Cover Battle – “Throw It Away” January 24, 2014
The recording of “Throw It Away”, written by actress, activist, singer Abbey Lincoln sounds extremely dark and dramatic at first listen but that actually belies the hopeful, positive sentiment of the song. For some reason, when I hear it, I picture her strolling down the banks of the Seine, in a light rain. It just has that feel of something (I imagine) you’d hear while sitting in a Paris cafe.
Polish Jazz vocalist Aga Zaryan gives a truly wonderful tribute to Abbey on this number. Her voice is very fresh and lively and her particular arrangement is lighter than the original yet it still fits the song quite well. She’s actually released an album “Remembering Nina and Abbey”, in tribute to her influences Abbey and Nina Simone.
The live radio performance by the talented Esperanza Spalding is beautiful. Nothing fancy is needed here. It’s very pure and hypnotic.
Next I have, in a solo turn, pianist Marc Cary, who actually performed with Ms. Lincoln for over a decade. He, like Aga, has released a tribute album “For the Love of Abbey”. The man is a terrific musician: very soulful and passionate with a wonderful connection to his instrument.
I found a version by Cassandra Wilson. I know ya’ll are probably sick of seeing her show up in the cover battles but I’m giving it to you anyway. She has a similar style to Abbey, but this time her voice is not as low and slow as Abbey, or even as deep and mellow as she is on other tunes. She has more of a smooth, rich honeyed tone this time.
I enjoyed the way Aaron Pfeiffer does this song, on stage. He really gets into it and does it his own way. I like that. And the bass on this is nice, as well.
Monday in B-Flat January 9, 2014
Monday in B-Flat
by Amiri Baraka
I can pray
But if I call
in a minute!
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