Organized by and featuring a performance by 8-Bit Operators, Tribute to Depeche Mode: Enjoy the Science (Receptors Music/Definitive Gaze) salutes electro superstars Depeche Mode through interpretations of 15 songs utilizing chip-crunching tech. You might think that Depeche Mode already made admirable use of the synthesizer expertise available to them, but these “chiptune” wizards—including Gameboymusicclub, ComputeHer, Yerzmyey, Inverse Phase, and Herbert Weixelbaum—will have you rethinking the way you listen to DM classics such as “Dreaming of Me,” “Strangelove,” “I Just Can’t Get Enough,” “Behind the Wheel,” and “Enjoy the Silence,” respectively.
The late head-banger/hair-band mastermind Ronnie James Dio, who put in time in Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and Black Sabbath before stepping out with his own band Dio, is given the tribute treatment on This Is Your Life (Rhino). The line-up of those paying homage reads like a heavy metal who’s-who, featuring legends of the scene, old and new. Gay Judas Priest front-man Rob Halford takes the lead vocals on “Man on the Silver Mountain.” Metallica performs a four-song “Ronnie Rising Medley,” Tenacious D takes its place with “The Last in Line,” Halestorm rains down on “Straight through the Heart,” Scorpions add their sting to “The Temple of the King,” and Killswitch Engage electrifies “Holy Diver.”
The songs of Jason Molina (of Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Company, gone too soon at 39) are performed with respect and affection by an assortment of modern music’s hippest acts on the double-disc compilation Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina (Rock the Cause/The Orchard). That’s My Morning Jacket on the title track. Other hipster stars including Communist Daughter (“Hold On Magnolia”), Catherine Irwin (“Steve Albini’s Blues”), Jim and Jennie & the Pinetops (“Hammer Down”), Murder by Death (“7th Street Wonderland”), Sarah Jaffe (“Alone with the Owl”), Wooden Wand (“Don’t This Look Like the Dark”), and Matt Bauer and Mount Moriah’s out lead singer Heather McEntire (“I Cannot Have Seen the Light”), are among those who do Molina’s work proud.
Legendary jazz vocalist and pianist Diane Schuur turns her attention to “mentors and friends” Stan Getz and Frank Sinatra on I Remember You (Jazzheads). Subtitled With Love to Stan and Frank, the album features Schuur’s intuitive interpretations of standards such as “Watch What Happens,” “Didn’t We,” “For Once in My Life,” “How Insensitive,” and “Here’s That Rainy Day,” to name a few.
On Bewitched: Perry Beekman Sings and Plays Rodgers & Hart (perrybeekman.com), the jazz guitarist bewitches listeners over the course of 15 selections. Backed by Peter Tomlinson on piano and Lou Pappas on bass, Beekman leaves his mark on classic tunes including instrumental versions of “Have You Met Miss Jones” and “Blue Room,” as well as “Thou Swell” and “Falling in Love with Love.”
Singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur honors the late punk godfather Lou Reed with his intimate new album Lou (Vanguard). Made shortly after Reed’s death in late 2013, Arthur’s distinctive readings of some of Reed’s best-known songs—“Walk on the Wild Side,” “Stephanie Says,” “Heroin,” “Satellite of Love,” “Pale Blue Eyes,” “Dirty Blvd.,” and “Coney Island Baby”—serve to respectfully revere Lou’s work while also allowing Arthur to leave his own distinguishing mark on the tunes. As happens with the best tributes, Arthur’s renditions will likely lead listeners to return to the original versions, and find pleasure in both.
Painted on a broad canvas, New York in the ’70s (Cherry Red) by Luke Haines (of Black Box Recorder and The Auteurs) is the singer/songwriter’s salute to an important musical era and the artists who were at work during that time. Opener “Alan Vega Says” is as much a nod to Vega as it is to Lou Reed, while the following track “Drone City” is pure Suicide (the groundbreaking electronic band featuring Vega and Martin Rev). Of course, you can’t write and sing about NYC in the 1970s without making reference to the queerness of the time, and Haines does so on the title cut and “Tricks N Kicks N Drugs.” Haines also tips his hat to Jim Carroll, Williams S. Burroughs, the New York Dolls, and (of course) Reed, among others.
Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.