Tuesday, November 13, 2007

On Second Thought...The Third

How we feelin' out there, soul children?

Since there are literally zillions of divine cover tunes that I haven't shared with you yet, I couldn't resist the urge to drop a few more and conclude the series as a complete trilogy. Although I'm not planning any more posts of this nature in the immediate future, my inclination to bring closure to the series is about as certain as Jay-Z's decision to hang up the mic a few years ago. I might just get all George Lucas on your asses and decide that this isn't the beginning or the end. Only time will tell, but for now just live in the moment, and get lost in these deep grooves with me...

"Bridge Over Troubled Water"---Merry Clayton (zShare)

"Bridge Over Troubled Water"---Merry Clayton (savefile)

*Written by Paul Simon; originally appeared on Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water LP (1970), the fifth and final studio album released by the duo. It's still the biggest selling LP in the history of Columbia Records.

*Simon's lyrical inspiration for the track reportedly came from the line "I'll be your bridge over deep water if you trust in me," a lyric he remembered hearing in The Swan Silvertones' "Oh Mary Don't You Weep". The song's musical arrangement was apparently greatly influenced by Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" production technique.

*The line "Sail on, silver girl" is often thought to be associated with needles and heroin usage. Simon has denied this metaphorical association, stating that it was actually an inside joke about his girlfriend being upset over finding a few grey hairs.

*Simon originally only penned two verses for the tune, but after receiving some feedback, he made the song "bigger" and more fully developed. He's remarked on more than one occasion that the song's final verse sounds a bit out of place for this very reason. In the initial stages, Simon simply referred to the tune as "Hymn".

*Garfunkel sang the song solo on the recorded version, but he and Simon later expressed some regrets about the fact that they didn't share vocal duties on the track. When performing the track live, the duo generally takes turns singing the verses.

*Simon hired an outsider to write the string arrangement, and mailed a copy of the rough mix on a demo tape. Evidently the vocals were somewhat garbled, because the sheet music came back entitled "Like a Pitcher of Water."

*This is one of those songs that everyone and their baby mama has covered. Roberta Flack, Elvis, King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, The Jackson 5, Gladys Knight, Willie Nelson, Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, Quincy Jones, Annie Lennox, Bobby Womack, and countless others have recorded versions of the track. It's difficult for me to choose a favorite rendition, but I've always considered Merry Clayton's take (from Gimme Shelter, 1970) to be among the best.

The worst version was undoubtedly rendered by Clay Aiken---the "I'm not gay, I'm just masculinely-challenged", mischievous little elf who nearly won American A-Hole a few years ago. Sorry Claymates...his version of this song inexplicably managed to suck more than he does.

One of Aretha's many live performances of the track:

I posted Aretha's version several months ago. The mp3 link is still active if you haven't downloaded it yet.

"Let's Stay Together"---Margie Joseph (zShare)

"Let's Stay Together"---Margie Joseph (savefile)

*Written by Al Green, Al Jackson Jr., and Willie Mitchell. Jackson is a legendary drummer who recorded with Booker T & The MG's, while Mitchell was Green's producer; first released as a single by Green in 1971.

*Legend has it that Green wrote the lyrics within a few minutes after receiving a rough mix of the song from Mitchell and Jackson. Green apparently didn't want to record the song, and only did so after a heated argument with Mitchell prompted him to reconsider. It became his first #1 song, and held that position for no less than 9 consecutive weeks.

*Another song that's been remade a host of times, "Let's Stay Together" has been revisited by Isaac Hayes, The Shirelles, Billy Paul, Roberta Flack, Tina Turner, Aaron Neville/Chaka Khan, Jimmy McGriff, Shirley Bassey, etc. Margie Joseph's amazing version was released on Atlantic in 1973. Although some have criticized her rendition for not straying far enough from the original, there's still no denying the exceptional quality of her vocal performance.

The worst offering can easily be attributed to Donny Osmond, who released his rendition on a collection of horrendous covers earlier this year. Actually, he butchered a whole slew of seemingly innocent tracks on his Love Songs Of The '70s LP (Decca, 2007)...for what reason, I will never know...

