… but I digress

Just another WordPress.com site

Cover Battle – “Black” August 15, 2014

 

The song “Black” by Pearl Jam is beautiful. It’s well-written and emotive. It’s relatable to anyone who’s lost at love a time or two. It starts off so simply and builds to almost operatic heights of intensity and heartbreak.

 

As good as the studio version is, the MTV Unplugged performance of the song is incredible. Again, it starts simply, and you melt into it. Soon (and subtly), Eddie and the band turn it up – and I’m just mesmerized. Eddie Vedder has a kind of Jim Morrison or Joe Cocker-like intensity when he really gets rolling. It’s like seeing a musical possession: it’s thrilling and frightening, wild yet controlled, otherworldly yet totally grounded. Eddie’s sitting down the entire time but you’re almost holding your breath expecting him to jump up and get the holy ghost. It’s like he’s a whirling dervish who’s been nailed to the stool.

 

And so what if you might not be able to distinctly make out every single word when Vedder sings it? He puts himself completely into the song – heart, soul, blood, sweat, spit, spleen … 127%. (That might just be a rough estimate).

 

The cover by Smith & Meyers of the group Shinedown is fine. It’s fairly respectable; it’s enunciated quite well. It’s … okay. It just doesn’t have the same intense and passionate wallop of the Pearl Jam version.

 

And I’m not really feeling the live cover by Aaron Lewis of Staind, either. It seems very draggy and sad, much more than it needs to be. It’s kind of blah. Maybe anything less than Vedder on this song just sounds whiny and emo to me.

 

Baseball player Bronson Arroyo tackled the song on his debut album of cover songs, Covering the Bases (get it? a ballplayer doing cover songs? huh, huh?). Honestly, it’s not as bad as I thought it might be. Still not Vedder but I think it might kill on karaoke night at some bar.


 

   

   

 

Cover Battle – “Rhiannon” August 1, 2014

 

Rock group Fleetwood Mac, led by “white witchSteve Nicks, performs the song “Rhiannon”. (The song was actually inspired by the legend of a Welsh witch.) I think their recording is just perfect – the music and the lyrical content blend so wonderfully with the uniqueness of Stevie’s voice. There is not a bad thing that I can say about this song. I never get tired of listening to it.

 

I was very surprised to find a rendition done by country singer Waylon Jennings. Apparently he was a huge fan of Stevie’s, and even asked her to write a song for him and his wife and singing partner, Jessi Colter. Unfortunately, for them, by the time the song was ready the relationship was over, but fortunately for Mac fans Stevie recorded the resulting song, “Leather and Lace“, herself. (The song just so happens to be the subject of an earlier Cover Battle)

 

I’m so used to the original that this sounds really odd to me. Stevie’s recording is just so haunting, magical and mystical that I just can’t find that this version does the composition much justice at all.

 

Japanese artists Superfly perform a kick-ass version. The guitar work is really sharp. The vocalist, Shiho Ochi has a harder edge to her voice while still being very melodic. It calls to my mind the laidback punk cool of Debbie Harry coupled with the power of Pat Benatar. For some reason, though, the video only showcases the guitarist.

 

Redd Kross did a very, very, very low-tech recording of the song. I think they may have done it standing around a cassette tape machine. It has that kind of a throwback sound to it, like they were doing a homemade mix tape. It’s different. They do it as a straight up rock song. At the end, they go all out, just jamming and having fun. Their obvious enthusiasm for the material kind of made me smile. ;-)

   

   

 

Cover Battle – “Seven Nation Army” July 18, 2014

 

Both the video and the insistent pounding rhythm for “Seven Nation Army“, by The White Stripes, are striking, hypnotic and kind of trippy. It’s one of those songs that makes you want to discover all the nuances. and track down the meaning behind the lyrics, and the story behind the metaphors. The video is almost messianic and the song itself is anthemic. But beyond that, it’s just a fabulous rock song. I found myself hitting repeat many times.

 

On my first listen I didn’t feel that lead singer Jack White was that great of a vocalist. I thought it would get in the way of me really getting into the song, but after several replays the roughness fits for me. I’ve actually heard a couple of things he’s done with other artists, and I’ve been impressed and intrigued by him. In the documentary “It Might Get Loud” we can see Jack jamming on the song with legends Jimmy Page and The Edge, and it’s a thrilling goose-bump moment.

 

The first time I actually heard this song was from a live performance, in Montrieux, by Living Colour. They are most definitely at the top of my list of phenomenal musical acts. They’ve been in the game for years, and they’re still going stronger than ever. The guitar work and drumming on this is so fierce. They put their own spin on it by taking a great song and making it even more badass than the original. I’m so used to hearing the band with Corey Glover doing lead, but I like the gruff rawness of Vernon Reid.

