Okay, I'm finally sold on them after being underwhelmed by their last album, Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future. The electro-jazz pop duo of Greg Kurstin (Little Boots, Kylie Minogue, Lily Allen) and vocalist Inara George, known as The Bird and The Bee, are dead-set on commercial success this time around. Their latest studio effort, Interpreting The Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates, really needs no explanation. The title says it all really and the disc is absolutely exquisite.
The Bird and The Bee cover eight Hall & Oates classics, plus one new track, and I'm sure even they would be extremely flattered to have received such a tasteful tribute. The album is heavy on 'late 70s and early '80s-inspired synths, which add tons of AM Radio nostalgia to its sound, and the duo keeps all original melodies and song structures intact which is commendable. Nothing grates on my nerves more than a cover version trying to be something it isn't - why bother if the result will just become another entity altogether? They manage to stay true to the original lyrics even on tracks like One on One, which has George serenading a woman. But really, with her spot-on phrasing and butter-smooth tone, George could sing me an obituary and I'd probably love it still in my state of hypnosis.
I am hard-pressed to find one cover version I did not enjoy from this collection, including the one new track Heard it on the Radio which serves more as a prelude to the impending retrospective; it still sounds influenced by Hall & Oates as George recalls a love of yesterday still "on her list". Kiss on My List though, would have to be my favourite interpretation with its psychadelic Vox Continental organs which The Doors used a lot of, and the organ-fest continues on Maneater, where Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson is featured on backing vocals. Although understated, Kurstin's Grammy-nominated production values give these these timeless melodies that added breath of fresh air needed to connect these songs with today's audience. She's Gone with its reggae inflections still sounds fresh to this day, but it is a pity the track fades out far too soon. I Can't Go For That, despite having been covered and sampled ad nauseum, stands on its own merit thanks to Kurstin and George's electric chemistry. The last 45 seconds of it are just vibealicious and remixes would not be out of the question. Private Eyes has been given the fun treatment and makes me want to just dance.
The Bird and The Bee are perhaps the closest thing to The Carpenters, this generation will see. Although I am in favour of albums becoming shorter, this nine track disc is far too short, clocking in at 30 minutes only. I want more. Interpreting The Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates, released through Bluenote/EMI, will be in stores worldwide on March 23, 2010. Grade: A+