Wednesday, February 27, 2008
On Second Thought...The Fifth
Old school's back in session, kids. After being plagued by technical issues and a terrible bout of pneumonia, I'm finally back in the game, snitches. It's time to get your learn on with the next episode of the infamous Cover My Ass series...let's do work...
"You Are My Sunshine"---Dyke & The Blazers (zShare)
"You Are My Sunshine"---Dyke & The Blazers (savefile)
*"You Are My Sunshine" is widely recognized as one of the state songs of Louisiana, due in large part to the tune's association with Jimmie Davis. Davis was a country music star who also served two non-consecutive terms as the state's Democratic governor. He recorded the song in 1940 for Decca Records, and used to sing it frequently at rallies while on the campaign trail. He even went so far as to ride around on a horse named Sunshine, but that's another story for another day...
Davis and Charles Mitchell were credited as the tune's songwriters, but according to most accounts, Davis actually bought the rights to the song from Paul Rice. In fact, both The Pine Ridge Boys and The Rice Brothers Gang had recorded and released the tune several months before Davis put his version on wax. Over the years, numerous theories have emerged to explain the song's origins, but there's no disagreement over the fact that Jimmie Davis was the first to make it a hit record.
*Since Davis popularized the tune, hundreds of renditions of the song have surfaced. Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Bing Crosby, and Aretha Franklin are just a few of the artists who've released cover versions of the track.
*If I can be honest, I generally hate this song with a passion. There's something deeply cynical and perhaps even unAmerican about disliking this tune, but that's never dissuaded me in the slightest. Nothing personal...something about it just makes me feel an uncontrollable urge to purge, and that's putting it poetically.
Bearing that in mind, I was understandably shocked beyond belief the first time I heard Dyke & The Blazers' ridiculously funky twist on the song. Not only do I think it's an outstanding cover, I can listen to it repeatedly without so much as a hiccup. That may sound like somewhat of an unconventional endorsement, but what can I say? That's about as real as it gets, soul children...
"Hard To Handle"---Patti Drew (zShare)
"Hard To Handle"---Patti Drew (savefile)
*Written by Otis Redding/Alvertis Isbell/Allen Jones; Redding's version was released in 1968, the year following his untimely death in an airplane crash. It can be found on The Immortal Otis Redding LP.
*A popular version of the song was recorded by The Black Crowes in 1990 on their Shake Your Money Maker LP. Their rendition reached #26 on the US charts and rose to #45 in the UK. Other renditions have been offered by such artists as The Grateful Dead, Tony Joe White, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and Dynamo's Rhythm Aces.
*Patti Drew's amazing cover was first released as a single on Capitol Records in 1968 (b/w "Just Can't Forget About You"). It also appeared on her I've Been Here All The Time LP the following year.
"Fever"---King Curtis (zShare)
"Fever"---King Curtis (savefile)
*I posted Patti Drew's cover of this tune in an earlier installment of the series, so you can check out some of the song's history here.
*If you think you've never heard King Curtis (born Curtis Ousley) play, you're probably wrong. The celebrated saxophonist was constantly in high demand, being invited to work with Nat King Cole, Aretha Franklin, The Beatles, Sam Cooke, Eric Clapton, Nina Simone, The Drifters, Wilson Pickett, The Shirelles, The Isley Brothers, Lionel Hampton, Herbie Mann, The Coasters, Solomon Burke, and many others.
*In addition to his work with other artists, Curtis also released many of his own records, which included successful singles such as "Soul Serenade", "Memphis Soul Stew", "Ode To Billie Joe", and "Soul Twist". He was also an accomplished musical director and record producer.
*Curtis recorded many wonderful covers over the years, including "Whiter Shade Of Pale", "And I Love Her", "Bridge Over Troubled Water", "Get Ready", "Green Onions", "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay", "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours", and "In The Midnight Hour". His outstanding rendition of "Fever" appeared on his Old Gold LP in 1961.
*On August 13, 1971 Curtis was stabbed to death in his heart with a knife outside of his apartment building in NYC. His presence in the music industry has been greatly missed ever since.
