Has it really been that long since this sick kid snuck a listen to my sister’s new cassette while the rest of my family was off at Sunday church (carefully cueing it up to the exact starting point she’d left the tape at, putting it back before she returned)? I can’t quite fathom that a quarter of a century has ticked by since I convinced my mom that there was no need to change the station when “Papa Don’t Preach” came on because, unplanned teenage pregnancy aside, “She’s keeping her baby!”
Well, now the artists signed to Paper Bag Records are celebrating the label’s eighth anniversary by giving True Blue the full-tribute treatment, making their version of Madonna’s classic 1986 album available as a free download.
As is the warning with such tributes, several of Madonna’s most memorable tunes on True Blue prove tough to top. Woodhands’ “Papa Don’t Preach” and PS I Love You’s “Where’s The Party” are two such misses. The former comes off as jokey karaoke, while the latter teases a worthy musical idea that’s marred by a truly awful vocal. Young Galaxy’s “Open Your Heart” and Winter Gloves’ “True Blue” (sporting a fantastic sax solo) stay truer to the melodies, leaving little to take issue with, so what’s not to like? (The Rural Alberta Advantage’s “Live To Tell” and Laura Barrett’s “La Isla Bonita” take a similar tact, but with less listenable results.)
Rather, it’s a trio of arguably lesser-known True Blue numbers that really stand out. The Acorn’s “White Heat” keeps the James Cagney samples intact, but picks and chooses lyrics (a couple of lines from the chorus, part of the bridge), adding a low-boil dance beat and chugging guitar to create a captivating new song. And Born Ruffians transform “Jimmy Jimmy” into a loose bit of backyard funk.
But the best is saved for last, with the late We Say Party pumping new life into True Blue‘s closing number, “Love Makes The World Go Round.” I never did much care for the original track, but We Say Party’s orbiting chorus vocals make it sound like the hit single it never was.
Where’s the party? Waiting for you right there at the very end.