More Music Covers

A second post about cover songs that make my toes tap.

I enjoyed writing about music covers and felt I should go do it again. Shall we?

Cake – I will Survive

I really enjoy this kind of cover song. First and foremost because it’s not in the same genre of music and because they are using different instruments. I feel this frees the listener to simply enjoy. You can compare and contrast all you like but the versions have enough that separates them (having a male singer in the cover being a noticeable difference) that I find it easy to enjoy both for what they are.

Probably the song that introduced most of us to (that or The Distance) Cake for the first time, I am pleased that the cover holds up. This band always seemed to have a good time making music and they certainly figured out how to cover songs (I did not include War Pigs but I easily could have, their version is great).

Guns and Roses – Live and Let Die

I recognize that my take on all things Beatles is provocative, it isn’t meant to be. The original is a good song, the beginning with the piano is quite pretty. It’s interesting because I feel that Gun’s N Roses handled integrating all of the other instruments better and created a better song. Clearly McCartney was trying to create a disjointed, stylistically complicated song. I’m not sure his entirely works.

Guns N Roses figured out a way to make this song more cohesive and frankly better. For this band to do this kind of cover, at that time, what something else. I was too young to appreciate how special they were but looking back it’s quite extraordinary.

Eric Clapton – I Shot The Sheriff

No big surprises here, I feel like this a better known cover. The styles are quite different, Clapton put his mark on the song by moving it into a different genre and showcasing his guitar playing. The feeling to both songs is similar, it’s the sign of a great cover, I think, that they can be somewhat similar but also not feel the same. I dig it.

Nine Inch Nails -Physical (Adam and The Ants)

Never, ever would I have guessed that Closer is a cover. Perhaps my opinion of NIN is too high, perhaps they came into my life at that perfect, impressionable time where I simply trusted. I do not know. Hearing the original of this song is funny, the vocals are really the only element that are radically different. It certainly has made me rethink NIN and all that they did. For possibly their best known song to be a pretty straightforward cover is unexpected.

Manfred Mann’s Earth BandBlinded By The Light (Bruce Springsteen)

I am writing this about nearly every song on this list but – I didn’t know this was a cover. The fact that the original is a Bruce Springsteen song is truly impressive. As someone who has long tried to “get into” Springsteen with minimal success I am not surprised to find that I prefer the cover. It has a such a different sound, good vocals and powerful drums. What else can you say about this song, it rocks!

Stevie Wonder – Superstition (Jeff Beck)

I learned a lot with this post. In particular, that songs like Superstitious are “covers”. From what I gleaned this is a bad example, given that Stevie Wonder wrote the song but then gave/sold it to Jeff Beck to then have it on his own album (which came out before Jeff Beck’s). It’s weird. But now we have two great versions and that’s a blessing. I don’t have much to say, this song is amazing and I am too busy bouncing around in my chair to type much else.

Nina Simone – Feelin’ Good (The Roar of The Greasepaint, The Smell of The Crowd)

I was not aware Nina Simone was covering anyone until this post. To be honest it was only about twenty years ago that I became aware of Feelin’ Good and that was because a friend covered it on a demo tape. It’s a great song and I appreciate the original, it’s powerful. But this is it for me. She brings something else to the music, despite a faster tempo, that you cannot help but feel. When the band comes in you come to life, it’s something new and bigger and engrossing.

Take Me To The River – Talking Heads (Al Green)

Listening to Al Green’s version and then this I am first struck by the drums and bass and keys. They’re huge! Both versions of the song are good (and obviously Al Green is a better singer) but I’d be lying if I said The Talking Head’s version doesn’t make my toes tap. I like parts of both but the cover is more…soulful. It feels wrong saying that but it’s true.

Bittersweet Symphony – The Verve (The Rolling Stones)

If you are close to me in age chances are you know this song. If you know this song chances are you enjoy it. One of the first things I published on this site concerns music reworked for film, this technically does not qualify for that category but I believe the idea I had (someone fiddling with someone else’s music and improving it) applies. When I started this post I could not have named the song they “borrowed” from (I am putting that in quote because of the debate and because this isn’t a straight cover) and upon listening to it again I am not sure how many times I have heard it before.

All that being said this is a great song, I think they took parts from The Last Time and reworked them to make something different and better. Whereas with some covers (and reworkings) I can imagine bad feelings due to the improvements, this truly is a different song and I would hope everyone could be happy with both existing.

Tori Amos – I’m Not in Love (10cc)

When I bought Strange Little Girls I was not aware it was an album of experimental covers. At the time I was enamored with everything Ms. Amos did and bought the album because it was new. Sadly I never could find a way to like most of these songs. A few of the covers, I’m Not In Love in particular, brought me a great deal of joy. I appreciate this album more than I enjoy it, which is strange for popular music.

Van Halen – Ice Cream Man

Although their most famous cover is probably “Dancing in The Streets”, “Ice Cream Man” holds a special place in my heart. It’s light, it’s fun and not at all like most of their music. I had no idea it was a cover when I first heard it but since finding out I like it even more. To have a band as technically proficient as this put out such a simple cover speaks to their confidence. So many people compensate by doing more, adding more and they trusted themselves enough to record this simple cover and share it with the world.

Gun’s ‘N Roses – Knockin’ On Heavens Door

I get it, another GNR cover on the same list – it’s a lot but they are so different and so interesting!

I’ve made some disparaging comments about Bob Dylan in these posts about covers and if there is one song where I can redeem myself it is this one. I think this version is the best I’ve heard (and looking it up I just encountered five I had not heard before). While Dylan’s version is soulful and melancholy Gun’s N’ Roses went a different route. The guitar carries the song but the other instruments swell and and excite only to then fade away. I’m not sure how many different versions of Axl we have signing on this track but it feels like a lot. Not to mention the backup singers who come in over halfway through the song (and the phone call). This cover has a great energy that separates it from the original.