 

New artist Zella Day does this in a totally different way than anyone else. Her version is backed with a simple guitar and sounds much sweeter than the two covers noted above. Even though hers is less throbby and percussive it still stays with you. It’s not unsettling; it’s just haunting and a plays to a mystery within the song. So far we have 3 renditions I wouldn’t mind listening to multiple times.

 

I have another live performance for you, this time from Argentina. It’s done by the group The Pretty Reckless, fronted by actress Taylor Momsen. She played Cindy Lou Who in the Jim Carrey Grinch movie. (Yeah, that makes me feel old, too). Their version brings it back to the hard rocking, and wailing guitar feel. This one, I think, is even more punk-like. (If I know anything about punk. Which I probably really don’t, but whatever). However, I don’t find that they keep the mystery of the song, and with this version I wouldn’t really be compelled to explore the meaning behind it. It’s done really, really well, though, and I wouldn’t mind hearing it again if I want a real head banging, hard driving good time.

 

 

A remix was done, by The Glitch Mob, for the movie G.I. Joe 2: Retaliation. I’m not really a fan of remixes in general because they tend to draw you in with a familiar rhythm and then just beat it into your ears with an aural crowbar until you actually get sick of hearing the original song that drew you in, in the first place. I don’t know the technical term but whatever is on top of the vocals – (reverb, distortion, techno, whatever) is annoying and grating. It’s over powering. It might be great for the G.I. Joe movie or a tie-in video game, but goodness I couldn’t wait for this to be done.

 

A favorite of singer Kelly Clarkson, the song pops up in her live shows quite often. She rocks out to this very well. The specialness is in the song itself, but she doesn’t really add anything. Other than a good live performance.

 

I don’t really think Audioslave adds anything more to this either. The audience seems to enjoy it, but it didn’t do it for me. Just a lot of atonal screaming.

 

X-Factor contestant Marcus Collins released this as his first single, and I’m just like … NO! The video is just horrible and he turns the song into some light fluffy joke devoid of anything worthy of being listened to. It’s ridiculous. He should have just stayed in his lane. Or better yet, just stayed home and not even attempted it. Bad Marcus. Bad, bad Marcus. Now go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve. And keep your mouth closed.

 

I’m not really sure how I feel about what The Oak Ridge Boys did with this. As part of an interview for Sirius XM radio they did this in studio, vocally recreating the familiar guitar riff during the song’s intro, as well as in other spots. It’s dramatic and well-harmonized, but … maybe a little melodramatic with a dash of kitsch? It’s … odd.

   

   

 

Cover Battle – “Positively 4th Street” July 11, 2014

 

See what I do for you guys? What I’m willing to subject my ears to?
Dylan – Bob Dylan!!

 

I’ve never really been able to get past the vocals to actually listen intently to a Bob Dylan song, but I have to say I surprised myself by really getting into his song “Positively 4th Street“. The song’s about being betrayed and, as one commenter put it on YouTube, it’s ‘a classy and poetic Fuck You’ song. And they’re right – the lyrics are just perfect and biting, yet the melody of the song easily grabs you, and belies the harshness of the song’s true intent.

 

Now here’s the kicker – the version I really got into wasn’t actually Dylan! In searching YouTube people can title the vids however they want. I found one, clicked on it and listened. It sounded like Dylan to me, only slightly more understandable. It was only after playing it that I read the description. It was actually a version from a Post Productions tribute album that I got into. Apparently it’s really hard to track down a (good?) Dylan version. I found the one above and I was like “Yeah, okay, there’s the voice; that’s why I don’t listen to Dylan”

 

The first time I heard any of the song was a bit of it done by Katey Sagal on “Mary“. Those lyrics always stayed with me. Periodically I would think about but never look for it. Finally I googled that little snippet and found out what the song was. I really wish I could find a video or even just an audio clip of her doing the entire song. But, for now, this will have to do. She sounds beautiful.

 

The cover that Dylan, himself, touts as his favorite was done by Johnny Rivers. I’m a fan of Rivers’ work. It has that Johnny Rivers sound yet it also sounds very folky, and even more melodic and matter of fact than my favorite version from Post Production. Not sure if I’m totally on board for this one, sad to say.

 

The Byrds do it slightly more up-tempo, yet they sound very Dylanesque. But not so Dylanesque that it makes my ears bleed. This also seems to be the shortest version of the song that I’ve found. They do it live and although not done angrily, somehow, I can hear the bitterness more clearly in this than in any other one that I’ve found. Or maybe that’s just a product of listening to so many versions in a short span of time.

