I found a bunch of covers for this song, so I’m breaking this into two separate posts. Feel free to peruse them at your leisure.
The song “In My Life“, mostly written by John Lennon (but attributed to Lennon-McCartney) and originally performed by The Beatles is one of their classic, well-loved songs. It’s a simple song with so much feeling to it, that really showcases the wonderful craftsmanship and talent of the writer(s) and performers. It’s wistful, nostalgic, a little peppy, and infinitely singable all at the same time. It’s also been covered by quite a few artists.
In a live concert Dave Matthews does the song as a beautiful, heartfelt and loving, reverential tribute to John Lennon. He really connects with the audience and the spirit of the song. His performance may be one of the best covers out there.
Bette Midler did the song on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Towards the end you can see her so overcome with emotion that her voice breaks. I had originally thought this was from Carson’s last show as host in May of 1992, but if was actually from her November 1991 appearance. Six months later, she, along with comedian Robin Williams, would be one of the last guests on Johnny’s show.
As befitting the self-described Prince of Darkness, the cover by Ozzy Osbourne is appropriately creepy sounding. Yet it’s not so creepy that it’s off-putting. It just sounds a bit metal; like Ozzy.
The 60′s group The Seekers give us their take. It’s okay; not something I’d “seek out” again. (Ha-ha – see what I did there?). It just makes the song sound really generic and forgettable, like something placid you’d hear at the dentist’s office to keep you calm while the Novocain takes its hold. Very blah.
I’ve been a Paul Simon fan for such a long time. I think I even had (still have?) a little crush on him. I’m a sucker for great writing and humor and melody and charm.
“Something So Right” is tender and romantic and honest and deep. His heart is just wide open, confessing his feelings and how he’s been saved by this incredible love. After so many years of disappointment it’s weird being in something that works. But it’s a good, redemptive and healing weird.
I found the Annie Lennox version while scrolling through the “Music” folder on my computer. I don’t think I had even listened to it before, but I noticed the title and wanted to see if it was the same as the Paul Simon song and sure enough it was.
Annie’s talent is so … ethereal and other-worldly, yet it grounds you to the truth of the song and the feelings she invokes. She’s riveting. Her voice paired with the writing of Paul Simon is pure magic.
I didn’t realize that Barbra Streisand had recorded this. Hearing it today, for the first time, I think it’s fine, if a tad bit overdone. Maybe I’ll develop a better appreciation of it after a few more listens, but right now, I can’t really connect with it. I’m treating Paul’s version as the standard bearer, and I would put Annie’s version over Bab’s.
Phoebe Snow puts a little funk and soul into her version. Like Annie and Barbra, Phoebe sounds more “produced” than Paul’s, but that doesn’t really distract me. Her groove just brings me deeper into the song.
R&B singer Randy Crawford does an incredible version. From the first few notes I fell for this. She’s singing with a lot of passion and conviction.
Another really good one comes from Jazz singer Diane Reeves. She does this one live, with a nice backup band. With her strong vocals, she does it a bit slower than any of the other interpretations. This slightly slowed down tempo makes it seem more relaxed even though her singing is more intense.
Gwen McCrae does a fairly acceptable cover, but I don’t think her voice is all that great. At the end she adds in some free styling and improv that accent the meaning of the song. Meh.
I have no idea who The Temprees are but I’m glad I found their version. I wanted to hear another male take on this. And it’s a group, too. It has a definite 70′s soul group sound to it, and I like it. They have nice harmonies.
The song, “Because the Night“, originally written and recorded by Bruce Springsteen, was redone by rocker Patti Smith (who Bruce gave co-authorship to) and first released for use on her “Easter” album.
The Patti Smith studio version from 1978 starts off with a beautiful light piano, then explodes into an energetic rock/punk classic full of youthful rebellion, love and undying passion.
Her live version, performed years later, is much more sedate, but no less passionate. Through age and experience Patti makes this an even deeper song – instead of the crazy reckless excitement of young love, it’s the enduring faithfulness of lasting love and a lifetime of journeys taken together.
Bruce would take to singing the song in concert, turning it into a crowd favorite. He later released his original studio recording on a compilation album, “The Promise“, in 2010. I like Patti’s studio version better, though.
I truly enjoyed the version by Natalie Merchant and 10, 000 Maniacs. Even though it has less of a hungering desperation than the original it doesn’t detract from it. It doesn’t take it off in a totally different direction, necessarily, but the group owns it. The addition of the backing orchestra is an outstanding choice.
The Co. Ro. version featuring Taleesa (???) is fine for what it is: a dance club mix. I’m sure it’ll get the people on the floor and moving, but the song almost has no soul. It’s got a beat and … I’m not even sure anyone listening to it in this form would even care about meaning and lyrical content.
The Cascada (again I say ????) version is sped up and sounds pretty pop, dancy and ultimately disposable.
Screaming Females, along with Garbage, fronted by Shirley Manson, released a version of this last year, for Record Store Day, that brings the song back to its punky hard-driving roots and even blows it out of the water in some ways. It’s like an ultra defiant, in-your-face, kick-your-arse anarchist’s anthem and rallying cry. The guitar shredding brought to the forefront around the 3:39 mark is ah-ma-zing!
It is so hard to take the next version seriously when looking at the supremely 80′s video done by Keel. But even listening to it with your eyes closed doesn’t help. Once you see the video, you cannot unsee it. Not that I think their audio is actually good or anything, because I don’t. I think it’s a nondescript mess of wailing guitar chords and smug, unimpressive vocals.
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.
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
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.
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.
“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