XTINA & MISSSY'S DISCO WASH… Three years after they made sweet marmalade together, Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliott are back. This time, they'll cover the disco great "Car Wash." Of course, Elliott was mostly behind the scenes last time, on the all-star remake of the Labelle disco hit "Lady Marmalade," as featured on the "Moulin Rouge" soundtrack. This time out, Aguilera and Elliott have freed their ladies Pink, Lil' Kim and Maya to remake, just the two of them, one-hit-wonder Rose Royce's 1977 No. 1 hit for the animated film Shark Tale. Based on an early preview, the remake doesn't sound very promising. Aguilera plows her vocal vehicle throw the wash, stripping it of much camp value and then polishing it with too much earnest wax. Who taught Aguilera to buff and shine?
Other covers will appear on the soundtrack, due Sept. 28, a couple days before the movie, including Mary J. Blige, covering the soaring "To Be Real" disco classic, originally sung by Cheryl Lynn; and Ziggy Marley and Sean Paul, collaborating on a cover of Ziggy's father Bob's "3 Little Birds"…
WILL & GRACE & CARLY, TOO… A cover or two will also factor in another soundtrack set for an upcoming release. But the main focus of Will & Grace: Let the Music Out! will be on the stars, both regulars and guests, of NBC's most-popular sitcom. Eric McCormack, who plays Will, joins Barry Manilow on the song "Living with Grace," which in fact was co-written by McCormack and Manilow for the compilation. Megan Mullally will team with Carly Simon on Simon's past hit "The Right Thing to Do." Sean Hayes and Debra Messing will be featured with the other two on "He's Hot!," a specially prepared club mix of memorable lines taken from the show. And then there are songs from notable guest stars, including Cher ("Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves"), Elton John ("The Bitch is Back") and Jennifer Lopez ("Waiting for Tonight"). Madonna appears to be a no-show, however. The press release touts a "special edition" of "Footloose," recorded by "the Bacon Brothers." (Kevin, is that you?) The compilation will be in stores September 14, two days before the seventh season premiere of the show…
COVER ME, SMOTHER ME… As you'll notice, we're smothered in covers right now. Of the worst kind: tepid patchworks of songs from the ‘80s. They mar several recent dance compilations. The practice for years has been DJ Julian Marsh's stock in spin, and now his m.o. seems to be spreading across Centaur Records' ever-growing circuit DJ roster. Obviously there's a market for this. Marsh's Pride 04 is his first such compilation in several years that's at least tolerable -- at least its first half -- but it's still a bit much to take, with hardly any thought given to actually mixing tracks, and as little thought given to the tracks themselves, more than half of which are uninspiring covers of decades-old hits. This includes White Spaces featuring Jim Kerr's "Alive & Kickin." It's a strange piece of work, a nearly note-for-note, beat-for-beat reworking -- complete with unfortunate, showy electric guitar -- of the appealing Simple Minds' hit of yore, sung by former Minds lead singer Kerr. Not quite a cover then, but certainly not the original. And why not the original, if that's all you got?
Centaur's GayDays 2004 compilation, mixed by new Centaurian Randy Bettis, is better, in no small part because Bettis doesn't overdo the cover craze. I'd venture to guess that, as the newbie, he was asked to include a couple covers. To one-up that request, he ingeniously includes a couple unobjectionable covers of songs made popular by giants like Donna Summer and Elton John. Then, a song or two later, he adds recently released songs from those same artists, which sound better.
And then there's David Knapp's Soakin' Wet. It's the best compilation I can remember from veteran DJ Knapp, and that's saying something: Knapp is an always-reliable compilation mixer. He features one newly christened Billboard Club Play Top 10 hit after another -- notably Debby Holiday's "Drive" and Jahkey B's "Heart Attack." But just when you're ready to proclaim it the best compilation from Centaur so far in 2004, and maybe even one of the best from any label this year, Knapp somersaults right out of bounds, ending his set with not one but two awful covers. The worst is "Chains of Love." That Erasure hit, in true fashion, was dramatically over the top, and every cover of it should be over the top. But not Up With People over the top. Few songs should be Up With People over the top. Liquid 360 is so happy, singing what should be a last-gasp tribute to dying love, that they don't even seem to sense the weight of the lyrics. ("We used to talk about the weather/Making plans together/Days would last forever.") So, sing it with me, back to them: don't give up, don't give up now…