"Purple Haze"---Johnny Jones and the King Casuals (zShare)

"Purple Haze"---Johnny Jones and the King Casuals (savefile)

*Written by Jimi Hendrix

*I already discussed much of this song's history in the last covers post, but I couldn't resist the temptation to share this notable version with my beloved soul children. I am guessing that Jones' take will be infinitely more palatable for soul enthusiasts than the last rendition I posted. Jimi Hendrix was actually the guitarist for The King Casuals in the early '60s. It's apparently unclear when Johnny Jones joined the group, but it seems that he and Hendrix at least played together live at some point. More background info is available by way of Funky 16 Corners.

"I'm A Good Woman"---Cold Blood (zShare)

"I'm A Good Woman"---Cold Blood (savefile)

*Written by Barbara Lynn

*Although Lynn's best known version of the song is phenomenal, I've always been partial to an alternate take that I previously posted. Fortunately, the mp3 link is still available here.

*While I tend to favor Lynn's untouchable original, I consider Cold Blood's version to be an essential in my collection (from their self-titled debut, 1969). Lead vocalist Lydia Pense could belt out tunes like nobody's business, and if you don't know much about the band, make it a point to educate yourself. Donny Hathaway dug their blue-eyed soul so much that he even produced one of their albums (First Taste Of Sin, 1972).

"Proud Mary"---Solomon Burke (zShare)

"Proud Mary"---Solomon Burke (savefile)

*Written by John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, first appearing on CCR's 1969 LP, Bayou Country. Their original rendition peaked at #2, which became an all-too-familiar position for the band on the charts. They hold the record for the group with the most #2 singles that never managed to reach the top spot.

*Fogerty's other working titles for the song were "Riverboat" and "Rolling On A River".

*Despite implications made by the lyrics, Fogerty actually hadn't ever travelled east of Montana when he wrote the song.

*This is one of those popular tunes that people tend to jack up the words to, and it doesn't seem to matter whether they're singing in the shower or the studio. Fogerty once had this to say: "Sometimes I write words to songs because they sound cool to sing. Sometimes the listener doesn't understand what I'm singing because I'm dedicated to singing the vowel, having fun with the word sounds coming out of my mouth. `Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis, pumped a lot of pain down in New Orleans,' is a good example. I think Tina Turner sang `tane' instead of `pain,' as in a contracted form of octane. But I knew what she meant."
*This is another widely covered tune. Although Ike & Tina greatly altered the structure of the song with the assistance of Soko Richardson, their rendition was undoubtedly the most famous (reaching #4 on the pop charts in 1971). The record has also been sung by Prince, Elvis, Tom Jones, and more. Solomon Burke released his rendition the same year that the record came out (1969).

*Without question, the most bizarre take on the song came courtesy of Trekkie Leanord Nimoy, who sang the final chorus imitating Elmer Fudd's characteristic speech impediment.

"I Feel Fine"---Tony Wilson (zShare)

"I Feel Fine"----Tony Wilson (savefile)

*Written by John Lennon, but attributed to the Lennon/McCartney songwriting team; released by The Beatles in 1964 as the A-side of their eighth single in the UK. In the U.S., it was released the following year on the Beatles '65 LP.

*The song marks the earliest example of feedback being recorded onto vinyl. Although artists such as Jimi Hendrix and The Who also used feedback, The Beatles were presumably the first to use it as a recording effect.

*Many critics and music lovers noted that Lennon's riff was quite similar to one found on Bobby Parker's "Watch Your Step", a song that The Beatles were known to cover during certain live performances in the '60s.

*Tony Wilson (not to be confused with the music mogul of the same name) was the bassist/songwriter for the group Hot Chocolate until 1975.

Interestingly, Hot Chocolate got their start by doing a reggae-style version of Lennon's "Give Peace A Chance". The outlook wasn't hopeful when the band was told they'd need to get Lennon's permission to avoid potential litigation. Lennon not only liked their version, he got the group signed to The Beatles' label, Apple Records. Unfortunately, the relationship wouldn't last long as both Apple and The Beatles folded shortly thereafter.

*Wilson's take on "I Feel Fine" can be found on the compilation, Beatles Blues.

"Yesterday" ---The Bar-Kays (zShare)

"Yesterday"---The Bar-Kays (savefile)

*Written by Paul McCartney, but attributed to the Lennon/McCartney songwriting team; first releases were on the Help! LP (1965) and as the B-side to "Act Naturally".