 

You can hear The Beatles doing some of the song during a video of their “Let It Be” Sessions (at the 0:50 mark). An official version was never released though. This is another one I would have loved to hear a full recording of.

 

Jerry Garcia, lead singer of The Grateful Dead, and creator of The Jerry Garcia Band, is another example of a musical legend that I’m just not into. His rendition with Merl Saunders grabs me from the first note. It sounds bluesy and the guitar is so masterful. Jerry’s vocal is a bit wistful and just slightly sad. I really enjoyed this one a lot.

 

Lucinda Williams opens this with more of a country-sounding vibe. It’s not twangy, thank goodness. Though I’m not a fan of her voice, I do like the way it serves to bring out and illustrate the hurt feelings behind the song.

 

The punk group X sounds a bit taunting in their performance of the tune and they take it back to that “Fuck You” place with their hard guitars and shouty … not so melodic vocals. They don’t seem to have any regard for a harmonious, engaging way, and they succeed on that point. But you still want to listen.

 

Bryan Ferry keeps it very straightforward and heartfelt. The piano is a nice departure from the omnipresent guitar-focused versions out there. It gives it more of a simple, plainspoken honesty.

 

English group Simply Red brings in more orchestration on this classic. The lead singer Mick Hucknall kind of sounds like Dylan, a bit, here. Just not as eardrum-destroying.

 

Unfortunately, for this next cover, I was only able to find a Grooveshark audio clip. But it’s really good. Violent Femmes brings the rock and the punk and the rockabilly excitement to this song and turn it into, as they say, “a catchy little ditty”. It’s a bit raucous but fun and cool. It’s also so danceable that you might not even pay attention to the lyrics on the first few listens. I do like it very much, though.

 


 

   

   

 

Cover Battle – “Addicted to Love” July 4, 2014

 

I think the original recording of “Addicted to Love” is just as fantastic today as it was when it first came out. Performed by Brit Robert Palmer, it has a hard driving beat that’s infectious and hypnotic. The video was especially striking – the gentlemanly dashing, cool and suited Mr. Palmer with his vacant-eyed, zombie model back-up band. Endlessly listenable.

 

I know Florence + The Machine are really popular, but I’m not at all familiar with their work. I think I saw them once on Saturday Night Live and they just didn’t really do anything for me. Their take on the song is totally different from Palmer’s. I actually like the cool acapella way the recording opens. It has a slight ethereal, otherworldly sound to it. Once the music comes in, and the song goes on I’m less enamored of it. By the end, I’m like “Yeah, whatever”.

 

When the Skyler Grey version starts off, it reminds me a lot of Florence + The Machine. Even though this opening doesn’t grab me quite as much as Flo and the boys, Skyler maintains that ghostly, wispy-voiced sound most of the way through, which I appreciate.

 

74 year old Tina Turner is, without a doubt, a musical legend. (Is legend even good enough to describe the talent, strength and endurance of this woman? And those legs?! Good lord!) She sounds fantastic. She’s always had a unique sounding voice that cannot be duplicated. This video of her live show illustrates that she has not lost a step. Just an incredible performance and totally exhilarating to watch.

 

Warning: This next cover is a steaming pile of crap. But let me tell you how I really feel. By glancing at their wiki page, it seems like Eagles of Death Metal may have been going for something slightly… humorous??? In my estimation they missed the mark. By several solar systems and galaxies.

 

Remember what I just said about steaming pile of crap? I was wrong. The Eagles of Death Metal version is just crap. This one by Ciccone Youth is the real steaming pile. It features Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth, another group I don’t listen to, so maybe this is a good sound, for them, actually. I don’t know. But it’s not good for me. At all.

   

   

 

“First Stars I See Tonight” / HITRECORD ON TV July 1, 2014

   

   

hitRECord

hitRECord Youtube channel

Joseph Gordon-Levitt on IMDB

   

 

Cover Battle – “How Will I Know” June 27, 2014

 

How Will I Know” was Whitney Houston’s 3rd chart-topping single. The song is full of the excitement and wonder you feel when you like someone and it’s new and fresh and bubbly. Her amazing vocals, beauty, spark and charm were on full display in the song’s official music video. Whitney would continue to set the world on fire until her tragic death in 2012.

 

Pentatonix does a wonderful acapella version as a tribute to Whitney. They keep the same upbeat, joyous tempo and it keeps you in such a happy mood, that I can’t help but bop around dancing in my chair.

