For the follow-up to their well-received album of ‘60s cover songs Under the Covers Vol. 1, Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs (still making use of the “Sid & Susie” pseudonym in the liner notes, which remains something of a dead-end conceit) fill the playlist for Vol. 2 with ‘70s AM radio staples from the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Yes, and Big Star. There aren’t many real surprises here, which was part of the appeal of the duo’s first outing, since that set found two first-rate pop classicists digging into both their obvious and obscure influences with equal verve. Songs like Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” the Grateful Dead’s “Sugar Magnolia,” and two cuts taken from Todd Rundgren’s 1972 album Something/Anything? don’t speak to the full breadth of the 1970s music scene. If the song selection underwhelms for its familiarity, the reverence that Sweet and Hoffs bring to their performances and arrangements give the record a genuine warmth that, while perhaps a bit too tasteful and restrained, is endearing. Though her reading of Bread’s “Everything I Own” is somewhat flat, Hoffs’s distinctive rasp is in especially fine form; her soulful rendition of Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” is easily the highlight of the set. If Vol. 2 feels oddly rote, it’ll still be interesting to hear how the pair might tackle the music of their actual contemporaries should they move into the ‘80s and ‘90s on subsequent outings.
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