I’m gonna close out 2022 with a curveball from 2005. A few weeks back I was doing a write-up on a song when I discovered the existence of this curiosity. After looking into it a bit I decided to take the plunge and get a copy so I could see what’s up with it.
This album of cover tunes comes from Bronson Arroyo, a former Major League baseball pitcher who had a long career from 2000 through to 2017. He was a part of the 2004 Boston Red Sox World Series Championship team, which rankles me because I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Arroyo was the guy trying to tag Alex Rodriguez in game 6 of the ALCS when A-Rod slapped the ball out of his hand, that was a pretty infamous baseball play.
Arroyo spent the bulk of his career with the Cincinnati Reds, which also rankles me because I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan. At any rate, Arroyo had a pretty nice career – he lasted a long time as a pitcher and was durable for the bulk of his stay in Cincinnati, only having issues through the 2010’s when he hopped around on a few teams before his retirement in 2017.
What I wasn’t really aware of was that Arroyo was also a musician and had cut a covers album in 2005, when Arroyo was still a member of the Red Sox. This isn’t some rinky-dink project either – dude had to have spent some serious coin on this album. There was an entire production team and some world-class session musicians were brought in to play, including Michael Landau, Kenny Aronoff and Leland Sklar. Also appearing on a few tracks is Mike Inez, of Alice In Chains and Ozzy fame. Arroyo sticks to singing on this album but does play guitar.
Covering The Bases offers up 12 songs, all of which are pretty well known in some regard. Most all of them besides the final track are alt-rock standards of the 1990’s, letting us know where Arroyo’s tastes evolve from. I’ll go ahead and run through everything here to see what we’ve got, it’ll be a long post but whatever. I’m not familiar with a handful of the originals but others I know pretty well.
Originally a big hit for the Goo Goo Dolls in 1998, Arroyo’s album leads off with what sounds like a very faithful rendition of the OG tune. I’m not radically familiar with the original nor am I a fan of the band but I’d say Arroyo and company nailed this one.
Down In A Hole
The Alice In Chains classic is how I came across this album. I was gearing up my post about it when I noticed that Bronson Arroyo was listed as having done a cover version. This is pretty well done, the music hits the song and stays accurate to the original. Arroyo and his backing singers keep stuff at a lower register, which is understandable as few people are going to touch Layne Stayley and Jerry Cantrell’s voices. It is curious that Mike Inez played other songs on this record but not on the one from the band he is in, but there’s no real info to go on about that.
Also of note – the title is misprinted as “Down In The Hole” on the back cover and inner booklet.
This was originally done by The Verve Pipe. I recall the song but I’ve never sat and listened to the band so I’m not overly familiar with it. It’s not something I really want to jam out to but I’ll say that it fits the album Arroyo has put together pretty well.
No real introduction needed, this is the massive Foo Fighters hit. It’s an accurate version of the song, it’s all performed true to the original. There is a brief spoken word bit from Stephen King on here, which is odd but a nice touch.
This is a Pearl Jam song, I’m sure I say to people who know that damn good and well. I’m not at all a fan of PJ so I’ll bow out of this one, other than to say this cover sounds like I guess it’s supposed to.
One song from the year 2000 here, this was the big hit that launched Incubus into superstardom. It’s done well here but I was never a fan of Incubus and I actively dislike this song so I’m moving on.
Something’s Always Wrong
This tune comes from Toad The Wet Sprocket. This is a band I’m honestly not familiar with at all. This song was a hit in its day but I don’t remember it in the least. I do recognize their big hit All I Want but it took a minute and that’s the only one I recall. Anyway, this version Arroyo does is good and again sticks with the original in execution.
A bit of fun baseball trivia here – playing guitar is Theo Epstein, who was general manager of the Boston Red Sox when Arroyo was there. Not many albums can boast Theo as a cameo player.
The massive Stone Temple Pilots hit gets a rendition here. No more “I don’t know or like this” for me – this is an amazing song. Arroyo handles the vocals well here, not an easy feat considering the prowess of the late Scott Weiland.
Up next is the initial hit from alt-rockers Fuel. I did kind of listen to these guys a bit way back when though it’s been a very long time since I’ve heard their stuff. It’s a nice change of pace here to have something more uptempo and it’s again a well-done version of the song, pretty well in line with the original.
Now this Temple Of The Dog cover could have been scary, as while Bronson can sing pretty well, his range isn’t going to get into Chris Cornell territory or anywhere near it. But there is nothing to fear as the group surely knew their limitations and brought session musician Amy Keys in to handle the higher range parts. This one is a bit divergent from the original, as Bronson handles the bulk of vocals, as if Eddie Vedder had done the lion’s share of the original. Overall it works well for all involved.
Best I’ve Ever Had (Grey Sky Morning)
This was a song from Vertical Horizon, who I’m not familiar with and I really want to be. Bronson gets up into a bit of a higher range here and the song fits the other selections to keep a pretty unified feel going, but I can do without the song itself.
The album ends with a different tune – this goes back to 1965 and The Standells. The song is a Boston sports anthem which makes it a logical conclusion here. Bronson is not alone for this swansong – fellow Red Sox Johnny Damon and Kevin Youkilis are along to shoot the breeze about random stuff through the song. It’s a fun way to end the record and a nice tribute to Boston from Arroyo fresh off the World Series win.
While this is a bit of a curiosity project, I’d say overall it turned out pretty well for Arroyo. He got people who knew what they were doing to execute faithful versions of the songs, and it’s clear that Bronson has talent as a musician. While there were no real chances taken on the album and everything was played as it sounds, this isn’t at all a bad effort. I think Bronson and company did a good job of selecting songs that flow well together and give this the feel of an album, as opposed to just being a collection of cover songs as so many of those wind up being. There was clearly a high level of thought and care put into this.
It is a bit “ironic” perhaps that Arroyo shows Boston so much love on the final song and in the liner notes – in less than a year after releasing this album, the very guy who played guitar on Plush would trade Bronson to the Reds. I’m sure that’s not a big deal all things considered, as Arroyo got a ring in Boston and obviously enjoyed his time there, but it’s a bit of a funny thing to point out.
This is, to date, the only album Arroyo has released. He has played out live plenty of times, including hosting a concert of Pearl Jam covers after his final MLB game in 2017. But, after all this time, he hasn’t chosen to cut another album. Obviously that’s his business, but it does seem odd that he hasn’t done something else since he threw down on this one so early in his career.
As I close, here’s a note – this isn’t available on streaming that I know of and the YT videos I posted are bootleg links so they might go away. The only real way to have this is to get a physical copy, which set me back $4.25, and $4 of that was shipping. I will say I’ve spent far more on far worse, Bronson did a pretty good job on his album.
Why did Tower Records go out of business again?