Cover Battle – “Sweet Child O’ Mine” February 21, 2014
The original of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is written and performed by the band Guns N’ Roses. It introduced us to one of the greatest American rock and roll bands ever. Their set is loud, raucous and super tight. There’s not a wasted bit of anything in this track.
Now we come to the version that compelled me to choose this song: Miche Braden & Postmodern Jukebox. It’s done in a straight old-time bluesy, jazzy New Orleans style, and it is PHENOMENAL. It’s one of those renditions that takes a piece to places you never imagined it could go.
This next one is done by Taken by Trees. It puts a very sweet turn on the song. If I had heard it in passing under any sort of normal circumstances it would be fine. But I didn’t. The first time I heard a snippet of it was in a commercial for a Lifetime movie adaptation of the V.C. Andrews novel Flowers in the Attic. The book, and subsequent sequels, were all the rage back in the day. It’s about a vain, selfish mother (and an abusive grandmother) who hides her kids out in the attic just until she can get back in her father’s good graces and be put back in the will. Of course she starts enjoying the good life and the kids end up staying there for well over a year. Since the two oldest are going through puberty there’s a whole sibling incest thing. That’s what creeps me out about this version. It made me feel really, really icky. Not icky enough to not watch the movie (craptastic in that Lifetime movie sort of way) but still icky.
I’m not really impressed with the Sheryl Crow version. Nothing is added to the song. I seem to like her more as a songwriter than as a performer, so my rating on this is “meh”
The next one is done by the Irish dance band Lazy Boyz, in a style of “music” that I am just probably too old to handle. It’s all thumping beat, house, electronic, synth, techno, trance music. Perfect for dance clubs and raves and jumping up and down and all around like you’re having some sort of seizure. It’s not actually something you would sit down and listen to; it seems only designed for maximum movement of maximum bodies jammed into a huge neon-lit space. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just never been my thing.
Bonnie Tyler’s voice is super scratchy, super raspy and would seem, in theory, to be perfect for such a great rock song. In a way it works, and in a way it doesn’t. It works because she sounds so raw and wild and it’s in keeping with her energy and how she sings. But it doesn’t work because it’s almost painful to listen to. Not because she’s off key or anything (she’s just doing her thing). But my throat starts to hurt when she goes for some of those long notes. It’s a bit distracting (or detracting??) and I can’t get into this as much as some of the other ones.
Cover Battle – “Something” February 14, 2014
In honor of the 50th anniversary of The Beatles coming to America (via The Ed Sullivan Show) I decided to do one of their classics. Also last Sunday I saw part of a special on CBS celebrating the anniversary and this one really spoke to me.
This song has been covered, by, like, a billion talented, well-known artists so it’s maddening to figure out who to include and who to ignore. There are plenty of covers I don’t like by people I do like. Seal, Ike & Tina Turner, and Bruce Springsteen, for example, but I’ve put in a couple others as well. (Whoever put up the Springsteen one set it over scenes from Cinderella, which I don’t get the connection at all.)
“Something” is absolutely one of the most beautiful, romantic songs I’ve ever heard. The original is so simple and straightforward yet so powerful and passionate. The depth of feeling and love in this composition is amazing. It acknowledges that’s everything’s not all butterflies and roses, and there could be doubt, but it’s still hopeful and devoted. It’s bloody brilliant.
We get to hear the song done live by George Harrison and Eric Clapton. The enduring friendship of these two men is astonishing, given everything they’ve gone through together. The video itself is a fan made piece in honor of Mr. Harrison, so watching it and hearing him live is a bit melancholy. Although I love Paul McCartney, George Harrison was my favorite Beatle crush.
The Lauryn Hill performance on David Letterman – wow. I’m not going to say it’s better than the original, but the full backing band and the whole bluesy-rock interpretation is audacious. She took this classic timeless song and just put her own unique stamp on it. As the video fades out you can even hear the awe and admiration from Dave and his band leader, Paul Shaffer. And it’s richly deserved.
