcome amongst the monster egos of the music world.
The album promises “an intimate insight into the singer’s eclectic musical tastes, giving listeners an insight into the mind of one of Britain’s finest songwriters.” It certainly provides an overview of Morriss’ taste and is a good listen if you like the source material, but apart from fleetingly, that’s where it ends.
It is hard to decipher whether this album displays a misplaced over-confidence in his ability to up-cycle existing material or a severe lack of confidence in his own worth as a songwriter. The real question is not ‘how good?’ but ‘how come?’
‘The Taste Of’ is out on the 31st July 2015 on Acid Jazz Records. The full track-listing for the album is…