Typically when a band records and releases a covers album, it's a sign of creative fatigue. This is not the case with the Congress, who picked up an old Tascam 388 reel-to-reel recorder and decided to record a bunch of covers, for an EP titled The Loft Tapes, which they'll release tomorrow night at the Bluebird. Inspired by listening to Donny Hathaway's live album, the guys evidently thought it would be cool to record a bunch of tunes nodding to the soul greats that inspired them -- raw, live, straight to tape, with as minimal fuss as possible.
With this notion in mind, they convened in the ballroom of an old Masonic Temple with their vintage reel-to-reel and set about laying down seven-tracks of classic soul, offering up unhurried and captivating renditions of tunes by Roberta Flack, Van Morrison and Marvin Gaye, among others. The whole thing was recorded live by the band with just a few mics and then mixed in-house and sent off to be mastered by Brian Lucey, a friend of the group who's mastered music by the Black Keys and Dr. John, among others.
While the record definitely has a lo-fi quality to it -- let's just say you wouldn't be surprised in least to find it was recorded on analog tape; the signal peaks at times, particularly the vocals when vocalist Jonathan Meadows really belts -- what it lacks in clarity, it more than makes up for in expressiveness. Meadows's voice sounds utterly fantastic on these tunes, particularly "You've Got a Friend" and "Killing Me Softly," and the band sounds laid back and super groovy, like they're feeling the music rather than merely playing it. Not only did the dudes nail it here, but some of their versions rival the originals.