Juliana Hatfield, "Juliana Hatfield Sings The Police" (American Laundromat Records)
One way to assess a covers record is whether its appeal stretches beyond fans of the re-interpreter to fans of the original performers. In the case of "Juliana Hatfield Sings The Police," both camps should be pleased.
Part of the album's appeal lies in Hatfield's choice of several Police deep cuts while relying on the hits for only a third of the tracks. Having released an album of Olivia Newton-John covers last year, Hatfield's adeptness with the genre is reconfirmed.
Hatfield usually puts her imprint on the tunes by stripping back some of the gloss and dialing up the darker hues, while keeping the melodies nearly intact and the songs easily recognizable.
While not in the Andy Summers vein, Hatfield's guitar playing is still quite wonderful and effective as she piles on multiple layers and tailors a wide gamut of sounds to fit each song. She also does all the vocals and keyboards while playing bass and drums on about half of the 12 tracks.
Among the best versions is "Murder By Numbers," originally a jazzy tune also covered that way by Frank Zappa, which sounds here like it's been adapted for a remake of "A Clockwork Orange" as Hatfield emphasizes the song's violence and dread over its morbid humor. "Hungry for You (J'aurais Toujours Faim De Toi)" turns into a high speed J.J. Cale track with some very Cars-like keyboards near the end, while "Next to You" seems to have arrived straight from the early 1990s indie craze.
"Roxanne" amps up the drama with stabs of guitar distortion, while "Hole In My Life" trades in some of the original's swing for an angular approach that accentuates the pathos.
The closing trio of "Landlord," ''Rehumanize Yourself" and "It's Alright for You" gains added heaviness but also airiness with Ed Valauskas on bass and Chris Anzalone on drums.
Averaging nearly an album a year since 2010, Hatfield hopes to continue with her cover albums project, a most welcome prospect.