"Do Right Woman, Do Right Man"---The Sweet Inspirations (zShare)
"Do Right Woman, Do Right Man"---The Sweet Inspirations (savefile)
*Written by Chips Moman and Dan Penn; released by Aretha Franklin in 1967 on her I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You LP. That same year, William Bell and The Sweet Inspirations both released their renditions of the tune.
*The song has also been covered by Willie Nelson, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Brenda Lee, Joan Baez, Cher, Lulu, Marva Wright, Dionne Warwick, Sinead O'Connor, and quite a few other recording artists.
*If you've been hangin' with me for a while, then you should already be somewhat familiar with The Sweet Inspirations. The group (which initially was led by Cissy Houston, Whitney's mama) made an invaluable, yet commonly unrecognized, contribution to soul music's rich legacy. If you are unaware of their work as backing vocalists or as recording artists in their own right, let me suggest starting with this chronicle of their illustrious career.
"Yesterday"---Marvin Gaye (zShare)
"Yesterday"---Marvin Gaye (savefile)
*Okay...it feels a bit strange to keep making reference to my own writing, but I explored the history of this tune in the third edition of the series when I featured the Bar-Kays' instrumental rendition of the song. I dug up a few interesting facts about the track for that post, so it may be worth looking backward if you happened to miss it the first time.
*As I mentioned previously, there are more versions of this tune than there are crazy thoughts in Tom Cruise's head. It's literally unfathomable...
Marvin Gaye recorded his stunning take on the song in 1969, and it appeared on his That's The Way Love Is LP the following year.
"You're All I Need To Get By"---Dionne Warwick (zShare)
"You're All I Need To Get By"---Dionne Warwick (savefile)
*Written by Nikolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson; recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in Hitsville USA in Detroit in 1967. Their version was first released as a 7" single on Tamla/Motown in April of 1968 and later appeared on their You're All I Need LP. The song went to #1 on the Hot Soul Singles charts, becoming one of the longest running R&B hits of 1968.
*The song was actually recorded separately by the two singers and later overdubbed by Motown's engineers to make it a duet. At the time, Tammi Terrell was recovering from surgery on a malignant brain tumor and was also bound to a wheelchair. The tumor ultimately resulted in her death on March 16, 1970. She was only 24 when she passed away.
Many rumors abounded after Terrell's death and have been circulating ever since. Many speculated that her illness was worsened by domestic abuse from her live-in boyfriend, David Ruffin of The Temptations. There have also been reports that Terrell and Gaye were having an affair, but neither of these notions have ever been definitively confirmed.
Whatever the truth may be, there's little argument over the fact that Gaye went into a kind of self-imposed isolation after Terrell's death. At the very minimum, he struggled intensely with the loss of a good friend and vocal partner. He returned with what is considered to be his best album of all time, an insightful and socially conscious masterpiece in the form of his What's Going On LP.
*Ashford & Simpson produced the song and also provided backing vocals on the track.
*This tune inspired and was interpolated on one of hip hop's greatest love joints of all time, "I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need To Get By" by Method Man and Mary J Blige.
*The song has been covered by artists such as Diana Ross, Nancy Wilson, Tony Orlando & Dawn, Sarah Dash w/ Patti LaBelle, Kenny Lattimore & Chante Moore, Michael McDonald, and Mark Ronson.
Dionne released an exceptional rendition of the tune in 1969, appearing on one of her best LPs, Soulful. For those of you who only know Dionne since she went batshit crazy and became a psychic friend, you are truly missing out on one of the greatest soul vocalists of all time. As this fine cover should indicate, in her day she was absolutely golden.
"(If Loving You Is Wrong)I Don't Want To Be Right"---Bobby "Blue" Bland (zShare)
"(If Loving You Is Wrong)I Don't Want To Be Right"---Bobby "Blue" Bland (savefile)
*Written by Homer Banks, Carl Hampton, and Raymond Jackson; first recorded on 1970 by The Emotions and Veda Brown, but their renditions were shelved.
*As most of you should know, the song is a tale about an illicit love affair. Depending upon the vocalist, it's sung from the point of view of either the cheating husband or the mistress.
