Under The Covers: Care For Seconds?

      18 Comments on Under The Covers: Care For Seconds?

A while back I posted about cover songs and the artists behind them (both the originals and the second-time-around-ers), and while I was lying awake in bed last night (I woke up at 2:39am and didn’t fall back asleep until after seven, thankyouverymuch), tangling with my sheets, I started thinking again about other kinds of covers.  So I spent my (awake-at-odd) hours shuffling through my mental playlist and determined that once I was out of my sleepy-but-unable-to-sleep fog and could create a cogent compilation, I would do so.

The difference between this list and the first one I posted – which will probably only matter to fans of music history and to musicians (I am both myself and I married one) – is that, rather than call these Covers “better” than the originals (yes, I did that previously; yes, I will argue why if you must know), I am simply putting them out there as being.  Not better, not worse.  On equal footing, just separate.

SO.

Without further ado…

Get ready to make like a record and groove, baby.

🙂

Adele:  Make You Feel My Love
Originally written and recorded by Bob Dylan, 1997

Adele has a voice I can respect; it is her instrument, and one she plays well.  If there is one thing she has noticeably improved upon since her album 19, it is her tendency to over-emote.  Jennifer Nettles has this same tendency, and there are songs that work well for both artists because they use that technique.  There are also songs that don’t fit their vocal style well, because not everything is exaggerated emotion and operatic drama.

Adele tones down her supererogatory inflection in this song, however, opting for more subtle intonations and smoothly rounded (heh – see what I did there?) phrases.  It comes across beautifully.

If you are a fan of Adele, especially in this more mature style, she also covers The Cure’s Love Song and Brandi Carlile’s Hiding My Heart.

Hiding My Heart was written for Brandi Carlile by Tim Hanseroth, who – along with his brother, Phil – make up the other two permanent members of Brandi’s band.  They are often referred to as “The Twins” and their songwriting talents amaze me.  As do their vocals.

As anyone who has experienced being in or around a musical family can attest, there is something eerily pitch-perfect about familial voices finding one another in harmony.  The Twins have that.  And it’s that spot-on oneness that is the primary reason I like this next recording so well.

Phil & Tim Hanseroth (Brandi Carlile):  
Written by Paul Simon and recorded by Simon & Garfunkel, 1964

As the story goes, Paul Simon wrote this song in his bathroom…  With the lights off…

So he could hear better.

Mmmm… Kaaaay…

I would say, “Whatever floats your boat” but the idea of floating and bathrooms conjures all sorts of unpleasant smells images, does it not?

In unison now:  Eeeuuuuwww–!

I actually do ‘get’ the whole singing-in-the-bathroom phenomenon.  There’s a reason people sing in showers, though many don’t understand why the compulsion is stronger there.  The thing about bathrooms is that they tend to be filled with only hard surfaces (walls, floors, porcelain objects, wood or metal towel racks, etc), and that creates a natural feedback loop.  Acoustics in bathrooms are amazing.  And if you have vaulted ceilings in there, it just adds to the resonance.  The Barenaked Ladies (or rather, the primary vocal duo) did a whole set titled The Bathroom Sessions.

‘Kaysooo…

Moving on.

Pat Benatar:  All Fired Up
Originally written by Kerryn Tolhurst for the Australian band Rattling Sabres, 1987

Pat Benatar got ahold of this song and made it her leading single off her 1988 album Wide Awake In Dreamland, which was a boon for songwriter Tolhurst, but by the time the original Sabres recording was released, the fuss was about the song was over.  As were the Sabres.

You might have picked up on the fact that I have a clue or two about vocals from my commentary on this post thus far.  (Or perhaps you weren’t paying attention…)  One thing I respect about Pat Benatar’s musicianship is that she took her choral training and her mezzo-soprano talent and pushed it in a direction nobody expected her to go.  Essentially she took a classical instrument (her voice) and rocked it.

And one thing I respect about Pat Benatar as a person is that she is not afraid to tackle tough subjects in the music she produces, even – especially – when it is not a popular thing to do.  She addresses the sad sick reality of child abuse in Hell Is For Children, and again on the Dreamland album in Suffer The Little Children.  It is not easy for a recording artist to win their way (recording contracts are a complex hydra with too many snarling heads to count), especially when it comes to their causes.  And perhaps most especially when that cause is something too many would prefer not to be confronted with.  That is changing – slowly (too fucking slowly) – and survivors of childhood abuse are helping the next generation come up less afraid.  But someone has to speak up in a way that matters, in a way that is heard, at a time when people are forced to listen.  And she did that.

*stepping down off soapbox*

Anywhoo…

This song is one of my favorites because it mixes Benatar’s rock roots with the more pop style she adopted later.  And the lyrics are fantastic in their simplicity.

We could all do with such a positive anthem.

I believe there comes a time
When everything just falls in line
We live and learn from our mistakes
The deepest cuts are healed by fate

The Dixie Cups:  Iko Iko
Originally recorded by James “Sugar Boy” Crawford, 1953

Someone sent me a 10-minute Grateful Dead version of this song the other day, and since today is Fat Tuesday, I figure I will end this post with a tip o’ the hat to Mardi Gras, and share the story of how this tune came to be.

