Under the Covers is the second full-length album from Ford. Sure, the title winkingly refers to Ford’s adult film past. But it’s also an apt reference to the album’s main focus: songs made famous by others. Indeed, and like numerous artists before him, Ford has recorded a collection of songs that sound, at once, wholly familiar and wonderfully fresh.
In addition to speaking to Ford in a very real and personal way, the tracks that comprise Under the Covers made a significant impact when they were originally released and will be immediately familiar to a wide listening audience—even though someone other than the original artist is singing them. Explains Ford, “Adding my interpretation to these songs gives a new perspective to these classic tunes, enabling me to show different sides of my vocal ability.”
Ford continues, “When you are covering a hit track, if you can retain the integrity of the original and bring your own style to it in the process, you can reveal something to the listener about you as an artist that perhaps they haven’t heard before. This album is also a friendly reminder of just how great these songs were and still are.”
Under the Covers covers much musical ground and time. At 32-years-old, Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” (re-imagined here as an interlude) is the oldest song in the collection. It is seamlessly situated between R.E.M.’s alternative rock hit “Losing My Religion” and Babyface’s R&B charttopper “It’s no Crime.” Elsewhere, Ford takes on Britney Spears’ “Trouble” (a bonus track on the pop star’s latest album, “Circus”), which leads into an a cappella snippet of R. Kelly’s “It Seems Like You’re Ready,” followed by the house music anthem/R&B jam, “Follow Me.”
Each of Ford’s cover versions showcases a singer who is deftly bridging the gap between then and now. Nowhere is this more evident than on his re-workings of Robyn’s “With Every Heartbeat,” Sade’s “By Your Side,” Alicia Keys’ “No One” and Nirvana’s “Lithium.” In Ford’s hands, “With Every Heartbeat” retains its sublime electro-pop foundation, while “By Your Side” and “No One” take glorious side trips to Spain and Jamaica, respectively. Ford injects the Nirvana classic with ample dance-rock attitude—and even manages to pay homage to Ram Jam’s top 20 hit “Black Betty” (released the same year as Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”) along the way.
Throughout, the beats remain feisty and the rhythms taut, with Ford’s soulful vocals upfront and center. Quentin Harris, who helmed Ford’s debut album, 2008’s Tug of War, is but one producer featured on Under the Covers. A decidedly collaborative project, Under the Covers also spotlights the production skills of Matthias “Matty” Heilbronn, Craig C., Whatever Whatever (aka Justin Strauss and Bryan Bette), Lost Daze, Count De Money and others.
For Ford, there is a difference between singing songs made famous by other artists and singing his own original music. However, he clearly states, “When I’m singing, I’m singing. I feel what it is that I’m singing about, and when I sing a song, it’s my interpretation of the song, whether I wrote it or not. Now, writing a song adds another layer for me. It’s like you’re giving birth to something and are responsible for it’s development and growth. That’s an awesome process.”
Growing up, Ford listened to mix of R&B (Rufus and Chaka Khan, Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass, the Commodores, Anita Baker, Sarah Vaughn, Smokey Robinson, Al Green) pop (Olivia Newton-John, Cyndi Lauper, Tom Tom Club, Thompson Twins) and rock (Boston, the Police, Pat Benatar, Fleetwood Mac). He also managed to find time for Manhattan Transfer.
Ford’s fondness for words and melodies and singing paved the way to a young Ford participating in dinner theater revues while still in college. A short stint with Jon St. James’ production company (responsible for pop-dance hits by Stacy Q and others) in the mid-’80s provided Ford with the necessary tools to take a giant step forward. By the late-’80s, Ford had signed a production deal with the company co-owned by hit-making songwriter Denise Rich.
In the early-’90s, Ford was confirmed to be the featured male vocalist on Frankie Knuckles’ second studio album, 1995’s Welcome to the Real World. In the end, conflicts at the label (Virgin Records) prevented this from happening, and female singer Adeva became the album’s featured singer. Virgin then offered Ford a solo album deal. Unfortunately, this album never saw the light of day.
Through the twists and turns—and ups and downs—of his recording career, Ford never stopped writing songs. In 2002, filming began for the documentary “Naked Fame,” which followed Ford’s transition from porn star to singer. Ford’s dance track, “Everything,” anchored the film, offering viewers the ins and outs of a one-time porn star making the jump—or in Ford’s case, returning—to the world of music. Ford’s single with Pepper MaShay, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” also became a Billboard Top 10 hit.
Ford’s non-X rated acting skills also made their way to TV. Playing the role of Sheriff Trout, Ford appears in all three seasons of here! TV’s on-going campy gay vampire show, “The Lair.” Ford has also had cameos in the films “Another Gay Sequel” and Madonna and Rupert Everett’s “The Next Big Thing.” And in addition to his own numerous music videos, Ford starred in the video of Cyndi Lauper’s “Into the Nightlife.” Yes, he also performed on select dates of the Lauper-helmed True Colors 2008 Tour.
Now, for those who remain unable to get beyond Ford’s porn star past to focus on his singing present (can you say “skeptic”?), Ford has a few words: “I can’t control how people feel about me, my past and my music. I have always sung and created music, so I just continue to do what I’ve always done. My main concern is to make music that I feel and that I’m proud of. The rest is out of my control. I know that there are some people who aren’t going to be able to see beyond my porn persona, and that’s ok.”
Pausing for a moment, he adds, “I feel, however, that there are far more people out there who are interested in hearing what I can do musically, and are able to look beyond that part of my past. Those are the people I’m looking to reach. I’m doing what I love to do, so at the end of the day, I can say that I’m following my heart and living my dream. Isn’t that what we all want for ourselves?”
1. Rock The Boat (Aaliyah) interlude
2. With Every Heartbeat (Robyn)
3. Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)
4. Dreams (Fleetwood Mac) interlude
5. It’s No Crime (Babyface)
6. Trouble (Britney Spears)
7. It Seems Like You’re Ready (R. Kelly) interlude
8. Follow Me (Aly-Us)
9. By Your Side (Sade)
10. Music Sounds Better With You (Stardust) [Hot Tracks Re-Edit]
11. It’s Like That (Mariah Carey) interlude
12. No One (Alicia Keys)
13. Lithium (Nirvana)
14. What About Us (Brandy) interlude
15. You Gonna Want Me (Tiga)
16. Show Me Love (Robin S.)
17. Out Of Time (Hall and Oates) interlude
18. Ashes To Ashes (Faith No More)
First single is “Losing my religion”. Album release : August 4th