*The song enjoyed the most commercial success when sung by Luther Ingram, whose take on the track topped the R&B charts and climbed to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972. Ingram evidently first heard Veda Brown's version while hanging around the Stax headquarters in Memphis and decided he wanted to attempt his own take on the song. His rendition featured some minor changes, such as a slower tempo and additional instrumental effects, but Ingram claims the record was cut within about 45 minutes.
*Isaac Hayes, Millie Jackson, Rod Stewart, Percy Sledge and David Ruffin are just a few of the other artists who've released a version of the tune.
*While most covers of this song undeniably end up falling into the category of insipid balladry, Bland managed to squeeze enough heartache and blues out of the tune to somehow make it more palpable than most of the other versions I've heard. It appeared on His California Album in 1973, an LP which has been re-issued in recent years.
"Suspicious Minds"---Dee Dee Warwick (zShare)
"Suspicious Minds"---Dee Dee Warwick (savefile)
*Written by Mark James (aka Francis Zambon), who recorded and released an unsuccessful version of the tune. James had originally worked on the song with esteemed songwriter/producer Lincoln "Chips" Moman, who later convinced Elvis Presley that he could turn the song into a hit. It had been several years since Elvis had enjoyed a successful single, and his cover of the tune was intended to revive his flailing career.
Elvis recorded the song during his legendary Memphis sessions early in 1969, and it was first released as a 7" single on August 26 of that same year. His version would end up being a great success, reaching #1 on the US charts and #2 in the UK. It ended up being his last number one song in the US prior to his death.
*After Elvis' success with covering the tune, many other artists followed suit---Thelma Houston, Candi Staton, and Fine Young Cannibals just to name a few.
*Dee Dee Warwick (Dionne's little sister) released her rendition in 1971 on Atco (b/w "I'm Glad I'm A Woman"). It was only a minor hit for her, peaking at #80 on the Billboard chart and #24 on the R&B charts.
I have no intention of launching into a discussion about my personal feelings on the subject of Elvis. Perhaps that could/should be the topic of its own post one crazy day. Elvis is one of those things like religion, politics, and money that easily sparks mad controversy and gets many people's tempers heated to an absolute boiling point.
However, I don't mind saying at all that I personally prefer Dee Dee's version every time. Although she clearly didn't have the staying power of her enormously talented sibling, I think of Dee Dee as being greatly unappreciated. Elvis, on the other hand, is like the trinity. He's The King, personal Jesus, and Holy Spirit of gas station sightings according to millions of people around the world. That's all well and good, but as you know, it's fully programmed into my DNA to root for the underdog.
Apologies in advance to those who prefer sequined jumpsuits and grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches. I concede without you saying so that I am somewhat of an ass.
"Light My Fire"---Ebony Rhythm Band (zShare)
"Light My Fire"---Ebony Rhythm Band (savefile)
*Written by The Doors; guitarist Robbie Krieger wrote the majority of the lyrics, but lead singer Jim Morrison lent a hand in penning the second verse.
*This was the song that truly catapulted The Doors into stardom. It topped the US charts for three weeks in July of 1967, and peaked at #7 on the UK charts. The single sold over one million copies and was the first #1 hit for their record label Elektra.
Executives at the label thought that the album version of the song was too long to play on the radio, so the guitar solos were edited to considerably shorten the length. Ultimately, this decision increased sales of their self-titled debut LP, since it was the only way that fans could own the extended mix of the song.
*The chord progression in the song was inspired by John Coltrane's "My Favourite Things"
*According to many sources I've read, Morrison had an intense love/hate relationship with the tune. He got tired of singing the track at their concerts and live shows, and some said that he was bitter about having so little to do with writing the group's signature song. As it turns out, "Light My Fire" is the last song Morrison sang live before his death on July 3, 1971 in Paris. The Doors' last public performance was at the Warehouse in New Orleans on December 12, 1970.
*Probably just about everyone has heard a cover of this song at one time or another, considering that such a wide variety of artists attempted to put their own twist on the tune. Renditions have been offered by Jose Feliciano, Erma Franklin, Nancy Sinatra, Jackie Wilson, Clarence Carter, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Shirley Bassey, Isaac Hayes, Young-Holt Unlimited, Booker T & The MGs, Massive Attack, and many others.
