June 21, 2006

Some Covers.

Some of you folks may have noticed the new radio.blog feature on the right-hand side; the theme for this month (or so) are covers:

1. First up: probably the song of the year, Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," and three covers of varying quality from folks like Nelly Furtado and Ray LaMontagne. My money's on The Kooks' version, but as Bulletproof Vest would say wisely, though, "The original is still the best."

2. It's impossible to improve on perfection -- namely, the Beatles' "Here, There and Everywhere" -- but this cover by some band from Swindon called Belarus takes some interesting liberties with the melody. (Yes, the idea of Coldplay-does-the-Beatles sounds horrid on paper, but really, give a listen to the track first.) The high point of Mojo Magazine's latest freebie, a song-by-song cover album of Revolver, on the occasion of its 40th anniversary. (Though there's a cover of "Eleanor Rigby" by The Handsome Family that's darn good too.)

3. Sometimes there are songs that pop out of nowhere and you go, Where has this song been all my life? In this case, it's The Left Banke's "She May Call You Up Tonight," covered expertly by Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs. Their album of nothing but covers, Under the Covers Vol. 1, seems way too respectful and somewhat redundant (do we really need another cover of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue?"), but one can't complain about the overall summery vibe of the fantastic harmonizing throughout the album. Unlike other cover/tribute albums that make you run to your CD collection and pull out the originals, this one works quite well.

4. I should explain this a bit: every year, Yo La Tengo, my favorite American band other than the now-defunct Guided by Voices, plays a benefit concert for the radio station WFMU -- the schtick being, YLT plays whatever song the call-in pledger wants to hear, live, with no rehearsals. Their slaughter of Billy Joel's "You May Be Right" is from their latest album, Yo La Tengo Is Murdering The Classics, and they mostly deliver on their promise.

5. I'm a total sucker for the way M.Y.M.P. strips everything down to guitar and luscious vocals, and their sweet take on the Eraserheads' "Huwag Mo Nang Itanong" -- the highlight of the otherwise disappointing tribute album, UltraElectroMagneticJam: The Music of the Eraserheads -- is just as good as the original.

It's disappointing because it's a compilation filled with bands that are essentially the E-Heads' offspring, and so most of the album basically sounds like one big karaoke fest. The lead singers' vocals aren't particularly distinctive either -- unlike, say, Sweet and Hoffs above -- since I honestly can't tell the difference between Orange and Lemons, Cueshe or Sponge Cola. (The exception was Imago's "Spoliarium," which made me appreciate the original even more.) The trick to a good cover version, I think, is to make the song temporarily your own, as do South Border ("With a Smile" gets the r&b treatment) and the Radioactive Sago Project (a spazzed-out "Alkohol"). But not the others, unfortunately: Isha blows a great opening to "Torpedo" by returning to the same E-Heads arrangement; the otherwise very good Barbie Almalbis attempts to sing in Tagalog and fails (I think that's what happened on "Overdrive," but I'm not sure); and everyone else, including, most disappointingly, Rico J. Puno, churns out different variations of blandness.

Posted by the wily filipino at June 21, 2006 12:02 AM

I would submit some covers that come very close to, or in fact *gasp* surpass the original:

* "Seven Nation Army" - The White Stripes, as covered by Nostalgia 77. Basically, it's a soul version and uses more instrumentation because let's face it, a guitar and drums and that's it? Come now.

* "I Will Survive" - Gloria Gaynor, as covered by Cake. This one has been a fav of mine for a while. It's a perfect tribute to the originial with Cake's own style worked in.

* "Come Together" - The Beatles, as covered by Aerosmith. I like this version better than the Beatles. Yes I said it. It's almost as if the Beatles wrote it for Aerosmith, in fact, they sorta did.

bring on the flames!

Posted by: Jesse! on June 21, 2006 05:31 PM

hey wily!

awesome post. will definitely listen to your radio blog links. incidentally, i've been looking for the carpenters' tribute album as well as fleetwood mac's. both of those albums i had copies of in audiotape version. i think it's an imported release, sigh.
speaking of covers, i like a few cover versions of beatles' songs from the "i am sam" sountrack. the pretenders, i think did am amazing job of covering "angel of the morning" and 10,000 maniacs did a decent job with cat stevens' "peace train". i like the bangles' "hazy shade of winter" too.
sigh, now i think i'll look for cover versions to put into my mp3 player.
please post more cover songs of note.
and yes, unltraelegtromagnetic jam is a disappointment, save for Francis M's "super proxy" and sago's "alkohol".

Posted by: durga on June 22, 2006 03:05 AM

astig ang radyo mo bosing, di ko alam, madaming ibang songer ang kumanta ng crazy. ayus rin yung version mymp, narinig mo na yung waiting in vain.

binabasa mo viajero, yan ang isa sa mga paborito kong libro, nabasa ko nung 1998, pero hanggang ngayon, binabalik balikan ko pa rin. ito ang libro na pinag reregalo ko sa mga filam kong kebigan. ipabasa mo sa klase mo, kung nagustuhan mo.

Posted by: ibalik on June 24, 2006 03:14 PM

hi, my first time on this blog. checked out that Belarus cover-- excellent indeed perfect description: coldplay does the beatles, hahaha.

speaking of beatles covers, i thought fiona apple's version of Across the Universe (Pleasantville) was great.

On the other hand, i have to say that covers by Smashing Pumpkins and the Dixie Chicks of Fleetwood Mac's 'Landslide' were not quite up to the level of the original.

Posted by: gonzo on June 25, 2006 07:45 PM

Jesse: I haven't heard any of the songs you've listed!

Durga: "If I Were A Carpenter" is probably the best of the cover/tribute albums out there...

You're right about the Bangles' "Hazy Shade of Winter" -- better than the original. (The prototypical cover-better-than-the-original-song is, I think, Jimi Hendrix's cover of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower.")

Ibalik: Di pa ako tapos -- I'll probably post a mini-review or something when I'm done.

Gonzo: Actually, the arrangement sounds somewhat like Radiohead's "Let Down."

Everyone: The best cover site (with downloadable mp3s!) is still Copy, Right? (I can't put the url in the comments, I think, so look for it on the blogroll.)

Posted by: the wily filipino on June 26, 2006 10:50 AM

how about:

korn's version of cameo's "word up"

lloyd cole's version on nick cave's "people they ain't no good."

alien ant farm's version of MJ's "smooth criminal."

the ataris' version of don henley's "boys of summer"

green day's "i fought the law."

red rockers' "eve of destruction."

fiona apple's "across the universe."

seal's "hey joe," and "fly like an eagle."

emm gryner has 2 albums of all covers, the most notable being her cover of def leppard's "pour some sugar on me," the clash's "straight to hell," and ozzy osbourne's "crazy train," on the girl versions album.

the best of the covers, IMO, is johnny cash doing NIN's "hurt," soundgarden's "rusty cage," and depeche mode's "personal jesus."

Posted by: bjr on June 30, 2006 04:08 PM

The Belarus song just doesn't do it for me. The Beatles are a hard act to follow!

Posted by: Mr Skin on June 30, 2006 11:27 PM
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