Wednesday 5 October 2022

Andy McCoy - Jukebox Junkie (2022)

Country: Finland
Style: Glam Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 5 Aug 2022
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"This is the most colourful album I have ever done," says Andy McCoy, of this covers album, which I believe is his sixth solo effort, if we count a 1996 collaboration with Pete Malmi and the soundtrack to the half-fictional biopic about him, The Real McCoy, in 1999. The beauty of this one is that it's no runthrough of expected choices. I grew up listening to Hanoi Rocks so I know what they sound like and it would be trivial to conjure up a list of glam or rock 'n' roll classics that would be likely to be on the record but we'd be wrong ninety-nine times out of a hundred, as this is a deep dive indeed. In fact, I looked at the track listing and could still only place two songs.

One is China Girl, made famous by David Bowie who co-wrote it, but first released by Iggy Pop, the other co-writer, and it's that version that McCoy's covering here. The other one is Solo in Soho, the title track from Phil Lynott's 1980 solo album, which McCoy sasses up with female vocalisation and saxophone. They're both good versions, but they're not the best here. I'd be hard pressed to state which are, because this is a lively album through which McCoy brings new life to old favourites that he felt should have been hits or, at least, bigger ones than they happened to be. It's his deep joy of music that shines brightest here and it's there throughout.

The opener, I'm Gonna Roll, may be the closest to the Hanoi Rocks sound, but, like the majority of these songs, it was new to me. It was originally recorded by Rock 'n' Roll Band in 1975, but notably recorded by the Leningrad Cowboys in 1992, both bands Finnish like McCoy. It's a rollicking rock 'n' roll song and it's somehow surprising that Hanoi Rocks never covered it back in the day. Much less expected is 54-46 That's My Number, originally recorded by reggae band the Maytals in 1968. It's a song that McCoy keeps in its genre, though the vocals are more raucous.

Just to keep us on the hop, he shifts into pop music with Squeeze's debut single Take Me I'm Yours, from 1978, and then into a modern singer/songwrter style ballad, Miss Tennessee by Katie Noel, easily the most recent of these songs, originally released in 2020 with a featuring credit for Autumn Brooke. While McCoy is on half a dozen of these songs as a vocalist, in addition to slinging his guitar throughout, this isn't one of them. Jamie Hembree and Niki Westerback provide the male and female voices and I'd say they find the sweet spot between the smooth approach we expect from country and the raw one a rock album from Andy McCoy would warrant.

And so it goes, with that diversity in sound a key feature, though everything still plays consistently with the raw and emotional feel that Andy McCoy does so well. His guitar gets a workout on every track and everything seems like something that he'd have a blast playing live in a small club, with a variety of guests joining in for an even more fun time. Most are vocalists, with Sofia Zida maybe most notable for her performances, especially on Back to the Wall, which adds a Stevie Nicks vibe to a song by the Divinyls and a relatively faithful look back at Wanda Jackson.

That's one of the pop songs on offer, as is Hot Night in Texas, a heavier take on Moon Martin's Hot Nite in Dallas. There are rock songs here, of course, that we might know from original versions by people like Ron Wood (I Can Feel the Fire), the Climax Blues Band (I Couldn't Get It Right). There's a punk song, the UK Subs's Countdown, easily the heaviest thing on offer here. And there are even country songs by Juice Newton and the legendary Wanda Jackson, whose number Funnel of Love is the oldest by far, as a 1960 song. Then again, Lemmy loved her music as straight ahead rock 'n' roll and I'm not going to argue with him on that front.

I love covers albums where I don't know the originals, especially when they're deep cuts as joyous as these or those on Monster Magnet's A Better Dystopia last year. I love really unlikely ones too, such as Danzig Sings Elvis and the Die Krupps take on pop in Songs from the Dark Side of Heaven. It's the expected material that leaves me blah because my brain knows how those songs go and doing justice to them in a different fashion means something special, like Johnny Cash covering Hurt or Tori Amos taking on Raining Blood.

This is my sort of covers album, at once a glorious discovery of tracks I didn't know anything about, interpreted by someone who truly cares about them, and a new album of what appears to be new material by an artist I enjoy, because I don't have any of those reference points to stain it. And so, Andy, I hear that you narrowed this playlist down from a set of sixty or so. What else was on there and are you going to record any of them? Inquiring minds want to know.

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