James Crawford attended a Mardi Gras event in the early ’50s that featured a traditional face-off between two “tribes” (keep in mind that Seminole culture was once influential in Louisiana), and he wrote down the call-outs as he heard them.  (The phonetics are actually quite different, and there’s a little video explaining the etymology, here.)  Later he turned his parade notes into a song – unaware of their meaning – and recorded it under the title “Jock-a-Mo.”  Very few people know that though, and when the Dixie Cups recorded their version of the New Orleans staple in 1965, they didn’t know it either.  Hence, they took the writing credit.  Eventually the legalities were sorted out, and the song has been recorded by a myriad of performers over the decades, including Cyndi Lauper, Jimmy Fallon, and the aforementioned Grateful Dead.

But here, for your enjoyment, is the “original” 1960s cover, as performed by the Dixie Cups:

Happy Tuesday!

We’ll have to crawl under the covers together again soon.

🙂

18 thoughts on “Under The Covers: Care For Seconds?

  1. kdaddy23

    Reminds me of the song, “Wild Flower;” I heard Skylark’s version and was moved by it – then The New Birth redid the song a short time later in 1973 – and just blew the song out of the water and so much that anyone who thinks of the song remembers The New Birth doing it – but not Skylark. Even I had to go looking for Skylark’s name because I couldn’t remember the group – but the song (and both versions) will stay with me forever.

      1. kdaddy23

        Nope; MIDI and being able to digitally sample and remix stuff means you don’t need a band of 10 – members; with my Korg workstation, I can be a 10-man band all by myself.

  2. heidisomething

    You neglected to mention in your list how the Commitments improved every Wilson Pickett song they ever touched. And yes, I know they weren’t a real band, but still that lead singers growly voice makes my toes curl even though he’s kinda homely.

    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      Some artists are really just cover kings. If it’s done well, or if the original material is obscure, the audience is usually none the wiser.

      1. heidisomething

        In related news, I just want to go on record and say that Weird Al Yankovic improves almost every song he parodies. The new lyrics are infinitely more intelligent , and the music itself is taken up at least a notch or two in complexity and skill.

        1. Mrs Fever Post author

          I remember when Michael Jackson’s Bad came out. Weird Al did “Fat” as a parody, and the video was actually (surprisingly) a bit of a social statement. Humorous, but still. He had a message. One image that forever sticks in my memory from that video was watching rail-thin models walk the runway wearing dresses made from toast, to the background soundtrack of “you’re fat!” The point being, of course: No you’re not, you stupid beauty queen! EAT SOMETHING!

          1. heidisomething

            The videos for “Fat” and “Eat It” are both almost shot-for shot parodies of the original videos as well, with some of the original dancers and such appearing in both videos.

          2. Mrs Fever Post author

            Eat It! That’s the one.

            He’s an odd duck. Do you remember his movie, UHF? Most recently I’ve seen his name linked with some sort of Brain Exhibition my husband attended.

  3. kanienke

    I enjoyed this post a lot, and listening to the songs. I’m no music expert, I only know what I li. hanks BTW for mentioning my fave band BNL and the Bathroom Sessions! One of the best things about music in my opinion is when new artists put a new spin on old tunes. I am enjoying the heck right now out of the AV Club’s YouTube videos. In particular, I love the Punch Brothers rendition of the Cars’ “Just What I Needed” because it is both faithfully executed and at the same time full of their own spirit.

    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      BNL is not the same minus Steven Page’s vocals, but I do like their music. One Week is such a teenage-relationship-fight-and-make-up song that it never fails to make me laugh… But it also makes me sad because adults behave that way too, and I am horrified that so few people ever truly mature, emotionally, beyond age 13.

      I had to go listen to the Punch Brothers cover the Cars. Mandolin and banjo are not instruments that immediately call to mind when I think of Just What I Needed, but they cover it beautifully.

      I’ll have to investigate AV Club. A quick youtube search came back with Gwar and Iron & Wine… Taylor Swift? Hmmm… I do like it when artists prove to be versatile. I’ll be interested to see how that project is set up. Thanks for the info!

      1. kanienke

        GWAR did a powerful version of Kansas’ Carry On My Wayward Son that was interesting. Didn’t expect them to treat it so well. I love some of the AV Club performances… a lot. I am also really digging Daniela Andrade’s awesome covers. I liked the Billie Jean, La Vie en Rose, and Smells Like Teen Spirit renditions. Love her voice and her crisp guitar style.

        I love Steven Page especially his twisted sense of humor and I miss him a lot. But the band really is no less amazing without him. I primarily worship Ed Robertson for his guitar and sense of humor. He is hilarious in concert especially when they cover other people’s songs.

        1. Mrs Fever Post author

          Well, I tried to listen to GWAR. I couldn’t get past the horrible costuming and ragey screams. But. To each their own.

          I like Beck’s “Record Club” – similar concept but album oriented – and another blogger introduced me to Herbie Hancock’s “Possibilities” in my last Under The Covers post, which is about as upscale as you can get in the cover business. Amazing work came out of that project.

          I am reading John Fogerty’s book, Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music. In it, he talks about recording *with* artists that are covering his stuff. It’s a little different when you hear music done that way. He did Fortunate Son with the Foo Fighters.

          Ann & Nancy Wilson have also performed *with* the artists that are covering their material. Notably, they’ve worked with musicians from the Country genre. It’s not what you’d expect, necessarily, but it works.

Comments are closed.