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Michael Carpenter | SOOP # 1 (Big Radio)
When artists resort to whole albums of cover versions it's usually thought it's because they've hit either a creative or a commercial cul-de-sac or possibly both. In Michael Carpenter's case though it certainly isn't his creativity that's lacking as he's already released 2 exceptional albums, 'Baby' in 1999 and 'Hopefulness' last year and is currently working on his third album proper for release later this year. A busy and prolific man by anyone's standards, as well as his own solo career, he is also an in-demand producer with his own studio in Perth as well as being a member of the Finkers, the Pyramidiacs and others. The fact that he's only pressed 500 copies of 'SOOP # 1' (SOOP being a fairly dry acronym for Songs Of Other People) doesn't really give credence to the commercial criticism either. More significantly the art of the interpreter seems to be regarded somewhat disdainfully these days and irrespective of the abilities of the writer of the song, the song will always outlive the writer. Quite apart from that, the songs were never recorded for an album anyway, each song recorded over a period of 6 years and recorded either for fun or just to see if it could be done. Or even possibly improved upon, which is something he arguable achieves on some of these covers. The final selection was made following a poll on Michael Carpenter's website on which a list was posted of the songs he'd covered over the years. Predominantly biased towards 60s material, the only exceptions being two Tom Petty songs, which open and close the album and a version of Bruce Springsteen's I Wish I Were Blind which originally appeared on his Human Touch set in 1992. Not knowing the original it's difficult to assess how different or otherwise Carpenter's version is, but it's certainly a wonderful and excellent song on this evidence and an album highlight. Elsewhere he turns his skills to A Shot Of Rhythm & Blues, an early R&B number often performed in their early career by the Beatles and turns in an uncanny copycat version deliberately recorded live in order to best emulate the original. The Beach Boys, the Zombies, the Byrds and the Monkees all get the Carpenter treatment and whilst that list might sound a little obvious, the actual material Carpenter has chosen to cover is less so. From start to finish the album is a model example of interpretation, managing as it does to remain faithful to the source material whilst at the same time impressing enough of the interpreter's own identity so that you're never in doubt that the finished article is a Michael Carpenter album. A creative and innovative musician with excellent melodic pop sensibilities, Michael Carpenter also possesses equally adept technical skills and is evidently as proficient an interpreter as he is a performer of his own accomplished material. So roll on # 2 because SOOP # 1 is simply super. (

Geraint Jones
November 2001