The Bird and the Bee - Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Musical Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates (2010)

The Bird and the Bee
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An easy interpretation of duo Inara George and Greg Kurstin's stage name of The Bird and the Bee is to consider George as a bird chirping away with her lead vocals while Kurstin buzzes as the bee, the electro-wizard behind the computer-programmed act's instrumentation. Since their debut EP in 2006, The Bird and the Bee have been turning out their ballsy style of synth pop on the Blue Note jazz label and have become one of the vanguards to the bubbling indie-pop cutting-edge sound. On their latest musical foray, the pair pays homage to pop-soul royalty on Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Musical Tribute to Daryl Hall & John Oates.

An easy interpretation of duo Inara George and Greg Kurstin's stage name of The Bird and the Bee is to consider George as a bird chirping away with her lead vocals while Kurstin buzzes as the bee, the electro-wizard behind the computer-programmed act's instrumentation. Since their debut EP in 2006, The Bird and the Bee have been turning out their ballsy style of synth pop on the Blue Note jazz label and have become one of the vanguards to the bubbling indie-pop cutting-edge sound. On their latest musical foray, the pair pays homage to pop-soul royalty on Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Musical Tribute to Daryl Hall & John Oates.

The project is an overdue tribute to H&O. There isn't another fitting musical salutation to their genre-defying, easy-listening Philly-nurtured pop, unless you call out H&O's precious four-disc Do What You Want...box set. Nonetheless, The Bird and the Bee's take just falls short of reaching the climax H&O justly deserves. With six #1 pop hits, H&O delivered hearty performances with a dash of rock and soul and consistently left traces of their sweat and blood in their extensive collection of work. What's missing in The Bird and the Bee's mix is that spice, that pep in the voice that originally cradled these timeless songs to its glorious ascension.

Both members add and subtract to this project's success. George, when vocally left alone in the front, sounds sweet and innocent reinterpreting songs like "Kiss On My List" and the sexy-paced "Sara Smile." Kurstin, for his part, does manage to pull off one of the coolest synth reinterpretations of the ‘80s "I Can't Go For That." While left stranded on the supersonic palette, it would've helped if George had called in Oates-or anyone for God's sake-to give her the creamy background echoes on the chorus.

The lead single and only original cut, "Heard It On the Radio," is a cute ode to the days when radio was looked at as a serious means of communication. It borders a breezy ABBA-meets-Maroon 5 melody and slyly inserts a secret message to H&O's "Kiss On My List" ("when we first kissed/you made it to my list"). Still, the ballads from H&O's collection like "One on One" and "She's Gone" are unnerved with futuristic beeps and robotic gestures atop George's almost-monotonous vocals. It's hard to imagine replacing the perky live instrumentation of "Private Eyes" with wobbly digital effects.

Still, this isn't a bad tribute album. It just isn't a very soulful one. And, that's something this album really needs more of.

Notable Tracks: "Blame It On the Radio, "I Can't Go For That," "Kiss On My List"

Vocals: 2.0 stars
Music: 2.0 stars
Lyrics: 5.0 stars
Production: 2.5 stars
SoulTracks Call: Mildly recommended

 

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