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gertrude

April 2018

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Songs Without Point



Mention Songs Without Words and most people immediately think of Mendelssohn. If, like me, you have Classic FM on in the car, you will now know it as the title of a horrible new CD from the Classic stable. It consists of ‘favourite songs’ played in a classical way. Well, chaps, when I want a ‘classical’ version of Life on Mars, I’ll ask for it. These performances are extremely bland and boring and what is even the point?

It’s been done the other way of course: classic to pop. Nut Rocker by B Bumble and the Stingers is a plodding version which sounds as if it were played by Mrs Mills. Beck’s Bolero is another matter altogether and makes my point about cover versions, which is that they should add something to the music. Bryan Ferry is the master of this, as shown by his performances of Jealous Guy or A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.

Any favourite covers, folks?

Comments

Ziggy Stardust by Bauhaus!

Did cover versions exist before the rise of the singer/songwriter? In the first half of the 20th century it wasn't unheard of for different versions of a song to be in the chart at the same time.
Hurrah, a vote!

I don't know the answer to that and of course you're right about the different chart versions. I suppose I think of a cover version as being an interpretation of a song that's become a classic, whether it's Smoke Gets In Your Eyes or Yesterday.
The only version of Smoke gets In Your Eyes that I have is by Al Bowlly.

(Anonymous)

Agree completely about Song Without Words CD - ghastly!

I am rather fond of slightly twisted covers on country songs: Carole Laure's french takes on Save the Last Dance for Me and Stand by Your Man and The White Stripes one of Jolene. Have to smile at Carole's live versions:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izoeoitPJa4

And recently The Puppini Sisters - esp I Will Survive and Wuthering Heights. Much fun! Donna

That's a lot to follow up! I can't imagine anyone but Kate Bush singing Wuthering Heights; it would certainly be interesting to hear that.
Yay, someone who knows Carole Laure!

Must say I prefer her French versions of Lewis Furey's songs though. :)
The Sisters of Mercy also covered Jolene, although I never liked it as much as a lot of people did.
The Animals: House of the Rising Sun
The Beautiful South: Everybody's Talkin'
Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris: Love Hurts
Deacon Blue: What Do You Get When You Fall In Love?
Kirsty MacColl: Days
The Byrds: Tambourine Man
Manfred Mann's Earth Band: Blinded by the Light
Cream: Born Under a Bad Sign
Everything But The Girl: I Don't Wanna Talk About It
Joe Cocker: With A Little Help From My Friends

... ooooh, that'll do to be going on with :-)
Oh, great picks! Much as I love the Everlys, the Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris Love Hurts must be one of the most beautiful tracks ever recorded; I love it so much!
At cybersofa's funeral there were two covers: Dylan's Forever Young by The Pretenders and Kirsty MacColl's Days. His choice.
For me, the best cover artist is David Bowie. He makes songs entirely his own. His version of "Amsterdam" is on a par with Jacques Brel's great original, "My Death" (as he played it in the Ziggy Stardust film) is much better than Brel's version, and I was actually pretty devastated to learn that my favourite Bowie song "Wild Is the Wind" is not by the man himself but a Johnny Mathis cover.

Other covers that surpass the originals in my opinion:

Johnny Cash: The Mercy Seat (orig. Nick Cave)
Janis Joplin: Summertime (orig. from Porgy & Bess)
Muse: Feelin' Good (orig. Nina Simone)
Jim Capaldi: The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys (not really a cover since Capaldi co-wrote it, but it sounds very different from the Traffic original)
Bronski Beat: Ain't Necessarily So (orig. from Porgy & Bess)
Manfred Mann's Earth Band: Spirits in the Night (orig. Bruce Springsteen)
Better than Brel! That's going it. But I love Dusty Springfield's If You Go Away, her cover of his Ne Me Quitte Pas.
This is fun, people are coming up with great stuff I'd forgotten or not even heard of.
I watched the Ziggy Stardust film one night on TV and was rather disappointed with it. Then came this song, just Bowie with his guitar, a slow, beautiful melody, beautiful lyrics, and I thought 'WOW! What's this?' The end credits revealed that it was called "My Death", originally by Jacques Brel, which surprised me because it hadn't sounded familiar at all. So I tracked down "La mort" and was so disappointed to find Brel had originally written it like a march. No beautiful melody, I hardly recognised it as being the same song.

Dusty's version is good, I love her voice. I also love Nina Simone singing it in French. Her accent is pretty atrocious, but it's such a moving version. And I still have the 45 of "Laat me niet alleen" (inherited from my mum), Brel's own rendition in Dutch. :)


This morning I heard Willie DeVille's Mexican-style "Hey Joe" on the radio, another fun cover I forgot.
Oh, and of course lots of covers that may not be better than the original, but do sound different (and good):

Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana) - versions by Tori Amos and Patti Smith
Walk On By (Dionne Warwick) - versions by Gloria Gaynor and The Stranglers
Don't Fear the Reaper (Blue Öyster Cult) - The Beautiful South
One (Harry Nilsson) - versions by Three Dog Night and Aimee Mann
Feelin' Alright (Traffic) - Joe Cocker
Sweet Jane (Velvet Underground/Lou Reed) - Cowboy Junkies
Wonderwall (Oasis) - The Mike Flowers Pops

The aforementioned Summertime and Feelin' Good have also been covered many times.