* The tune evidently came to McCartney in a dream. When he woke up, he immediately set the track to memory with the aid of a piano and a tape recorder. The melody seemed so familiar to McCartney that he was concerned he'd subconsciously borrowed it from another songwriter's material (a phenomenon known as cryptomnesia). After asking around for a short while, he became convinced that he could claim full ownership of the song.

*The working title for the track was "Scrambled Eggs".

*"Yesterday" was the first Beatles tune that featured only one member during the recording process. Paul McCartney performed two takes of the song, and the second version was deemed superior and used as the master take. A string quartet was overdubbed on the second take before the recording was finally prepared for release.

*According to most accounts, the other Beatles didn't much care for the song, thinking that it didn't fit well with the band's image and signature sound. Despite being ultimately destined for Muzak, the track helped the band reach a more adult audience than their previous efforts.

*"Yesterday" has been revisited by other artists on more than 3000 different occasions, making it the most frequently covered pop tune of all time. It also previously held the record for most radio plays, until "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" surpassed it in 1999. The Bar-Kays released their groove-laden instrumental rendition in 1969.

"Message From A Black Man"---Derrick Harriott (zShare)

"Message From A Black Man"---Derrick Harriott (savefile)

*Written by Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield

*The Temptations released the track in 1969 on their Puzzle People LP. Although some critics and fans viewed the song's lyrics as being too political and militant, the track still became a popular radio request. It's often been said that The Temptations themselves were concerned about the tune being too forward-thinking for the times, resulting in their reluctance to play the track during live performances.

*This socially-conscious song/anthem has also been recorded by Charles Earland, Don Julian, S.O.U.L., Byron Lee & The Dragonaires, Mickey & The Soul Generation, The Spinners, and The Whatnauts. Hip-hop fans will also recognize the fact that "Message From A Black Man" was sampled in the mighty Mos Def's joint, "Undeniable".

Derrick Harriott's reggaefied rendition appears to have originally surfaced circa 1970.

"Dark End Of The Street"---Oscar Toney, Jr. (zShare)

"Dark End Of The Street"---Oscar Toney, Jr. (savefile)

*Written by Chips Moman and Dan Penn; originally recorded by James Carr in 1966.

*Covered by a wide array of artists, including Percy Sledge, Elvis Costello, Dorothy Moore, Frank Black, Aretha Franklin, The Afghan Whigs, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and many more. For whatever reason, Oscar Toney's soulful rendition of the track gives me the chills every time I hear it.

"Let It Be"---Aretha Franklin (zShare)

"Let It Be"---Aretha Franklin (savefile)

*Written by Paul McCartney, but attributed to the Lennon/McCartney songwriting team. It was first released as a single in March of 1970, but the song reappeared as the title track on the Let It Be LP after being "remixed" by Phil Spector. Evidently, McCartney and Ringo Starr were both displeased with Spector's production work on the song. It's been reported that John Lennon pretty much hated the song in any form.

*Once again, McCartney reported that the inspiration for the tune came via a dream. This time his reverie involved a vision of his mother, Mary McCartney, who died of cancer when he was only 14-years-old. The "Mother Mary" lyric was reportedly written about her, not a biblical reference as many have assumed.

*This was the first Beatles song released in the Soviet Union---it finally made it there in 1972.

*Aretha Franklin covered "Let It Be" on her This Girl's In Love With You LP, which was released before The Beatles' version came out. She also recorded a rendition of "Eleanor Rigby" for that same album.

Bonus mp3s (zShare only):

To be honest, I've found that efforts to remix classic material generally leave something to be desired. Transforming a Marvin Gaye song into a crunk anthem is just...well...blasphemy, and I could also be at peace with never hearing a techno version of a Stevie Wonder song ever again. Despite some healthy skepticism on my part, I keep a very open mind about remix projects, and have found that some of them actually kinda float my boat...whatever the hell that means. Here are just a few examples:

"I Cover The Waterfront (James Hardway Remix)"---Billie Holiday

"Fried Neckbones And Some Home Fries (Dan The Automator Remix)"---Willie Bobo

"Where Did Our Love Go (quarterbar redo)"---The Supremes

*Note: You can generally find the latest quarterbar mixes via sneakmove.

Word From Your Moms:

"If you copy, it means you're working without any real feeling. No two people on earth are alike, and it's got to be that way in music or it isn't music."---Billie Holiday

"My role in society, or any artist or poet’s role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all."---John Lennon


Anonymous said...