The Ebony Rhythm Band's cover of the song is remarkable, and quite different than any other take I've ever heard. The group's style is reminiscent of The Meters at times, but far less bound to conventional song structures. Many of their recordings come across as free flowing jam sessions, which adds to the overall excitement and unpredictability of their trippy funk and psychedelic soul sounds.
I generally encourage people to dig for the original vinyl version of most recordings, but there is an added bonus with the CD reissue of Soul Heart Transplant: The Lamp Sessions...an alternate take on their rendition of "Light My Fire". Whichever means you prefer, I'd definitely suggest making an effort to add this LP to your collection.
"Eleanor Rigby"---Kim Weston (zShare)
"Eleanor Rigby"---Kim Weston (savefile)
*Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney; the two would later offer somewhat differing accounts in terms of who actually contributed more lyrics to the song.
*The track was recorded by The Beatles in 1968 at Abbey Road Studios in 1966. It appeared on a 7" as the B-side to "Yellow Submarine" and on their Revolver LP.
*None of The Beatles played their instruments on this tune. An octet of string players were hired in as session musicians to record the track. Consequently, the group avoided playing the song live. Paul McCartney performed it on his Back In The US tour in 2002, but he replaced the strings with the help of keyboards.
*Tommy Steele sculpted a famous statue of Eleanor Rigby and unveiled it in 1982. He dedicated the work of art to "all the lonely people".
*Legend has it that Father McKenzie was originally Father McCartney. Paul supposedly decided that the reference may offend his father, so he picked the name out of a telephone book.
The name Eleanor Rigby was originally to be Daisy Hawkins. McCartney eventually scrapped this idea as well. As he recounts it, Eleanor was derived from an actress named Eleanor Bron and Rigby came from the name name of a store in Bristol.
In the 1980s, however, a gravestone for a woman named Eleanor Rigby was located in Liverpool. Not far away in the same cemetery was a memorial for someone by the last name of McKenzie. McCartney argued that the strange coincidence may have been a product of his subconscious, as he and Lennon had previously hung out in this particular graveyard when they were younger. Regardless, Eleanor Rigby's gravesight remains a Mecca for Beatles enthusiasts all around the globe.
*The tune has been covered by Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Young-Holt Unlimited, Richie Havens, Jackie Wilson, The Four Tops, Jackie Mittoo, Gene Harris, Count Basie, Booker T, Junior Reid, and a host of others.
*Kim Weston released her version on her 1970 LP, Big Brass Four Poster. In writing this post, I became rather disappointed with myself for never having written about Ms. Weston's transcendent vocals at any previous point. You know how I love to champion underappreciated soul sistas, and she undoubtedly fits the bill.
What sets her rendition apart for me is the raw emotion behind it. Many of the other covers I've heard somehow diminish the song's intensity in one way or another. Weston, on the other hand, recorded a take on the tune that was simply electrifying. While her version is quite distinguishable from the original, she seems to have grasped the song's meaning and implications in a way that many others seemingly did not.
To compensate for this oversight, let me assure you that more of Weston's material will be surfacing here in the very near future. Shame on me.
Bonus mp3 (zShare only):
"What I Seen"---Talib Kweli
Although this song (produced by Kanye West) was on the leaked version of Kweli's The Beautiful Struggle, it wasn't included on the retail version. Since the joint samples "Eleanor Rigby" it seems evident that sample clearance issues were involved, although any further information that my readers may have is certainly welcome. The track was originally called "Lonely People", and has appeared on mixtapes and on the limited edition vinyl single pictured above. This mp3 is ripped from Kweli's Focus bootleg, on which the joint was renamed "What I Seen".
If you've never heard this, you're definitely overdue. This is one of the most solid joints Kweli's ever done, and although that's only an opinion, I feel strongly enough about it to present it as indisputable fact.
Remember this? Kweli spit the rhymes from "Lonely People" on an episode of Def Poetry Jam:
Method and Mary J's classic video for "I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need To Get By":
Word From Your Moms:
You, too, with the still soul
have your mission, for beneath the
dashing, noisy waves must ever
run the silent waters that give the tide