On “Bastard Son,” one of the early recordings by John Wesley Harding, the singer, songwriter, novelist and overall renaissance man self-describes himself as the bastard son of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, a description that seems to be pretty much accurate. Whether you are listening to one of the albums released under his nom de plume or reading one of his novels under his given name Wesley Stace, the conclusion is the same. This is one talented guy.
No stranger to interpreting other people’s songs, John Wesley Harding memorably covered “Crystal Blue Persuasion” on his 1991 album The Name Above The Title, and “Jackson Cage” on Awake released in 1998, to name but a few. Harding now draws all of his chips to the middle of the song interpretation table with his latest covers-laden release, Greatest Other People’s Hits. This new release includes various cover songs culled from his career discography going back to 1998 as well as previously never before released renditions of George Harrison’s “Wah Wah,” Lou Reed’s “Think It Over,” and the relatively obscure Strawbs song “Benedictus” that features an assist from Hooter’s frontman Eric Bazilian.
Every song is excellent, some are bordering on great, and both the live version of “Wreck on the Highway” with a vocal turn by Bruce Springsteen and Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” are stone cold standouts. All of the guests that join in the fun here are well thought out and add a lot to the proceedings. The late Lou Reed jumps in on “Satellite of Love,” and Kelly Hogan delightfully sails through “It’s Only Make Believe.”
Spend some time with this one. You just might make two new friends: John Wesley Harding and Wesley Stace.