guitar named “lucille”
King is gone, the thrill remains
guitar named “lucille”
King is gone, the thrill remains
The song “Walking in Memphis” was a breakout hit for singer-songwriter Marc Cohn. His deep soulful voice, accompanied by sweet piano, descriptive heartfelt lyrics, and a beautifully done black and white video made the song something truly special. It’s bluesy and gospely (??). All these years later I still love the song and appreciate the artistry of the whole enterprise.
The cover video with Sugarland and Little Big Town opens with a voiceover and scenes of the two groups practicing and working out the harmonies. At first I was just “oh just get to the song, please”, but the behind the scenes stuff was actually nice and fun. Then you get to see the result of all that practice, live on stage. And it is quite wonderful. Country twang and all. The groups have a sincere love and respect for the song and it shows proudly.
Cher does a truly excellent cover of this as well. I first heard it in a memorable episode of The X-Files. Unfortunately they couldn’t get Cher herself to do it onscreen, but it still worked well. It really showcases what a powerful voice she has. Her video is also done in black and white, just like the Marc Cohn original.
The song was covered by another country group, Lonestar. I don’t like their version at all. They speeded (sped?) up the tempo and it doesn’t work for me. It’s like they sort of stripped the heart out of the song.
Speaking of stripped, Juri Rother from The Voice of Germany does a really, really stripped down cover. It’s too precious. It doesn’t feel sincere to me.
Surprisingly the Tom Jones rendition doesn’t really move me. It’s okay. He may be singing from with heart, but I don’t think of it as one of his best.
I found a video of Gavin DeGraw doing this live (squeeee!!!). Gavin is a phenomenal talent – singing, songwriting, performing. And he’s not too bad to look at either. What can I say – I’m officially a pervy old lady now!
According to Wikipedia, The Skott Freedman version “remains one of the most popular downloaded versions of “Memphis” on iTunes“. Um, I’m not really sure why though.
Shut Up and Dance basically stole the song and put some slightly different lyrics and some weird rubber band sounds and electronic shite all over it, then called it “Raving, I’m Raving”. And that’s the entire purpose of the song – a framework for trippy drug-fueled dancing. Lame. And very bizarre.
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
Bessie Smith (April 15, 1894 – September 26, 1937)
Bessie Smith remained in an unmarked grave until August 7, 1970, when Janis Joplin helped pay for a tombstone for the late blues legend. Janis had often spoke of Bessie Smith as her inspiration. Janis would die of an overdose almost 3 months later.
Janis Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970)