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Cover Battle – “Across the Universe” October 31, 2014

 

Across the Universe“, written by John Lennon, was originally released in 1969. The more I listen to it the more beautiful it becomes to me. It’s very positive and uplifting. It puts me in a peaceful frame of mind, and subtly expresses the idea that our thoughts float out into the universe and we become in tune with each other. It seems like such a simple song, but it’s incredibly profound and enlightening.

 

The “best version” (as touted by the YouTube poster legendofbirdbridge) begins with what sounds like a nature documentary (or Hitchcock’s The Birds). I believe this was done in connection with a World Wildlife Fund charity album. After the avian influx John’s voice comes in all swirling and psychedelic. It’s almost like you’re falling into a meditative state. And maybe that was the intent.

 

The “rare version” (uploaded by rizlatune) is much simpler, more beautiful and effective. It does have a little bit of a symphonic background to it, but it’s not overwhelming.

 

When I saw this next version listed in my YouTube search results, I got really interested to hear it. I mean, how could I not? David Bowie and John Lennon doing the song live? Just the idea of it is pretty awesome, right? But, turns out, this is some sort of “fake-out” or really an impersonation of both artists. It’s listed on a YouTube channel under “Mersey Boys“, in association with British comedian Stevie Riks. He does a bunch of other “interesting” musical impersonations/homages, as well.

 

At first I was like wtf is this? It’s really cheesy and a little trippy (granted the song itself is kind of trippy. Or maybe it’s just the background in the video). But the singer/impressionist is pretty dead on with the sound and persona of both artists. Although his Bowie does remind me a bit of a Tom Baker acid trip version of Doctor Who.

 

The British group 10cc does a live version that’s pretty faithful to the original, if more stripped down. It’s done simply, with no overblown orchestration and it’s very soothing and quite lovely.

 

On the album Abbey Road: A Tribute to The Beatles, the song is performed by Jackson Browne and Robbie Krieger. This one’s a little painful to slog through; it just doesn’t work for me. The addition of the choir around the 2:32 is too much. There’s so much going on that it detracts. And distracts. Sometimes in paying tribute you screw up the beauty of the pure song and this kind of does that for me.

 

The bell/chime/whatever-it-is that opens the Cyndi Lauper cover is jarring to my ears. This is another example of throwing in too much stuff. As I noted above the song is a bit trippy on its own but adding in a bunch of airy, new age, hippy dippy, crunchy granola, ethereal-sounding elements devalues it, taking the focus away from the simple, profound beauty of song. It’s interesting, though, that the closing section (around the 4:06 mark) is reminiscent of the out of this world ending music on The Beatles’ A Day in the Life.

 

Now, having said what I did about a lot of stuff being thrown into a cover, the fact that there’s a lot going on in David Bowie’s rendition does not make me hate it. In fact I think this is fantastically executed. Even though it’s much less meditative, what he’s done in no way overshadows the song; it only enhances it.

 

Fiona Apple is a very intense, thoughtful, passionate artist. I think she’s a really good fit for this song. Her voice is sweet and airy, very light, yet strongly focused and effortlessly serene in her interpretation. As in the video, her voice is an island of calm response to the chaos that can sometimes surround us all.

 

Another beautiful interpretation is brought to us by Rufus Wainwright. Again, not sparse, but nothing overly produced. What he does comes in service of the song, not a drive to be clever or a showy sense of ego.

 

The German rock band Scorpions bring us a guitar-laden cover that’s very earnest and sincere. Their version feels almost like a lullaby. It’s nice.

 

In the Julie Taymor-directed musical Across the Universe, the main character, played by actor Jim Sturgess, begins “Across the Universe” and gradually ends up in the middle of piece that focuses on the riotous song “Helter Skelter“. The visuals in this section (in the whole film, really) are just stunning.

   

   

 

Cover Battle – “In My Life” – Pt 1 April 4, 2014

 

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.

 

Ed Sheeran did his version on a televised special celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles’ first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. I think he does a really great job.

 

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.

   

   

 

Cover Battle – “Something” February 14, 2014

 

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

   


   

 

Covers, No Battle (Pt 4) December 23, 2013

 

I bring you … part 4! Links for the prior posts are under the video

 

HAPPY XMAS (WAR IS OVER)

 

Christina Perri has a very happy, sweet sounding voice which brings an even greater element of hopefulness to the sentiment of John’s song. The video is quite pleasing and made me smile.

 

The John Lennon collaboration with Yoko Ono original is always going to be the standard for this. It’s not just your typical glad wishes, good tidings holiday song. The official video seems like a contradiction – a hopeful, celebratory song of the best possible thing for humanity, no more war. The images in the video show multiple scenes of places and people in dangerous conflict, people with injuries due to those conflicts. It gets you to, hopefully, think about the damage that’s caused when all we really should do is love each other more. I swear John & Yoko should have a Nobel Peace prize for this.

   

   
   

Please Come Home For Christmas (Pt 1)

Baby, It’s Cold Outside (Pt 2)

The Little Drummer Boy (Pt 3)

   
   

 

ZEN PENCILS – Cartoon quotes from inspirational folks November 17, 2013

ZEN PENCILS – Cartoon quotes from inspirational folks.

 

IMAGINE September 14, 2013

   

IMAGINE

   

(Source: 9GAG)

   

 

Cover Battle: “Bring It On Home to Me” – Pt 2 July 5, 2013

 

So … this is part two of Cover Battle: “Bring It On Home to Me”. The versions listed in part 1 are the renditions I like. And these are the ones that I’m kind of … meh about. Like I previously stated I first thought there would be five or six examples, but I ended up with 13 versions I wanted to post.

 

I adore Sir Paul McCartney and this version is okay, but it’s not one I’d keep coming back to. In the comments for Paul’s version I found out John Lennon did one as well, which a lot of people touted as so much better. Nope. This one’s not for me, either. It thrills me even less than Paul’s.

 

When A Man Loves A Woman” by Percy Sledge is a stirring, heartfelt romantic standard of the 60’s. When I saw there was a Percy Sledge version I was looking forward to hearing it. What I have here is a live performance, a duet, with Percy and his wife Rosa. The love and connection between the two of them is great to see but I’m not feeling her vocal on this at all, it ruins it for me. If it was Percy alone I would have enjoyed it more.

 

Another cover I was looking forward to is the version from The Commitments. They’re a fictional Irish soul band created for the movie of the same name. The actors did their own singing. I had heard other covers and they really nailed the liveliness and the passion of good 60’s soul music. Until now. Maybe my memory of how good they were was clouded, but this didn’t thrill me either.

 

The Animals’ studio version is good and I don’t actually dislike it. (Admittedly, that’s not quite a ringing endorsement) I do find the live performance very cool, though. The group is totally into it and they’re giving it their all. The piano solo at the beginning is executed well.

   

   

 

What more can you say … March 21, 2013

   

YOKO

   

 

#WarisOver #MilitaryMonday December 19, 2011

   

   

   

Last Convoy of American Troops Leaves Iraq, Marking an End to the War

   

 

 
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