Covers albums, like greatest hits albums, are among the most overly used records in the music industry. Regardless of genre, there are almost as many covers and hits albums in stores and online every year as there are albums of new music from artists across the genres. The problem with these albums is that it’s obvious that they are nothing more than fillers used for the purpose of contractual obligations. One listen through their track listings proves this. For all of the forgettable covers and hits albums that pollute store shelves and online outlets each year, there are thankfully those diamonds in the rough that actually stand out among the masses. Those hidden gems show that for all of the space fillers that are out there, there are those artists that take covers albums, hits albums and tribute records with at least a certain amount of seriousness. One of those hidden gems that has been revealed in 2014 comes from veteran performer Dr. John in the form of his Louis Armstrong covers/tribute album Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch. This thirteen-track record is more than just a collection of covers from one of the greatest names in the industry. The covers included on this record exhibit not only the spirit of Satchmo, but also the very creative spirit of music itself. While the songs on this record are largely full-blown re-imaginings of Armstrong’s original works, the creativity used in each song will lead this record to grow on even the most hardline of Louis Armstrong fans. And it all starts right off the top with Dr. John’s re-imagining of Armstrong’s greatest hit, ‘What A Wonderful World.’ Dr. John’s jazzy cover of ‘I’ve Got The World on a String’ will most certainly impress audiences as it’s one of the few songs on this record that stays close to the original work. The addition of blues great Bonnie Raitt doesn’t hurt the song, either. And his collaboration with the famed Dirty Dozen Brass Band on ‘When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You’ is the perfect closer for this record. As impressive as these songs prove to be in the long run, they’re only part of what makes Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch such a rare release. The album’s other ten tracks are worth their own listen, too. And in hearing all thirteen tracks on this disc, any listener will agree that this record definitely stands out as one of this year’s truly rare covers/tribute albums worth hearing.
Dr. John’s new Louis Armstrong covers/tribute album Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch is one of 2014’s rare covers/tribute albums that is actually worth audiences’ attention. And it isn’t just because it is from one of the most respected names in the music industry today. That is proven right off the top with his cover of Armstrong’s most beloved of songs, ‘What A Wonderful World.’ Dr. John collaborated on this cover with gospel greats The Blind Boys of Alabama and fellow New Orleans native Nicholas Paton. At first listen, the song will most certainly leave some audiences scratching their heads. That is because it is a completely re-imagined take on the classic tune. Rather than taking the safe route here, Dr. John and company give the song a decidedly upbeat almost gospel-style turn, making it into more of a celebratory song than the more reserved piece which audiences have come to know. Of course that is thanks to the inclusion of The Blind Boys of Alabama on this take. It may not grab some audiences at first. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. That’s because it will grow on said audiences that give the song more than one chance. Those audiences will realize that the more celebratory tone, as different as it may be, actually works when one takes into consideration the song’s lyrics. Armstrong once sang on this song of all of the things that make the world so, well, wonderful. Audiences that take that into consideration will in turn appreciate this rendition for the surprisingly positive re-working that it proves to be in the long run. And in doing so, it will lead audiences to give this album’s other songs just as much of a chance, too.
If the re-imagining of ‘What A Wonderful World’ doesn’t win over listeners, then perhaps his duet with fellow blues legend Bonnie Raitt on ‘I’ve Got The World on a String’ will. This hybrid jazzy/bluesy cover comes as close to the original as possible without actual mirroring said song. Raitt and John both pay proper tribute to Armstrong in this take. Audiences that are familiar with both artists’ style will be pleasantly surprised by their ability to balance the song’s jazz roots with their own bluesy addition to the composition. Audiences that have heard Tony Bennett and k.d. Lang’s Armstrong covers album won’t be able to ignore the comparison to their covers here. That’s because both Raitt and John exhibit a true reverence for Armstrong’s work here more than anywhere else on the album. That reverence will most certainly have purist Armstrong fans dancing arm in arm and *ahem* cheek to cheek (bad pun fully intended here).
Dr. John’s duet with Bonnie Raitt on his cover of ‘I’ve Got The World on a String’ is without a doubt this record’s peak moment. Coming in a close second is the cover of ‘When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You).’ The song, which features Dr. John’s fellow New Orleans musicians in The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, closes out the album. And such a song proves to be the perfect way to close out such an imaginative collection of covers. The song’s run time comes in at just under three minutes. To be exact, it clocks in at two minutes and forty-two seconds. Dr. John takes a back seat throughout most of the song, letting the members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band have the spotlight instead. For those audiences that are less familiar with the work of the band, this song is a wonderful first impression from its members. Those that are more familiar with the band’s body of work will be just as impressed with the ability of the band members to mix its trademark Dixieland sound with a more Latin-tinged sound. The end result is one more truly creative and original cover of one more of Armstrong’s most beloved works.
The collaboration with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band as the final number for Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch proves to be the perfect way to close this record. That is because it once more exhibits Dr. John’s respect for Louis Armstrong’s legacy and Armstrong himself. Just as with all of the songs that come before it, it pays homage to Armstrong’s legacy by balancing the song’s original sound with something of a more original arrangement. In this case, it doesn’t stray too far from the original tune. Because it doesn’t, it is sure to leave listeners with that warm, happy feeling of nostalgia. And what better way to go out after such an intriguing musical ride than with that warm, happy feeling? By the song’s end, audiences will agree that having heard it and the album’s other songs, Ske-Dat-De-Dat is anything but another run-of-the-mill covers album. It is one of the most creative covers/tribute albums released by any artist to date.
Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch is available now online and in stores everywhere. Fans can order it online now direct from Dr. John’s official Facebook page and website at http://www.facebook.com/DrJohn and http://www.nitetripper.com. Audiences can also purchase Dr. John’s new album at any of his upcoming live performances. Fans can check out Dr. John’s tour itinerary now on both sites as well. They can also keep up with all of the latest news and updates from the man himself on both sites. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.