Well "Scholar" as your choice of name indicates, you MUST be right...Aiken's verion was completely controlled by the AI machine and he did a darn good job of it. It put him on the map so to speak. It verified the ability of his range and he has nothing to be embarrassed about.
What does the homophobic ribbing you included have to do with this topic anyway?If you intend to impress people, you need to grow up.

Anonymous said...

You are wrong about Donny Osmond's CD - it is great! I can tell from your blog that his style of music is not your preference - that is okay but just because you don't prefer it, doesn't mean it isn't a great CD.

The CD went GOLD so obviously it must be pretty good.

I know you are entitled to your opinion but just wanted to throw mine in there too.

Scholar said...

Anon 1---In case you ended up here by googling Clay Aiken or something, let me explain that in general, I infuse a degree of humor/satire into my writing. Merely reporting facts becomes a somewhat boring ordeal for me at times, so I occasionally break the monotony with a joke or two. It's not to impress anyone, but rather to keep myself somewhat amused.

I do apologize if my comment seemed homophobic---I'm against hating other people for their differences/preferences. I don't care if Clay IS gay. The humorous part for me is that Clay has often been adamant that he isn't gay, but then turns around and performs Madonna songs at his shows. It's JUST funny to me, and I try not to take the little things in life (especially dumb shit about celebrities) too seriously.

Chill, home skillet and look at the bright side...at least you didn't have to pay to read my stupid opinion. I have just as much right to dislike Clay's version of "Bridge" as you do to think that I'm an idiot.

Anon 2---I guess the Donny and Clay advocates are out in full force today...daaaammnnnnnnn. Who knew that a couple of light jokes would get me in such hot water?

Anyway, it's all good if you like Donny's CD---I'm sure I listen to a lot of records that you would think are horrible. Different strokes.

I do, however, disagree with the notion that if a record goes gold, it has to be good. Many of the world's best recordings will never be heard, and some of the worst will sell millions. I'm sure there has to be something being played on the Top 40 that you think is trash.

Either way, props to you for giving feedback, even if you have a dissenting opinion. I appreciate feedback, no matter what.

*What---no one's going to defend Spock's Elmer Fudd impression? You guys are slippin'...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the explanation, Scholar, but Clay was poking fun at what is considered Pop lyrics in music today, using Madonna and
JT and many others, as examples and it was all tongue in cheek...never against the artist, but about the sexual, cheesy words thrown on youth in the music today, and how wrong it would be for him (not being a cool dude, you understand.) Sorry...still no gayness in his performance. It was a riot. Research is the key!

Scholar said...

Anon---I'm sure Clay had his reasons for singing Madonna---the guy has to have a bit of a sense humor to do "Like A Virgin" after all the gossip about his sex life. However, I still can't help but find the paradox somewhat amusing.

I will say, Clay is lucky to have a fan like you who comes to his defense. I just hope you walk away from this feeling that it's okay for BOTH Clay and I to have jokes once in a while.


Anonymous said...

Different anon here.

There are jokes and there are jokes.

Since when is it OK to mock someone for something as personal as their sexuality? He doesn't sing with his penis. Clay made fun of the dreck that is considered award worthy music on the radio. Most top 40 songs are crap but at least the artists put it out there for public opinion.

You, on the other hand, don't know the man you are mocking or who he dates. He says he isn't gay, so where does it give you the right to think you know better?

You're just one more guy that made the same bigoted bash against a really good and talented guy for no reason at all.

ADB said...

'Light My Fire' - Kenny Dope remix is a great, check out those drums!

Also, not a remix but Joy Denalane did a v nice version of 'I cover the waterfront' on her 'Born and Raised' album.

Great post Scholar!

Scholar said...

Anon---Sorry, but this is just becoming ridiculous to me. No one said Clay sings with his penis. That might actually be kind of entertaining.

I don't consider what I said to be a bigoted bash and I apologized off the top if the remark seemed homophobic. Sexuality IS personal, but so is everything else that people joke about with celebrities. You don't think that Britney Spears having a meltdown or losing custody of her kids is personal? That hasn't stopped the world from having an ongoing discussion about it. In our society the counterbalance of fortune and fame is being open to public scrutiny. Right or wrong, it's a fact of life.

