… but I digress

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Cover Battle – “Beyond the Sea” July 25, 2014

 

I adore the music of Bobby Darin. Handsome, multi-talented Bobby Darin. He actually got me to (somewhat) enjoy a song I hate – “Skylark“. His song “Beyond the Sea” (or “La Mer“) just makes so, so very happy. The song is smooth and lovely and swoon-worthy. Just like Bobby. It’s romantic and sweet and his voice just envelopes you. Am I fangirling too much? Tough! Here comes some more.

 

As if the original doesn’t make me swoon enough, now we have Kevin Spacey doing Bobby Darin (who he also played in a biopic). Squeeee!!! Just cover him in chocolate sauce and put some whip cream on top. Okay, that got a little weird. He has the perfect swagger and charm and reverence to do this justice and match with Bobby. And he scats, too.

 

Guitar virtuoso George Benson tackles it with a full orchestra in a jazzy, big band style. During the musical interlude he pulls out his guitar to add his signature “scatting” vocalization. It sounds very different but very good. He keeps the romance and love of the song, but brings his personal style to it.

 

Another really fantastic version comes from Brit singer Robbie Williams. He also goes the full orchestra route. He brings the swagger, charm, sex appeal and just a cheeky sense of fun.

 

The version by Celtic Woman is all light and airy and full of gossamer and magical rainbow fairy sprinkles. Not my thing at all. In the video they’re all wearing cream-colored gowns, making it feel like some awkward, full-production sister wives wedding ceremony. The ladies have lovely voices but I just don’t get into this kind of thing. The song works much better in a jazzy, swingy style of Bobby and George and Kevin and Robbie.

 

In the movie A Life Less Ordinary actors Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz do a karaoke version of this. And, as karaoke tends to go, it’s not good. Cameron sounds horrible. Ewan is markedly better, but still not that great. They – well, their characters – really get into it, though. I have no idea what this movie is about, but somehow it turns into a big production number with more dancing on the bar than singing. After seeing this I have no interest in checking this movie out at all.

 

Rod Stewart took on the song for his album The Great American Songbook in which he handles classic songs that you wouldn’t think a rocker like Stewart would be interested in. Some of the songs he’s covered in this style have been really wonderful. This one is not to my taste. I think the horns are too loud and I just miss the swagaliciousness that I’ve come to expect with this song.

 

Now, crooner Bing Crosby impressively performs the song in the original French. It’s in more of a waltz style, but it’s so overproduced it doesn’t flow well or engage you. Thankfully Bing’s deep baritone is quite emotive.

   

   

 

Cover Battle – “Skylark” January 10, 2014

 

Skylark” is an old jazz standard that’s considered “popular music”. Not today’s kind of popular music, but back-in-the-day popular music. It’s time for full disclosure here: I hate this song. Even before I started doing cover battles I had heard a couple of different versions by different artists in different styles. Never liked any of them. Until I found one that didn’t make me scowl and roll my eyes. More on that a little later.

 

Now, why do I hate this thing? Well, let me tell you. I think the song just meanders on and on and on. A few words in I stop paying attention and just wait for it to be over. Regardless of my appreciation for the artist singing, it’s not a composition I care about. Then, maybe last year, I think, I saw that there was a version by … Bobby Darin. I was nervous, because I adore Bobby Darin and I didn’t want to have to hate anything he thought worthy of covering. Silly, I know, but that was my feeling.

 

I still don’t care for the song itself, but Bobby’s is the only version I’d willingly listen to. And it’s not just because his version is much shorter (although that helps). Now the backstory is kinda interesting/icky/scandalous: It was co-written by Johnny Mercer to express his longing for a (young) woman he had an affair with – Judy Garland! He was 30 (and married) and Judy was only 18 and had just starred in The Wizard of Oz the year before. Hmmm, now I’m getting a little skeeved out. Might not be listening to Bobby’s version (or any other version) for awhile. But I digress … (Ha-ha. See what I did there? … ‘Cuz the blog’s name is “… but I digress”? No? Fine, I’ll move on.)