This is a great example of how multiple versions of a song benefit the listener. What kind of mood are you in? Plaintive? Or do you need some anger that needs to be vented? There’s a version for that.

Wylcef Jean – Wish You Were Here

I’m trying to think of great Pink Floyd covers and I have to admit I am stumped. For a band with so many great songs it is interesting that so few people have attempted to cover their work (or that these covers have avoided my ears). Finding this version led me to see how many people have covered this song. It is an interesting mix of artists and I have to say I’ve heard almost none of them.

I like this version for a number of reasons. I like the beginning where one of the guitars is tinny-sounding and then everything switches to a fuller sound. I like the beat Wyclef uses and that his version is faster. It’s not a straight-up cover, he alters the lyrics and has sections where he inserts original material. That being said I like this. He does his own thing with the song and creates something quite different, which honestly, I think is the only way to go with Pink Floyd.

Music Video Appreciation Post #9 – Kaleo

A short post about the music videos of the band Kaleo.

I think the best song I’ve heard by Kaleo is “No Good”. It rocks. It rocks on such a level that when I first heard it all I could think about was who to share it with. I love it. As far as I can tell it is an anomaly in their catalogue (thinking of you My Song 5). That being said the music video is a touch lackluster. I don’t like being negative but that song deserves and equally amazing music video.

Thankfully the band has no shortage of excellent music videos. Apparently they decided that their niche would be to film on location in Iceland. And by location I mean things like –

they perform on an ice floe. I mean, there are ideas for music videos that seem a little crazy and then there is this. I like the song but really you could watch this muted and still enjoy it. This also makes me think of those memes about why women live longer than men. I feel confident that they took steps to be safe in doing this but…

Another incredible music video is for their song “Skinny” where they are performing live on an active volcano. I have no words. This is incredible and terrifying and really something else.

I’ve written about the ingenuity of the music videos that Ok Go make. That a band from Iceland would somehow top their incredible achievements with natural phenomenons makes me quite happy. I wish I had more to say about this band, their sound is largely subdued and not as rocking as “No Good”. Which is fine, I would just love to hear more in the “No Good” vein.

I am including a final video because, again, they went kinda nuts with it. Enjoy!

Music Videos (Appreciation Post #4)

Writing about Macklemore, how did we get to here?

I would be remiss if I did not delve into the masterworks of the man called Macklemore (forgive me Universe for writing this sentence). My first viewing of ‘Thrift Shop‘ was a negative experience. The song is lackluster and so much of the costumes and posturing was lost on me. I wasn’t in on the joke. So, yes, I’m still not impressed by the song but I get the fun of the video now.

In fact the line, “They had a broken keyboard/I bought a broken keyboard/ I bought a skeet blanket/ then I bought a knee board” makes me happy every time I watch simply because they took the time and effort to film him on a knee board. I don’t know the budget of the video but they had to get a boat, a knee board and go onto a body of water and film him using the knee board, for three seconds of video. I respect that.

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One of the more pleasurable experiences I have had with watching a music video recently was watching members of Insane Clown Posse watch ‘Can’t Hold Us’. In particular how in awe they were of the scope of the video and how large the budget must have been (while mocking everyone in it). That video seems to have disappeared from the Internet since I watched it but hopefully it will reappear at some point. They used the Mystery Science Theater format and it worked very well.

If I have a favorite video, or one that I would recommend to anyone, it would be ‘Downtown’. Aside from having a great look and being a video that “makes sense” the playfulness of the video and overall concept I think will win just about anyone over. In particular the sequence with Macklemore riding on the motorcycle behind the woman who lip syncs his lyrics makes me happy in a way so few videos do. Are there parts that make me cringe? Absolutely. Does a man punt a sandwich (is it a hoagie/grinder/submarine sandwich – what kind?!) yes. There is also a chariot sequence which might be the greatest moment in music video history.

A close second has to go to ‘Dance Off’ in part because it features Idris Elba. Aside from having many of the “Macklemorean” elements (at some point you just have to embrace your sins, and I have) we have come to expect there are some surprises (looking at you double-jointed man).  Truthfully and without shame (mostly) I find most of the videos made by Macklemore to be enjoyable and striving to say something. There’s very little of him just lip syncing to the camera surrounded by dancing women. I respect that.

Music Mondays #1

Hi there!

In keeping with the whole, “I should post more” theme I have decided to start Music Mondays. To begin I want to share a video of a band called Grace Potter and The Nocturnals. Now this is weird because I am sharing a cover they did (of a song by Beyonce no less). I really like the music of Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, and the fact that they come from Vermont gives them a big boost in my book. I only recently heard them, which is why I am sharing something (kind of) from them today. Make sense?

Each Monday I plan to share something music-related that I like. Think of this as my answer to Hatesong. Rather than call it Lovesong I am calling it Music Mondays to give me a bit of freedom. I am going to attempt to seek out new (to me) music to share so that this is interesting for me and hopefully for you.

What I especially like about this song is that they altered how they typically cover “Why Don’t You Love Me” for this particular performance. I have heard the electric version and I think this one is better. I do not really understand the love and devotion so many have for Beyonce but I can say hearing this song performed by someone other than her gives me pause. I like how simple and direct the lyrics are. They feel very raw and honest and Grace Potter really nails the vocals.

This video also has an interview portion after the performance where Grace Potter discusses why they chose this song and I think it is worth watching, too. Enjoy.