Cover song albums are usually hit or miss. In most cases – they miss. Yet Covered in Gold by Enuff Z’Nuff is a rare commodity. Rarely can you find an album that showcases a band’s strength and weaknesses in a career-spanning showcase. While Covered in Gold is a treat for most casual fans, diehard Enuff Z’Nuff fans will have a majority of the tracks already. Many will enjoy having many of these previously released covers in one place. But if you have the entire Enuff Z’Nuff catalog, you might find yourself cherry-picking “Believe It or Not” or “The Stroke” from Amazon or iTunes.
So where to begin? Let’s start with Covered in Gold’s high points. “Believe It Or Not (from The Greatest American Hero)” is one of those theme songs everyone knows the words to whether we like it or not. Parodied in a Seinfeld episode (sing along – “believe it or not – George isn’t at home”), Enuff Z’nuff recorded this for a never aired VH-1 pilot that initially reunited three-fourths of the original line-up (Donnie, Chip, Vik Fox), with in-and-out of the band guitarist Johnny Monaco rounding things out. Similar to Joan Jett’s version of “Love is All Around,” those not alive during ABC’s early 80s prime time years might think it’s an original. “Believe It or Not” is breezy, poppy and dammit –of course it makes a great theme song; it belongs in the Theme Song Hall of Fame. Not as good as the Friends’ opening tune, but still a gem. The highlight is Johnny’s guitar playing, which adds a virtuoso element alongside the high flying chorus.
The band also soars with Prince’s “When Doves Cry.” At first blush, covering Prince may seem challenging. Daunting, even. Did I really say “daunting?” Anyway, Chip’s and Donnie’s voices intermingle beautifully, and you almost forget for a second that this is a Prince song and not a trippy leftover from the Atco years. Although Donnie is considered the voice of Enuff Z’Nuff, Chip holds his own and sounds great.
With The Beatles “Run for Your Life,” you forgive that this is almost a by-the-numbers recording due to its energy. It’s vibrant and can proudly sit alongside The Fab Four’s version, although it’s not recorded with the charm and innocence that lo-fi mono recording lends it.
Is a song a cover if you originally recorded it? Covered in Gold ends with a stripped down version of their first real single – “New Thing.” Chip once again sings lead, proving that he can hold his own. The song’s almost hidden charm shines through. Perhaps without so much gloss on its original production, “New Thing” would have been a more substantial hit back in the day.
Now for the not so good. On a good day, Enuff Z’Nuff was one of the better bands around despite never finding true mainstream success. On a bad day, certain members might be lazy or out of it, and under-perform (not naming names here). Chip once again takes the lead with Billy Squiers’ “The Stroke,” an odd choice since it’s such a signature song for ol’ Billy. Was “Rock and Roll All Night” or “Stairway to Heaven” deemed just too much? “The Stroke” is pretty much the same arrangement with a pretty cool acoustic-based section near the end and sampled elements. The production is actually very strong, so if you need a producer then just call Chip to book time at Chip Z’Nuff Studios. I will say this – Chip did concoct a fairly entertaining video for such a straight-ahead version. More preferable would be a re-arranged “Takin’ a Ride” version with a psychedelic feel.
Unfortunately “Yankee Rose” follows “The Stroke’s” lead. It’s just another ordinary version of a song that misses the character of the original. Although not David Lee Roth’s signature song, anyone else attempting it may dangerously fall short. Once again, the production is pretty good. But its execution falls flat. Dead flat – in fact.
The rest of Covered in Gold is just fine. “Everything Works” by Cheap Trick has appeared on several albums already, “She Sells Sanctuary,” “Stone Cold Crazy” and “All Apologies” are admirable but still true to the originals. “The Jean Genie” jumps out with its full sound, but has appeared a few times previously as well. “Jealous Guy” earns a good rating since Donnie sings Lennon songs well. Plus it’s a nostalgic favorite that was featured live during the band’s heyday of performing in the 90s. “Tears of a Clown” has giddy backing harmonies, while “Hide Your Love Away” features an impromptu sing-along thanks to Howard Stern (and recorded live on his show – complete with show plug for New Jersey and New York shows).
As a long time Enuff Z’Nuff fan, Covered in Gold is frustrating because I own almost all of these songs on other albums. If you’re a casual fan that has one or two of the first three albums, then the story is different. Covered in Gold can be enjoyable. Its highlights are very high, but its lows should be high on a new thing via more Enuff Z’Nuff-like arrangements. Sadly missing is a song with Johnny Monaco singing. However, he left the band shortly after Covered in Gold was released. So he’s out yet again.
Sad but true.
2. Stone Cold Crazy (Queen Cover)
3. She Sells Sanctuary (The Cult cover)
4. All Apologies (Nirvana cover)
5. Believe It Or Not (The Greatest American Hero theme)
6. The Jean Genie (David Bowie cover)
7. Run For Your Life (The Beatles cover)
8. When Doves Cry (Prince cover)
9. Tears Of A Clown (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles cover)
10. The Stroke (Billy Squier cover)
11. Yankee Rose (David Lee Roth cover)
12. Jealous Guy (John Lennon cover)