Monday, October 01, 2007
On Second Thought...
The working title for today's post was "Cover My Ass", which seemed a somewhat befitting double entendre. It's been a ridiculously hectic week, which has somewhat limited my ability to assemble a cohesive and well-researched post (not that you ever get that sort of thing around here anyway). Regardless, I wanted to serve up a little something to make sure the soul children stay fat and happy, so I decided to dig out a few "secondhand songs" that should keep your musical appetites satiated for the time being.
As we know, the quality of cover tunes ranges across a fairly wide spectrum. In the worst cases, you have incredibly awful renditions of original material that somehow parody, cheapen, rip off, and/or steal thunder from the greatness that was in the first place. In the middle are what I call the head-scratchers---reinventions steeped in mediocrity that aren't exactly disastrous, but still seem utterly pointless. On the rarest of occasions, cover songs can actually be worthwhile and innovative, despite the fact that on the surface, the whole endeavor is merely a rehashing of something that's already been done.
It's not always necessary to one-up the original version of a track to crank out an exceptional cover tune. One of the most essential considerations is whether or not the newer rendition just sort of "reinvents the wheel" by too closely replicating the master version. However, diversification alone won't make a great record, and in fact, too great of an artistic divide will often create devastating consequences. Some artists just aren't suited to cover particular songs. See Elton John's version of "Young Gifted And Black", Duran Duran's "911 Is A Joke", and Celine Dion's "You Shook Me All Night Long" if you don't believe me.
Perhaps the final consideration is whether or not the recycler has enough talent and credibility as an artist to rise to the occasion in a somewhat dignified manner. We've all been subjected to "American Idol" enough times to know how horrifying it can be for a musical featherweight to take on a classic that's virtually unfuckwitable. Is there something programmed into the DNA of young, awkward, wannabe stars that predisposes their desire to annihilate Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder songs, or is it just cynical me? When paying tribute to a song of epic proportions, it's just good manners to avoid slaughtering it beyond all recognition.
Well, hopefully now that the ground rules have been established, we can smoothly segueway into some cover songs that don't suck. Enjoy, peoples...
"Papa's Got A Brand New Bag (Live)---Otis Redding
*Originally written and performed by James Brown (1965)
"Reach Out I'll Be There"---The San Remo Golden Strings
*Originally performed by The Four Tops (1966); written by Lamont Dozier/ Brian Holland/ Eddie Holland
"Hey Joe"---Lee Moses
*Although this song was clearly popularized by Jimi Hendrix, there has been much dispute over the years as to who actually wrote it.
"I Heard It Through The Grapevine"---Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers
*Written by Norman Jesse Whitfield/ Barrett Strong
*Many different variations/versions of this track have been recorded over time, but most people were introduced to the song by way of Gladys Knight & The Pips or Marvin Gaye. In reality, the first two versions were shelved by Motown chief Berry Gordy--one by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, and another by The Isley Brothers.
*The Vancouvers actually had a few more members than are depicted here, but this is the clearest photo I could find with their famed guitarist Tommy Chong, who went on to form a comedic duo with Cheech Marin when the group split after releasing only one LP.
"Southern Man"---Merry Clayton
*Originally written and recorded by Neil Young (1970)
"Sunshine Of Your Love"---Rotary Connection
*Originally recorded by Cream in 1967 at Atlantic Studios and released in 1968 on their album Disraeli Gears; written by Eric Clapton/Jack Bruce/Pete Brown.
"Ike's Mood I"---Visioneers
*Originally written and recorded by Isaac Hayes (1970)
"California Dreamin"---Bobby Womack
*Originally performed by The Mamas & The Papas (1965); written by John and Michelle Phillips
"I've Been Loving You Too Long (Live)"---Ike & Tina Turner
*Originally recorded by Otis Redding (1965); written by Otis Redding/ Jerry Butler
Another great cover by Ike & Tina, the Beatles' "Come Together" written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. One of my absolute favorite Tina performances of all time...
Besides Ike & Tina, "I've Been Loving You Too Long" was also covered (perhaps most famously) by The Rolling Stones. It is said that Otis covered "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (written by Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) to return the compliment. This is just a small taste of the energy that Redding brought to his jaw-dropping live performances:
Which leads me to a couple of other tracks I want to share before I go---not exactly covers, but remixes of two joints by The Rolling Stones that are so colorful they manage to take on a life of their own...
"Sympathy For The Devil (Neptunes Full Length Remix)"
"Miss You (Dr. Dre Remix)"
Word From Your Moms:
"Music is everybody's possession. It's only publishers who think that people own it."---John Lennon