 

The song was covered by Kids Incorporated (????) as part of their 1980’s Disney Channel tv show. It’s … not for me. Very kiddie (duh!) and, I suppose, it’s cute. But – just not my thing. It’s annoying, to me. I mean, they’re not out of tune or overly screechy, but they’re not a group I would ever be interested in listening to again. But, then again, I wasn’t their target audience. Probably not even at that age. Frankly, I think it’s lame and a little bit dreadful.

 

The pop punk group Hit the Lights recorded this for their album Skip School Start Fights. While I’m not a music expert, this does not sound very punk at all. It is pop, though. (Maybe, elevator pop?) Frankly the band does not impress me at all, either. Kind of brings me back to lame and dreadful.

 

The cover by Sam Smith will break your heart. The arrangement is sparse and straightforward. The tempo is much much slower, and Sam has a high falsetto that is stunning and glorious.

   

   

 

“Orphan Black” – Extended Clone Dance Party June 22, 2014

   

   

There are no words to describe how exhiliratingly fantasic this scene is. If you’ve never watched “Orphan Black” you have to start – NOW!!

   

   

 

Cover Battle – “I’m Too Sexy” June 13, 2014

 

I’m Too Sexy” is a song by Right Said Fred – British brothers Fred and Richard Fairbrass. Two buff bald dudes flexing and gyrating to a crazily catchy beat and hilariously self-involved lyrics parodying the whole “fabulous dahling, make love to the camera, etc” world of modeling and fashion. You gotta love it.

 

It sounds like the Saint Etienne version is “sampling” the original and then having the boys rework the lyrics in some parts. It’s got an electronic dance club vibe with the synthesizers and all the overproduced throbbiness.

 

Saint Etienne’s vocals are more airy and lightweight than the Fairbrass boys, which makes the song seem even more disposable. Except – it’s survived all this time, so how disposable is it, really?

 

Um … this next one, by Alvin and The Chipmunks is not cute. It’s taking childhood into a very odd and disturbing place. I think I need a hug now …

 

Blogger Perez Hilton. Ugh. Moving on.

 

Now William Shatner does it as only Shatner can. Actually he was doing it in character on the short-lived $#*! My Dad Says. I think if he was being, well, full-on … Shatner it would have been much more awesome.

 

I think it’s pretty cool that the boys reworked the song as “I’m Too Smurfy” for the Smurfs 2 movie. They’re older now, still bald and buff, but this time they’re fully clothed in the video – no mesh, no shirtless. It’s cute.

 

They also performed it live on Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. The song was reworked by the show’s writers as a political statement against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

 

 

   

   

 

Cover Battle – “When Doves Cry” May 30, 2014

 

Prince. Prolific, funky, creative genius. Of course I couldn’t find a listenable version of “When Doves Cry” on YouTube but I did find this link on something called “mojvideo”. It’s the original, it’s sexy, it’s classic. It’s Prince. That’s all you need to know

 

Singer-songwriter Ginuwine did a version that throws in all sorts of extraneous bits and bobs, maybe in an attempt to modernize it or something. It doesn’t work; it sounds cluttered and busy. It’s clearly not meant to cover up the genius work of Prince but it’s very distracting and makes it seem like these additions are on the same level as Prince’s work and it’s not. It’s like a kid got a fancy electronic toy and just decided to push some buttons and “make it his own”. No. It’s not yours. Give it back.

 

The Alex Clare cover seems rushed. You can hear some of the funkiness of the original underneath this reimagining, and in the spaces between the singing. I don’t think this one is particularly successful, though.

 

The Patti Smith version is definitely less “funky” and doesn’t display Prince’s inherent ingratiating sexual musicality but I still find this very attractive and interesting to listen to. Usually when I say “I don’t hate it” that means I find it kind of “meh” and if I never heard it again it wouldn’t bother me, but I want to hear the way Patti does this. And I’d put it on repeat for quite awhile. It’s a very striking rendition, which I think would only deepen upon further listening.

 

Can’t believe I’m saying this, but I like Barenaked Ladies doing this. It’s got great passion and wonderful guitar work. I also find just a little bit of sexiness in this. Who knew?

 

Actress Tracie Thoms gives a stunning performance from a Baz Luhrman live stage musical production. She literally gave me goose bumps and chills.

 

The Canadian group The Be Good Tanyas have an interesting take on this. They’re kind of folky and bluegrass, and I can actually hear a banjo. The song opens with a really hard beat, even harder than the original, and I wasn’t really sure where it was going with the vocals. It took a bit of getting used to, but by the middle of the song I started getting into it. Without a doubt, I would listen to this again, and enjoy doing so.

 


 

   

NO PRINCE

   

 

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 60 other followers