Ashley Beedle and Darren
Morris’ inspiration for Mavis was Mavis Staples’ pop/soul cover of
Dionne Warwick’s version of Burt Bacharach’s “A House Is Not A Home.” Sound
somewhat removed? Wait – there’s more. The project’s conceit is this: Beedle
and Morris produced an instrumental track inspired by Staples’ version, then
offered it up to a number of vocalists – among them, Ed Harcourt, Lambchop’s
Kurt Wagner, Saint Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell, Cerys Matthew, Candi Staton and
Edwyn Collins – for their lyrical spin on it. But here’s the rub: “The
producers then subverted the backing track, suggesting a reggae riddim approach,
for a collection of unique tracks informed by the same chord structure and
points of influence.” Sounds interesting, right?
And it could’ve been, but
it’s not. The goal was for a “unique collection of tracks,” but we end up with
too much sameness. All but one of the eleven tunes are in the same key and
nearly the same medium-slow tempo, and many share much melodic and harmonic
material. In musical terms, the collections drags. Most of the eleven
different vocalists bring heartfelt ideas and performances to the project, but
it’s not enough to overcome the bland repetitiveness of the arrangements and instrumentation.
Apparently, a subverted backing track is not a home. At least not on Mavis.
“Puzzles And Riddles,” “What You Looking For” JOHN DWORKIN