Rhino’s Got You Covered: Al B. Sure!, Wilson Brothers, Noel Harrison, Jan & Dean

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

It’s Wednesday, so it must be time to take another dip into the Rhino catalog and trot out a new quartet of cover songs that you may or may not have heard before. Let’s get started, shall we?

•    Al B. Sure!, “Hotel California” (1990): After finding tremendous success with his 1988 debut album, IN EFFECT MODE, Al B. Sure! returned two years later with PRIVATE TIMES…AND THE WHOLE 9! and kicked off the proceedings with – of all things – this Eagles cover. We’re not sure why he opted to do so, but as the website SlowJams.com said of the track, “Al seems to have a knack for not just re-singing older songs, but putting his special twist on classics like ‘California.’ It’s rare when a remake does the original justice – Al makes ’em better!”

•    Wilson Brothers, “Can We Still Be Friends” (1979): Steve and Kelly Wilson only released one album for Warner Brothers, but it’s a fine piece of work, one which features guitar work from Steve Lukather and a lot of wonderful hooks, harmonies, and blue-eyed soul. Oh, yes, and also this great Todd Rundgren tune.

•    Noel Harrison, “Strawberry Fields Forever” (1967): The son of actor Rex Harrison, a.k.a. the original Dr. Doolittle, Noel actually found his first fame as an skier, serving as a member of the British ski team in the 1952 and 1956 Winter Olympics. From there, he dabbled in acting for a bit, but after moving to America in 1965, he also embarked on a recording career, bouncing between the two professions for awhile. Indeed, it was while he was playing Mark Slate on The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. that he recorded 1967’s COLLAGE, which – in addition to this psychedelic Beatles singles – also featured covers of “Suzanne,” “Just Like a Woman,” “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” and “When I’m 64.”

•    Jan & Dean, “Yakety Yak” (1966-1968 / 2010): When Jan Berry and Dean Torrence first began work on the album that would eventually be released as CARNIVAL OF SOUND, Jan had not yet been involved in the car accident that would leave him with brain damage and partial paralysis so severe that he had to learn to walk again. Needless to say, recording was put on hold for a fair while, and when the sessions resumed, the pace was far slower than it had been before the accident, and when the album was finally finished, the duo’s label opted against releasing it. As such, it would be 40+ years before it finally saw the light of day, at which point the world at large was finally able to hear – along other songs – Jan & Dean’s take on this Coasters classic.