With one of the more interesting premises behind a CD release, this CD is a mixture of original tracks, as well as covers of those original tracks by bands that have been influenced by the Bandits. What gets annoying quickly is the pairing of the songs – perhaps if all the covers were a section of the CD, and the originals another, but the same song, like it or not, is being played twice in a row. Some tracks just go and pretty much feed off the energy of the original without contributing much in the way of new flair to the track, which is most definitely case with The Secret’s ska-influenced cover of “Poor Precious Dreams”. What really stands out as what a band or individual should do with a cover is evidenced by the cover of “Time and Again” by El Jaye Johnson. While the original has a sound that is similar to a less-caustic Warren Zevon, El Jaye makes the track eir’s in casting it in an R&B context, even relaxing the general sound to a degree not found in the original. To continue with the solid re-casting of covers would have to be Graceland Homegrown’s cover of “Neon River”, which has a Propellerheads-sound to it, where the original was pure sixties rock.
Probably the strongest cover on the compilation really comes in the middle of the disc, with the ska and reggae-influenced of “Happiness is You” by Radio Flyer. Radio Flyer has the common raspy-female/smooth talking-male vocal dichotomy, but really doesn’t fall into the Shaggy-sound of the male vocalist like so many bands out currently do. Being the strongest original Jelly Bean Bandits track on the disc, “To Be Alone With You Tonight”, Romislokus is actually able to make the track more full sounding and if one can imagine it, more compelling.
While the layout of the tracks is probably the worst problem on this compilation, the vast majority of guest bands on “Bandit Planet” are creative and talented enough to make improvements on tracks that were already great. What I can only assume is a “Bandit Planet” exclusive, “If You Believe” is a warm track that flawlessly incorporates a strong vocal presence with a envious bass line and an omni-present synthesizer line. “If You Believe” is that final retort from The Jelly Bean Bandits that shows that they are in control of their destiny, and ends the disc in an orgy of JBB tracks that just leave a listener salivating for more.
Top Tracks: If You Believe, Happiness Is You (Radio Flyer Version)
The Jelly Bean Bandits – Bandit Planet / 19 Tracks / 2003 Self-Released / http://www.jellybeanbandits.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org / Reviewed 9 April 2004