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ALBUM REVIEW: "Greatest Other People's Hits" by John Wesley Harding

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ALBUM REVIEW: John Wesley Harding – Greatest Other People’s Songs (Omnivore) 2018

Back in 1990 or so, when new singer-songwriter John Wesley Harding (real name Wesley Stace) released the Here Comes the Groom album, featuring help from luminaries including Kristy MacColl, Peter Case and Elvis Costello’s Attractions rhythm section, I took notice. Harding was touring with The Mighty Lemon Drops and The Ocean Blue, for starters – two bands I admired tremendously – and the songs were solid, ranging from “The Devil In Me” to “Scared of Guns.”

But, like troubadours from that era, like Luka Bloom, I lost track of their year-to-year album releases, taking note when I could.

Well, amazing how time flies and I see this ABBA Gold-looking album from Harding called Greatest Other People’s Hits. The humor was intact. And, as it turns out, so are the choice tunes featured here.

Harding gets down to it, kicking off this collection with his 1990 cover of Roky Erickson’s “If You Have Ghosts,” which he originally recorded for the Erickson tribute album Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye featuring his 13th Floor Elevators and solo material covers by various artists at that time.

I hadn’t heard it in years and it still remains punchy and melodic. And so oes the rest of this collection, where Harding’s cover of Pete Seeger’s “Words Words Words” where he jangles it up featuring backup from The Minus Five.

And then the 2000 cover of Stealers Wheel’s 1973 hit “Star,” with Austin, Texas-based band Fastball providing backup, is a revelation, as is the trip-hop-ish cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M’en Vais.”

Bruce Springsteen helps Harding on a cover of his own “Wreck on the Highway,” originally recorded live in 1994 while George Harrison’s “Wah Wah” is a tip to the hat to not only the Quiet Beatle but to Phil Spector himself, considering how bombastic and lovingly covered it is, horns and all. Granted, Harding's vocal is not as distinctive as Harrison's, but still ... 

Armed with an acoustic guitar, and accompanied by singer/novelist (The Ice Storm) Rick Moody on Alan Davies’ “Old Bourbon.” Not sure who is on accordion here. Regardless, it holds your attention, as do Harding's spot-on covers of Lou Reed's "Think It Over" and "Satellite of Love," the latter actually featuing Reed himself, from a live recording made in December 1994.

Concluding this collection is Harding's cover of Madonna's 1989 hit "Like a Prayer," featured on a Christmas EP Harding released that same year. 

Yes, it has been a long time since I've given John Wesley Harding a spin. Glad I did. This is a great sampling of Harding tipping his hat to some greats of the past century. A fine collection. 

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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