Covering Steven Wilson

A review of Steven Wilson, COVER VERSION (Kscope, 2014).  12 Songs total: Thank You; Moment I Lost; The Day Before You Came; Please Come Home; A Forest; The Guitar Lesson; The Unquiet Grave; Sign ‘O’ The Times; Well You’re Wrong; Lord of the Reedy River; An End to End

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Steven Wilson is nothing if not interesting. Vitally so. Everything he does matters in some way to the contemporary world of music. He’s even made it somewhat big, at least by alternative and prog standards.

This brand new release from Wilson is a compilation—slightly redone—of cover versions (not surprisingly) of some of his favorite songs over the past two decades. Several of the songs he recorded in professional studios, he notes. Others, he recorded in hotel rooms as a form of music diary. I am exactly two months older than Wilson. Though I lived in Kansas and he in England in the 1980s, it’s pretty clear that we grew up with the same music in the same era. He, himself, notes this in his choices. Songs covered come from Donovan, Abba, and The Cure, to name just a few. Some of the songs, such as Wilson’s version of The Cure’s A Forest are deeply electronic, while others very much feel like the acid folk he produced with Storm Corrosion.

In many cases, Wilson’s versions are superior to the originals. In all cases, they are worth listening to.

Wilson has never been shy about borrowing from others in his music—Pink Floyd in early Porcupine Tree, U2 on his first solo album, and Andy Tillison (to the “nth” degree) on his most recent solo album (THE RAVEN THAT REFUSED TO SING sounds very much like a The Tangent album from roughly 5 or so years ago).

It’s great to see Wilson openly name his sources and proclaim his heroes with COVER VERSION. In particular, his take on A Forest makes the entire album worth purchasing. But, then again, this is a Steven Wilson release. No matter what he does, we need to pay attention.