First Impressions: Bright Lights by Susanna Hoffs

This morning, I delved into Paisley Underground past. This afternoon it’s Paisley Underground present. What need be said about this album? That it’s essentially Susie sans Sid doing what they did over their three-volume Under the Covers series? 

Unlike those sets, however, Susie’s widened the scope from a particular decade and just recorded songs that she loves—though the bulk do, in fact, hail from the 1960s and early ‘70s. As a lot, they’d be considered “under the radar” songs to anyone who hasn’t whiled away a lifetime navigating the many subterranean passages hidden beneath the ever-arching category of “pop music.” I’m talking songs originally recorded by Paul Revere and the Raiders, Fairport Convention (by way of the Merry-Go-Round), Velvet Underground, Nick Drake, Badfinger, Chris Bell, Richard and Linda Thompson, Syd Barrett and the Monkees (though not a well-known Monkees song), plus the artist who gave the Bangles “Manic Monday,” Prince. 

If I mentioned any but the last two acts to folks in my office, I’d be met with quizzical looks by all but one or two fellow music aficionados. (As with history as a whole, pop music history is simply a thing most folks never explore.) As such, here’s hoping that Bright Lights encourages Hoffs’ mostly middle-aged fans to dig up the many riches held within Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube.   

A press release quotes her as saying, “These were songs I admired and adored and had listened to on repeat for pure pleasure, but strangely, had never sung. Stepping up to the mic to sing them for the first time with our incredible band was truly exhilarating, if a little terrifying.” The end result is essentially a love letter to the chosen songs, which shimmer and glimmer. My favorite is the cover of the Monkees’ “You Just May be the One,” a highlight from the Prefab Four’s classic 1967 album, Headquarters, written by Michael Nesmith.

Her rendition of the Richard and Linda Thompson classic, “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight,” is another sublime moment and the duet with Aimee Mann on Badfinger’s “Name of the Game” is equally great. I should mention that, though she generally hews close to the originals, her versions never veer into karaoke territory. Her love and respect for the material is on ample display throughout. Give the album one listen and, just as Susie did with the originals, you’re sure to click repeat.

The track list:

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