Cover songs can be a tremendously difficult wire to walk. This is even more true when covering songs that are beloved in the eyes of the general public in their original incarnation.
The calculus for effective cover songs throughout history has been more or less set in stone. The easy equation truly has only three permutations wrapped around a central constant: either you perform a heartfelt re-imagining of an unlikely song (Anthrax's cover of Joe Jackson's "Got the Time,") you leave the frame of a song alone and flawlessly bend the facade into your idiom (Jimi Hendrix's cover of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower,") or you change a song's intent through the lens of a completely different musical style (Children of Bodom's cover of the Outlaws' "Ghost Riders in the Sky") What all three of the parenthetical examples have in common is that they are done not just as labors of respect, but as journeys in experimentation.
Failing that formula, covers can be well-executed and precise, but ultimately only shadows of the iconic rendering. No matter how earnest the attempt, if a cover too closely mirrors the classic, then the cover is brushed under the rug.
Puddle of Mudd's "Re(disc)overed" falls largely into that latter category, which is disappointing because it is easy to glean from the recording how much admiration for the classics that Puddle of Mudd possesses. The band recreates each piece in sharp detail, lovingly producing each effort, whether Steve Miller's "The Joker" or Led Zeppelin's sprightly "D'yer Mak'er."
Yet, each selection comes off similarly to Stone Temple Pilot's cover of another hidden Led Zeppelin hit, "Dancing Days." The covers are faithful replicas of their counterparts, in this case to a fault. Bringing in female vocals and BC Jean to perform duets and harmonies on songs like "Gimme Shelter" or "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," serve only to make the Puddle of Mudd versions more synonymous with the originals.
With the exception of Wes Scantlin's raspy vocals, there's not much on "Re(disc)overed" that identifies the covers as "Puddle of Mudd" versus any other decent bar cover band. Cynics would argue that statement encapsulates the career of Puddle of Mudd as a whole, but that's neither here nor there.
Puddle of Mudd deserves some credit for not sacrificing the integrity of this album to the insatiable gods of marketability. By only picking songs composed before 1982, the band shows who and what their most heartfelt influences are. While none of the selections are especially under-the-radar, even covering the James Gang's "Funk #49" in 2011 is a statement of fealty. If Puddle of Mudd had simply taken the easy road and produced another weary album of tributes to Metallica, then "Re(disc)overed" would be easily brushed aside.
The only tune that completely falls flat is Puddle of Mudd's take on AC/DC's "TNT." Scantlin's attempt to channel the voice of Bon Scott is cringe-inducing to say the least, especially when he could have simply sang it straight to greater effect. On the flip side, the band's version of Free's "All Right Now" is a favorite of my childhood and is capable of eliciting a corner-of-the-mouth smile.
Overall, Re(disc)overed" is commendable both for its song selection and attention to original detail. On the other side, it could have been so much more.