Ever since they covered Nirvana, Blondie and (best of all) Aphex Twin on their first album for Columbia Records in 2003, the Bad Plus became well-known for their innovative jazz reinterpretations of modern classic tunes – perhaps too well-known for it. The Minnesota-rooted trio almost exclusively featured original tunes on its most recent albums.
They’re going back to their revisionist ways in a big way, though, on their newly announced 11th album, due Aug. 26, titled “It’s Hard” and featuring nothing but cover songs. The 11-track collection features tunes by Cyndi Lauper, TV on the Radio, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kraftwerk, Peter Gabriel, Johnny Cash and (gulp!) Barry Manilow, as well as jazz pieces by Ornette Coleman and Bill McHenry.
Probably most noteworthy among the tunes, however, is the one the band has premiered first off the record: a playful remake of Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones,” which debuted Wednesday via the Wall Street Journal (and is posted below). The redux of the “Purple Rain” classic finds Reid Anderson handling the vocal melodies on his bass while Minneapolis-based drummer Dave King cuts loose with the rhythms. It’s a fitting tribute to Prince’s own adventurous spirit, but it’s worth noting the remake was actually recorded a couple weeks before his death in April. These Midwest dudes obviously aren't bandwagon jumpers!
Between Bad Plus runs, King recorded a new album by his side band the Dave King Trucking Company, "Surrounded by the Night," which he & Co. will promote this Friday and Saturday at Vieux Carre in St. Paul. The Bad Plus returns to the road in August, including a five-night stand at the Blue Note in New York. No Twin Cities dates are set yet, but presumably we can at least expect their usual multi-night run at the Dakota around the holidays.
Here’s the full track list for “It’s Hard.”
- 1. Maps (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
- 2. Games Without Frontiers (Peter Gabriel)
- 3. Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper)
- 4. I Walk The Line (Johnny Cash)
- 5. Alfombra Magica (Bill McHenry)
- 6. The Beautiful Ones (Prince)
- 7. Don't Dream It's Over (Crowded House)
- 8. Staring At The Sun (TV on the Radio)
- 9. Mandy (Barry Manilow)
- 10. The Robots (Kraftwerk)
- 11. Broken Shadows (Ornette Coleman)