The Late Great Daniel Johnston

Discovered Covered

For many, it's hard to understand how the shrill-voiced, clinically bipolar, and often childlike songwriter Daniel Johnston found himself with a double-album tribute that contains covers of his greatest hits — as performed by the likes of Tom Waits, TV on the Radio, Death Cab for Cutie, Bright Eyes, Beck, and more — as well as a second album full of the original songs themselves. As his devotees have known forever, though, Johnston can write a tune like few others, despite (or perhaps because of) his difficulties. While many of the covers flesh out the inherent beauty and grandeur of the songs with complex arrangements (TV on the Radio's “Walking the Cow” and Death Cab for Cutie's “Dream Scream”), others make the songs minimal and fragile. The latter approach seems to falter at times (Calvin Johnston's and Beck's renditions, for example), leaving you wanting to listen to Johnston's unsullied versions. The 19 songs that compose the disc of originals, however, make the double LP worth the purchase alone, as even one listen through proves that Johnston has one of the most commanding and curiously unique voices in contemporary music.

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