 

So, the first version I heard was Cassandra Wilson so, of course, the song seemed even longer than it probably is. It’s on her fabulous New Moon Daughter album. I like everything else on it, except this one.

 

Next we have the legendary Aretha Franklin. You’d think I’d love the Queen of Soul. But nope, nope. Didn’t help.

 

The song was originally recorded by Anita O’Day. It’s jazzy and a touch more uptempo than subsequent versions. It doesn’t drag on forever, which is a bonus. There are nice brassy horns, which I like, and would listen to again, but there’s not enough of them and the record ends just after that.

 

Bette Midler (with arranger Barry Manilow on piano) makes the song almost unrecognizable. Is it good, is it bad? I don’t know. But it still doesn’t help.

 

kd lang is another artist that I just want to love all of their stuff and I think this might be another version that transcends my dislike or “ugh”- ness with this song.

 

Linda Ronstadt’s collaboration with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra is really flowery and rambles around. It’s retro and full and really makes me question my attention span. And patience.

 

Finally we get to Bobby. Like I said earlier, I don’t like the song itself, but I can genuinely say I have an enjoyable experience while listening to it. For this song, I think that’s the best you can hope for.


 

   

   

 

Cover Battle: “Feeling Good” April 19, 2013

 

As I come up with more and more songs, these cover battle intros (and video examples) are getting longer. May have to start editing myself again. Eventually. But anyway –

 

What can I say about this song. It’s awesome. I’m not even sure anyone can go wrong with this song. I mean, those horns? Come on! It’s big and brassy and showy and dramatic. I think you can tell I kinda like it. I heard the first one years ago during my Buble infatuation.* I knew I had heard the song before but I don’t remember when or where or by who (whom?) or in what context. Michael’s version is super slick and sexy and checking out the video you can easily see this used in a Bond flick.

 

The Muse version, I think, is the best one. It’s hard and passionate and bold and, in plain English (see what I did there? ‘cuz, like, they’re British?) totally kicks ass. Adam Lambert’s is modern and uses his sweet screeching (in a good way) falsetto and vocal gymnastics to good effect. It’s just over the top and it suits him.

 

Nina Simone. Deep voiced and throaty , nothing outrageous, just straight forward singing; a little old school scatting. Cool. Crazy cool.

 

I just heard Jennifer Hudson’s version for the first time today, and after only a few seconds in I got chills. The power of her voice is amazing. I do feel some of the smolder is lost in the slightly faster tempo of this arrangement. But still, it’s a great breakdown of a powerful piece of music.

 

I think the Rebecca Ferguson performance is a little less successful, for me. While she does seem to bring a new take the song (and her look is flawless) I can sense a little hint of timidity and uncertainty in her performance. I think if she just owned it a bit more that would go a long way in selling it to the audience.

 

Now Ed Sheeran. Wow. Totally unexpected. With no horns or big orchestral instrumentation, on a live radio station mike (mic?) with only his guitar as accompaniment .

 

I’ve also included a recording done by the composer, English actor and singer Anthony Newley. It’s heavy on piano and strings, and doesn’t really hint at the potential power of future incarnations, but I don’t think composer showcase versions ever really do.

 

Shoot – Just found a Bobby Darin one, too. And in my book if there’s a Bobby Darin version, it is not to be ignored. Evah. Bobby can do no wrong. This is called taking a song and making it your own. Same song as everyone else but it’s all Bobby.

 

And of course I just found two more. That’s it, guys, I swear. Really.

 

So we have George Michael. It’s good, but I don’t know if I’d keep coming back to it. I’ll have to listen to it a few more times. And then we have the lovely John Barrowman aka Doctor Who/Torchwood’s Captain Jack Harkness (excuse me, while I go all gushy). Where’s my fainting couch so I can give a proper swoon. That laugh he gives at the end? Unf.

 

Okay, now that’s it. I really mean it this time. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to bed now to dream of Captain Jack.

 

 

   

   

 

*It’s over, he’s married now and we’ve both moved on. (Buble: call me!)

 

 
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