Another truly unique rendition comes from James Brown. George Harrison actually stated that this was his favorite version. It’s funky and rhythmic, and unlike any other take I’ve gone through. It’s so far out of the realm of how you think of this song that you really have to work hard to open yourself up to it. I’m trying, a bit, and the more I listen the more I can appreciate James’ vision of the song.
I don’t really think I’m feeling the studio version by Dame Shirley Bassey. Great singer, powerful voice, full orchestration in the background, but – meh. Now, conversely, I can actually enjoy the live version better. Could be because there seems to be less unnecessary fluff and gimmicks to it, maybe.
Frank Sinatra is awesome. He truly shows the versatility of the songwriting involved. It’s modern and it’s old-school classic romance, all at the same time. It’s universal. During the performance you can even see Frank getting lost in the beauty of the song
Cover Battle – “Celebrate Me Home” February 7, 2014
The original, written and performed by Kenny Loggins, may be my favorite non-traditional, non-spoof, modern Christmas song. The emotional depth that Kenny brings to this song is outstanding and it gets to me every single time. I could listen to this, multiple times, at any time of the year. Actually I enjoy Christmas music more outside of the holiday season, because it’s not so rote and shoved down your throat everywhere you turn.
The video I use here is from Kenny’s concert “Live At The Grand Canyon” and features a truly amazing sax solo.
For Donna Summer’s performance, live in concert, it started off with me not liking it too much. As she got more into it, it really grew on me. She puts just a slight religious touch to it, turning it into a heartfelt, joyful memorial of loved ones gone too soon.
Hearing Ruben Studdard sing this literally gave me chills. He does an excellent job. Having him do it on the stage of the show that first brought him to national attention, American Idol, was an apt homecoming.
I didn’t really like the version by Lady Antebellum. They’re a good band. I mean, I only know one song of theirs (“Need You Now“) and I enjoy it. The song just didn’t seem as special on this one. I didn’t feel any sort of deep emotional stirrings when I heard their take.
Little River Band. I … Uh … What the …? Just … no. Nope. Nope. Nope. Is “abomination” too strong a word to use? Perhaps, but I’m gonna leave it here. And I used to be all over Little River Band years ago, so it’s not like my innate bias against country. (And no, that didn’t play into my dislike of the Lady Antebellum one). Frankly I think this one is kinda crappy and messed up.
Cover Battle – “Time After Time” January 3, 2014
The original recording of “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper is so sweet and tender you just want to hug her. As much as you think of her as the fun, goofy, trippy dippy 80′s singer, she has a beautiful openness and honesty that can break your heart.
Patti Cathcart (of Tuck and Patti) has a deep velvet voice that’s on the opposite spectrum from Cyndi’s woman-child vocals. With just her singing and her husband Tuck’s guitar they create an incredibly full, lush sound – soothing while still being impassioned and powerful.
Cassandra Wilson is another singer in the same deep toned category as Ms. Cathcart, except Cassandra’s voice, I think, is even lower. Her style is also slower and much more languid. She definitely can lull you into a beautiful, dreamlike state.
I loved the beautiful, ethereal simplicity of Cyndi’s duet with Sarah McLachlan. Just a few instruments and two amazing voices joining together.
Matchbox Twenty also did a pretty nice cover of this song in concert. Keeping the simplicity intact is always a good idea for this song, and they’ve done that here.
I don’t think Quietdrive (???) adds anything to the song. It’s more pop and makes it kind of forgettable. They don’t sound bad, they just don’t do much for me on this.
Eva Cassidy’s rendition is quite emotional. I didn’t think any other version could hold a candle to the original but Eva’s is on a par with Cyndi’s.
Pink also gives an emotion-filled performance in a live concert. The audience is right there with her, which adds an extra element of conviction to the moment.
There’s also a nice Miles Davis instrumental version if you’re in a jazzy sort of mood.
