Gov’t Mule: Dark Side of the Mule & Stoned Side of the Mule: Vol. 1

Glenn BurnSilver on December 24, 2014

When one artist covers another artist, particularly on some fairly seminal works, there are two schools of thought. Should the songs be played close to the vest, adhering fairly tightly to the originals, or should the remakes be wild and expansive, using the originals as foundations from which to jump into the unknown? Gov’t Mule manages to apply both dimensions on Dark Side of the Mule (Pink Floyd) and Stoned Side of the Mule (Rolling Stones), sticking close enough to each original for happy recognition while adding the distinctive touches that make everything uniquely Mule. Part of the band’s 20th
anniversary archival series, and culled from special Halloween shows (2009 and 2008, respectively), these cover outings, sandwiched between sets of original material, are wildly fun and wildly different.

Stoned straight-out rocks. Rooted in the blues, these seven tracks are perfectly suited for the high-octane side of Gov’t Mule, particularly “Monkey Man” and “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” (complete with tell-tale background vocals and full horn accompaniment). And while there’s only so much one can add to classic Stones tracks short of techno remixes, Mule locks it in tight. Between Warren Haynes’ dynamic and impassioned guitar playing and growling vocals, Matt Abts’ pulsating drums, Jorgen Carlsson’s rumbling bass and Danny Louis’ rousing keys, each Stones classic finds new life. Guest guitarist Jackie Greene adds a few timely solos, too.

The 90-minute Pink Floyd set is a more varied affair. Early in, the Mule stays close to the original versions, but gradually the songs stray further from the core—for good and bad. While most songs work brilliantly, some tracks feel overplayed. David Gilmour’s guitar playing thrived on his spacial approach. At times, Haynes packs that space with too many notes; others, he’s spot on. Abts’ drumming isn’t quite up to the task on the classic intro to “Time” either—yet, despite scattered minor inconsistencies, it’s an amazingly conceived performance exploiting the psychedelic side of Gov’t Mule. Topping it
off, guest Ron Holloway scatters stunning sax fills throughout the set.

Wildly divergent, both sets showcase a band comfortable enough with its identity to go out on a limb—way out at moments—simply for the sheer enjoyment of the music.

Artist: Gov’t Mule
Album: Dark Side of the Mule & Stoned Side of the Mule: Vol. 1
Label: Evil Teen