Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs (2006)
The Marmalade (1967)
The proximity of yesterday’s Matthew Sweet post to today’s Cover Friday made it almost a given that I should select a song from one of the Under the Covers albums that he and Susanna Hoffs have recorded (Volume 1 came out in 2006, Volume 2 in 2009). Both albums are full of an assortment of Sweet and Hoffs’s favorite singles of the ’60s and ’70s, done with loving attention to detail. The songs all sound great, and are a lot of fun to listen to, although the perfectionism of their versions doesn’t leave any room for creative tangents that bring anything new to the songs.
Nonetheless, their song selection is impeccable: alongside well-known songs from the likes of the Beatles, the Who, Neil Young, and the Velvet Underground, they polish off a few less-familiar nuggets like the great Zombies song, “Care of Cell #44,” and the Bee Gees’ early hit, “Run to Me.” And then there were two songs that had been previously unknown to me: “She May Call You Up Tonight,” by the Left Banke (best known for “Walk Away Renee”), and this song, “I See the Rain,” by the Marmalade. In fact, I thought I knew nothing about the Marmalade at all, so this song was a revelation — the original is just as great as Sweet and Hoffs’s version, yet I don’t think I’ve ever heard it on the radio. Delving further into Marmalade’s catalog a bit, it turned out I did know one of their songs: “Reflections of My Life,” which brought with it a vague memory of hearing their name attached to it (their other big hit was apparently a lame version of “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da”). So by all appearances, “I See the Rain” was one of two high-water marks for the group. (In fact, according to the writeup on AllMusic.com, Jimi Hendrix declared this the best British single of 1967, and considering that year was smack dab in the middle of the Beatles’ career, not to mention numerous other huge British groups, that’s saying an awful lot.) Truly a lost classic, and while Sweet and Hoffs do an excellent version of the song, they do it even greater justice by simply featuring it as the leadoff song on the album and bringing it to the light of day for today’s listeners.