Cover Battle – “No Scrubs” December 27, 2013
“No Scrubs” is a song that’s fun, smart and sassy, just like the group that originally recorded it, the Grammy award-winning TLC. It has a nice bouncy beat that gets me moving (in my desk chair, never vertical because that would be embarrassingly bad). It’s a great example of the wonderful songwriting and harmonic skills of the ladies. It also features a rap by the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.
Singer Kelly Clarkson does the song live, in the “Fan Request” part of her concert. We only get a portion of the song but you can still tell how well she does on it. The song actually doesn’t start until about 2:40. Before that it’s a lot of concert patter, but it’s very cute. Her “back up dancer” is too too funny, so I think you’ll still enjoy the non-singing segments of the video.
The Chipettes version sort of makes me want to stab my ears after listening to it for awhile. It’s a rendition that’s totally faithful to the original, just screechier. I know that’s what the Chipettes* are but it just sounds extra, super duper screechy, which can be hard to take.
The next version brings an all-male vocal to this song, by a group called Bastille. They do a live on-air performance, with a keyboard, guitar and drum machine. No big production and a nice little accent in the lead singer’s voice. It’s really well-done and they bring some tenderness to the song.
The last version is from the improbably named Scout Niblett. The music underneath the vocals almost makes it sound like “House of the Rising Sun“. It’s considerably slower and much more dramatic in tone, but it works.
*Interesting side note: Unlike their male counterparts the Chipmunks, the Chipettes have no body hair. But then why should they? They’re female. Can’t have anything natural on them like body hair, right? Heaven forbid they should look like anything other than the generally accepted norm, right? Okay, perhaps this is a rant for another time
Covers, No Battle (Pt 6) December 25, 2013
And now, we have the final holiday tidbit. I hope that you guys have had fun watching these. To see all the other entries just check the links at the end on the post.
When I was a kid I used to love all those Rankin and Bass animated and stop-motion Christmas specials. There’s one called The Year Without A Santa Claus. The highlight was a duo of songs performed by two brothers, Heat Miser and Snow Miser. Frankly I think Snow Miser’s song has much more flare, but they’re still both quite fun.
Now, apparently in 2006 someone had the “bright” idea to do a live-action special. Why? I have no clue. I don’t remember hearing about it, didn’t see it, and don’t think I want to. This video of the brothers’ song is more than enough to dissuade me from ever seeking it out.
Covers, No Battle (Pt 5) December 24, 2013
I had a lot of fun watching videos for part 5. To see the earlier entries you can check out the bottom on this post.
Mariah Carey originally wrote and recorded this in 1994 and since then it’s become a go-to classic. In 2012 she teamed up with Jimmy Fallon, The Roots (on classroom instruments!), and a few little kiddies to do another one. It is soooo much fun to hear and see them do it. Everybody’s having a blast.
My Chemical Romance’s version starts off sweet and slow then brings out the spikiness of a good rousing modern rock/punk song. It’s rowdy and rough and loud and discordant, in parts. Definitely a non-traditional take on it, but I quite like it. The energy is good and surprisingly it makes me feel very holly-jolly.
Another version that makes me all happy and festive is from the movie “Love, Actually“. It’s sung by young actress Olivia Olson, and she does a stellar job. If you haven’t seen the movie, check it out.
Covers, No Battle (Pt 3) December 22, 2013
Time for part 3 of my holiday cover samplings. For links to the earlier entries you can check out the bottom on this post.
Really good a cappela singing kinda makes me melt, and the Pentatonix version of this song is no exception. You can tell that, individually, their voices are strong, but together they’re just amazing. The way the harmonies dive, and swoop and swirl around is like a vocal ballet. It’s beautiful to hear.
Next we have one of the most unlikely duos you could think of: Bing Crosby and David Bowie. I have no idea who’s idea it was to put these two together, but it worked out brilliantly. With Bing crooning about the drummer boy and then he and David doing a duet on “Peace on Earth” it’s a magical moment in musical history.
Speaking of unlikely, I now bring you Christopher Lee. Yes – LOTR’s Saruman (and hundreds of other films) Christopher Lee. My first response was WTF?! Then I listened to it, and like Mr. Lee, himself this one is truly badass.