I don't feel that I should have to defend myself for making a joke on my own blog, although I've done so because I enjoy a good debate. If you disagree with the sentiments being expressed here, you can choose not to return. If you do return, you may find that I will occasionally poke fun at cultural icons. I adore Sun Ra and I once called him Flavor Flav's illegimate daddy. I like myself, and yet I've been known to make self-deprecating remarks. It's called satire. The fact that we don't all agree on what's funny is part of what makes the world an interesting place.

I think you're taking Clay and Top 40 radio a little too seriously, but that's just my opinion.

adb---Thank you SO much for having a comment that actually had some relevance to the music on the post.

I'm a big Kenny Dope fan, too. Haven't heard Joy Denalane's version of "I Cover The Waterfront" yet, but I'll definitely check it out.

Thanks for stopping by...

Planet Mondo said...

Man Alive - I don't think I've ever found a finer post. I'm in funky meltdown with these sizzling winners

Thanks so much for posting this treasure chest of golden nuggets


thisistomorrow said...

hi there scholar... great post as always... i really dig cover versions, so just don't stop with your cover posts... and by the way check out my diversions mix, 1 hour of the most obscure cover versions...
keep up the good work... mike

dj blueprint - diversions 1


Anonymous said...

You are so totally constricted by your knowledge of all music, it confines you to the dungeon of only hip-hop, soul and jazz, all commendable sounds I admit, but what of other music, other talents, or a great voice? Yes, I'm talkin' Clay, who, if he wanted to, could sing the only music that your brain registers.
This is a singer who takes your classics, does them his way, and they become classics once again.
You can't listen to Clay with just your ears...you need to open your heart as well.

dennis b said...

Whoa Scholar. The Clay people are coming to get you man. haha

Fantastic post as always my dude.

Anonymous said...

You are right in that you are entitled to your opinion. The big difference you seem to miss is that instead of poking fun at a person, as you did, Clay pokes it at himself and circumstances of "not being cool." Much more professional but also humbling. Again, you are entitled to like the artists you do, but by your lists of who is good and not, you definitely show a bias, a HUGE bias toward race, certain types of music and artists. Your right, as in choice -- just doesn't Make you right.

Scholar said...

planet mondo---Gratitude. Getting such complimentary feedback makes me want to work even harder to bring the goods. Peace.

Mike---Hey man---how ya feelin'? I'll def. check out Diversions---you know I'm a big fan of your mixes. It's about time for you to drop another one over here. Email me when you get a minute.

dennis---Yeah---Claymania is live and in full effect over here. What was I thinking???

Anon---Why, why, why do I keep indulging you? Are you Clay's grandma or something? I know from your IP address that you're the same person who keeps leaving comments, and all I can do at this point is hope that you find something more productive to do with your time.

This site is called Souled On, not Hard On For Clay Aiken. People visit this site to check out soul, funk, hip-hop, jazz, etc. I know it MUST make me a racist, but those are the genres I've chosen to focus on for the scope of this blog. Is that okay with you?

Objective truth simply doesn't exist when it comes to taste in music. I have my opinions about what I like, and CLEARLY you have yours. That comment about me being in a dungeon seems pretty ill-advised coming from a person who believes that all the world should love Clay Aiken. If that isn't one-sided linear thinking, I don't know what is.

Here's the thing...you're never going to get me to say I'm wrong for not liking Clay's music. I don't think you're wrong for liking him---we all have our opinions. What IS wrong is that you're so fanatical about trying to convert MY way of thinking---it's just not healthy.

I'll tell you what---I promise to never make a stupid Clay joke again if you promise to get a grip on yourself. Again, I don't care about you having a dissenting opinion, but you've made your point repeatedly and it's time to move on to bigger and better things. Ever heard of clayaiken.com?

Anonymous said...

I always laugh at the ones who diss the celebs. Makes them look more a loser and the dissed ones a lot better. Another pathetic blogger with no life.

Scholar said...

Right...because a person who has a life would spend 3 days fucking with said pathetic blogger for not liking Clay Aiken.

Damn you're irritating, Clay's grandma...

red one said...

I like Otis Clay. Does that count? ;-)

Scholar said...

red one---It certainly counts as far as I'm concerned. Had I thought of it that way, I might have claimed to be a Clay lover from the very beginning ;)

Glad to know you're still around, my friend...hope you've been well.

consoladores said...

What exactly you're writing is a horrible mistake.

viagra online said...

I wonder why everybody admires Jay Z so much, he is so mediocre compared with all these stars.