Saturday, January 12, 2008

Jar of Covers

Hello once again! It's me! Kurtis from Covering the Mouse! I'll be guest posting today while Fong is enjoying the California sunshine!

One of my favourite bands is Jars of Clay. The main reason I love them is the amount of care they put into their songs. The production is always high on their records and I love the way they use their instruments and their harmonies.

While they are quite famous in the Christian circuit, they are still unknown to the rest of the world. They don't record albums to tell everyone they are Christians, but the subject matter of some of their work has kept them from breaking through to the mainstream market.

The band has covered many songs over their career and I've broken them down into three groups: Covers of Famous Groups, Covers from the Christian World, Christmas Covers.

Covers of Famous Groups

Lonely People (America)
No Matter What (Badfinger)
Crazy Love (Poco)
God Only Knows (The Beach Boys)
Swingtown (Steve Miller Band)

Covers From the Christian World

If I Stand (Rich Mullins)
Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows (Petra)
Dig (Adam Again)

Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet (Gavin Bryars)

I need to talk about this track because it has a cool story. Gavin Bryars is an English jazz bassist turned composer. His most famous work is the LP he released in 1971 called Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet. Bryars heard a homeless man singing this song over and over which inspired him to recreate this loop, layering more and more instruments and countermelodies before fading out at the end. For the first recording as an LP, Bryars was limited to a duration 25 minutes for the piece; when cassettes came along, Bryars made a 60 minute version of the piece, and for CD, a 74 minute version. Jars of Clay's version is only 4 minutes long but you still get a good sense of what Bryars was trying to accomplish.

In 2006, Jars of Clay recorded Redemption Songs, an album of a few originals but mainly reworkings of famous hymns. I could post the whole album but instead I've picked four tracks. Nothing but the Blood features the Blind Boys of Alabama.

I'll Fly Away
Nothing but the Blood
They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love
It Is Well with My Soul

Christmas Covers

Christmas for Cowboys (John Denver)
This song was covered for the Maybe This Christmas Tree compilation album.

A few months ago, Jars released a Christmas album full of great arrangements of famous and obscure Christmas songs.

Wonderful Christmastime (Paul McCartney)
I actually don't like the original at all but the Jars of Clay version has some really great production and makes it very easy to listen to.

Christmastime is Here (Vince Guaraldi Trio)
This is quite a different take on the classic tune from A Charlie Brown Christmas but I like it.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Little Drummer Boy

These two tracks originally appeared on an EP early in the bands career and were rerecorded for this album.

In the Bleak Midwinter (Christina Rossetti, Gustav Holst)
This is originally a poem written by Christina Rossetti sometime before 1872. It has been put to a few different melodoies, the most famous composed by Gustav Holst and Harold Edwin Darke in the early 20th century. It has also been covered by Julie Andrews, Allison Crowe, Sarah McLachlan and many others over the years.

Gabriel's Message
Sting has covered this song but he changed "Christian" to "everyone".


boyhowdy said...

An incredibly thorough coverfest of a too-easily overlooked band. Nice post, Kurtis!

rollerpimp said...

Great post. This is one of my favorite bands that I want to post on as well. It is a shame that radio can't get past the message to play great music.

Fongolia said...

No California sunshine here. It absolutely poured today!