Just two tracks here really do anything different or worthwhile, and those are the songs “Mr. Bitterness” and “St. Louise Is Listening.” The former makes the song something different and more mysterious with an acoustic guitar treatment, and the latter cranks up the intensity with Doughty’s vocal, which adds a portentous tone different than the original.
The new version of “Super Bon Bon,” the song that first turned me on to Soul Coughing, is really disappointing, wrecked utterly by a needless and unnecessary chattering background vocal effect that Doughty has added here – even without that and/or without the original arrangement, this version would still seem flat.
I like both Soul Coughing and Doughty’s solo work, but Doughty said in his memoir “The Book of Drugs” and elsewhere that the Soul Coughing recordings aren’t how he envisioned those songs as the main author of them. If that’s so, and this is how he imagined the sound of these songs, then he really gained something better from those collaborators, even if they never got along.
It’s possible these versions could somehow grow on me over time – the enunciation of the words is in some cases clearer – but that alone isn’t enough, and sometimes overall sound and production is more important to great music. It’s not like Doughty can’t or doesn’t do that in his solo work – check out a short track like “More Bacon Than The Pan Can Handle” or for that matter, “Golden Delicious,” the album it’s on. It just appears that in revisiting the Soul Coughing songs he couldn’t help but let his conflicted feelings about that time hamper the work. There are countless creative things he could have done with those songs that weren’t attempted.