Released just in time for Valentines day, Sweetheart 2014 is the perfect gift for that special person in your life. Thirteen artists and musical acts, all of which are grade A prime, were asked to choose their favorite love song and record it as part of this collaboration. The artists themselves are each stylistically different, as are the hand-picked gems they chose to cover.
Jim James of My Morning Jacket leads off the proceedings with a sublime version of “Turn Your Lights Down Low” by Bob Marley, a terrific and often overlooked song from the Exodus album, with James slowing the pace down a bit, playing it close to the heart, and he completely owns it. John Lennon’s “Love” gets a somewhat tepid rendition from Beck, but strays a bit too far from the original, and the song seems to be a bit over produced.
There are plenty of pleasing moments to enjoy on this record with Phosphorescent’s poignantly beautiful version of Dylan’s “Tomorrow is a Long Time,” which to my ears stands up quite nicely to the original, and “Don’t Forget Me” as performed by The Head and the Heart will make you remember what a brilliant songwriter Harry Nilsson was in his prime. This is another track that can be enjoyed almost as much as the original, sometimes an updated approach can really bring out the best in a song.
It’s hard to mess up “Always on My Mind,” and the Bahamas don’t. With the vocals turned up a notch against the backdrop of a single piano and angelic backing harmonies the song almost comes across as a lullaby, and the seemingly out-of-place “Fade into You” would normally at first thought not quite fit on this set, but in the fingers of Ben Harper it seems to work quite naturally with the other piano-centric songs on the record.
The pace is picked up several paces, and the women chosen to contribute here soar majestically, with Thao & the Get Down Stay Down belting out “If You Were Mine,” Brandi Carlile completely devastating the competition with her almost better than the original reading of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings finish things off on a funky, soul, keep your feet moving note with “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours.”
Throw in a little Fiona Apple, a dash of Valerie June, and a peppering of Vampire Weekend, and you have one delicious helping of Valentines Day Gumbo to share with someone you love.