Friday, March 27, 2009

These Eyes (HaveSeenALotOfLovesButThey’reNeverGonnaSeeAnotherOneLikeIHadWithYou)

The Juno Awards are this weekend in Vancouver, so I figured it'd be a good time for some CanCon. Tonight I'm going to see Elizabeth Shepherd as part of JunoFest, the 100 Bands/19 Venues showcase over the next couple days. I recently found out a guy I used to work with at the library in Edmonton actually plays in the Juno-nominated band Souljah Fyah, so I want to check out their JunoFest gig tomorrow. I'm also going to the Songwriter's Circle show on Sunday, which features Hawksley Workman, Doc Walker, Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor of Blue Rodeo, Jacob Hoggard, Ndidi Onukwulu, Sarah Slean, and Buffy Sainte-Marie. Busy music weekend!

A couple days ago I got an-email from a reader telling me to check out The Lost Fingers who have an album full of Django Reinhardt-style gypsy jazz covers of 80's songs. They actually did pop up on my radar last year, though I kinda forgot about them since their CD wasn't available outside of Québec until the end of January. But they've come a long way in a short time. Entirely based on their sales in Québec, The Lost Fingers (Django had two paralyzed fingers from a fire) were 2nd overall in 2008 domestic sales after only Nickelback. The band is up for two major Junos, Album of the Year and the Fan Choice Award. Unfortunately they're not on the concert schedule this weekend, but I heard they might be back here for the Vancouver Jazz Festival in the summer. I'm definitely rooting for them!


The rest of this post is dedicated to covers of the classic These Eyes by The Guess Who, which predates the creation of the Juno Awards themselves by a couple years. I really got into The Guess Who in high school and remember coaxing my dad into driving to a show down in Red Deer around the time the original line-up reformed to tour the country (I had missed the Edmonton show).

Michael Bolotin - These Eyes [originally by The Guess Who]
No, that's not a typo, it's by Michael BOLOTIN before everyone's favourite earbleeder changed it to Bolton. I've been on the hunt for this cover for well over a year, before stumbling on it in a used CD shop here in Vancouver that was closing down. Never before has someone gone to such great lengths to find an old Michael Bolton CD. Whether it was good or not didn't even enter the equation, I just HAD to find it. Obviously, it's not great, but it's not as awful as I expected. The real surprise was finding a half-decent covers of Dancing in the Streets and Rocky Mountain Way on the same disc. Fodder for a future post.

Ernest Ranglin - These Eyes [originally by The Guess Who]
Nice instrumental version from Studio One session guitarist
Natalie Cole - These Eyes [originally by The Guess Who]
Pretty cheesy, oddly reminiscent of The Bee Gees.
Alton Ellis - These Eyes [originally by The Guess Who]
Sweet reggae cover
Jr. Walker & The All Stars - These Eyes [originally by The Guess Who]
This cover was a hit in the US just a year after the original was released

By the way, if you haven't seen Superbad, These Eyes is a key part of the funniest scene in the movie.

One last bit of related Guess Who cover madness:
Burton Cummings Sings Maggie May as Gordon Lightfoot [originally by Rod Stewart]

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

MP3-Photo Travelogue: The Windy City and All That Jazz

So last week I'm on the plane back to Vancouver working on the crossword in The Onion (HQ'd in Chicago) when I'm feel a tinge of sadness as I look at 32-down: "CN or Sears". You see the day before I landed in Chicago, this clue was invalidated when it was announced that this summer it will henceforth be known as the Willis Tower after Willis Group Holdings, a London-based Insurance broker, who are consolidating their offices there. Sigh, I guess. Apparently Sears vacated the building and moved to the suburbs in the mid-90's, though retained the naming rights until 2003.

Today we've got a fine selection of covers from the musical Chicago by John Kander & Fred Ebb sprinkled in with photos and blurbs about my trip.

Lea DeLaria - All That Jazz [originally by Kander/Ebb]
I found this great jazz cover on a "Best Of" album by Lea DeLaria that combines covers of showtunes and modern songs from her first two albums. Her 2006 album Double Standards includes swing jazz covers of Green Day, No Doubt, The Pretenders, and more. The world of Broadway covers is woefully underpopulated, so while looking up Lea DeLaria I was absolutely thrilled to stumble upon an Avenue Q Swings album of jazz covers, to which she contributed an Ella Fitzgerald-esque take on The Internet is for Porn. I'm lucky to have seen Avenue Q twice in London and Toronto, the latter instance in front row dead centre (thanks to my sister!). If you haven't seen it, you should go out of your way to check it out.

Lil' Kim, Macy Gray & Queen Latifah - Cell Block Tango [originally by Kander/Ebb]
As much as I love the music of Chicago, I don't really consider any of the songs from the film cover songs exactly... in the same way that multiple productions of plays or musicals aren't "remakes". The only exception on the film's soundtrack is this questionable rap riff on the Cell Block Tango.

Above are couple screen caps from The Untouchables and The Dark Knight, plus my own shot of LaSalle street. Honestly I don't listen to very many podcasts, but I am addicted to Filmspotting, which means alongside The AV Club and Ebert, 99% of the film criticism I pay attention to is Chicago-based. Hmmm. While in Chicago, I took the opportunity to do a little filmspotting of my own since a bunch of films I love including The Fugitive and The Untouchables were set/filmed there. I checked out Union Station, where Kevin Costner as Elliot Ness famously dropped a baby carriage down the steps in suuuuuper slooooow mooootion in the middle of a shootout. In reality, those steps are not quite as epic as I had pictured, ha ha. Strolling around downtown is a bit like walking through Gotham City since Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were recognizably filmed there. It was pretty cool to walk down LaSalle street, which pulled double duties as the site of Commissioner Loeb's funeral procession and later when the Joker's 18-wheeler flips over.

Uwe Kröger - All I Care About [originally by Kander/Ebb]
A soothing bossa nova jazz cover from German Broadway star Uwe Kröger, who you may remember from some Bond covers back in November. Spent a nice afternoon at the Chicago Art Institute, which has a bunch of famous paintings from the likes of Hopper, Seurat, and Van Gogh, though a couple other notables like American Gothic and Picasso's The Old Guitarist were on vacation. I was pretty stoked to see a small but sweet exhibition on children's author/Disney storyboarder Bill Peet. Below is an original drawing from Farewell to Shady Glade, one of my faves.

Ella Fitzgerald - Roxie [originally by Kander/Ebb]
Ella Fitzgerald - My Own Best Friend [originally by Kander/Ebb]
These two covers are a bit of a rarity from a dusty 7" inch I tracked down for about $10 since it was stunningly never re-issued in any other format. The legendary Ella Fitzgerald serves up an irresistible take on Roxie with some customized lyrics. Lots of fun. Roxie is actually the b-side to My Own Best Friend, a track from the original musical that didn't quite make it into the 2002 film adaptation. Theoretically I've seen the musical in person too, but I honestly don't recognize this one. For Chicago ethusiasts, I recently discovered a cool album on eMusic, An Evening with John Kander and Fred Ebb, a 1973 concert of the original composers performing their works including All That Jazz and Roxie two years before Chicago would even hit Broadway! Speaking of which, Chazz Palminteri brought his one-man Broadway show A Bronx Tale to Chicago and I took in a Sunday performance. You may have seen the 1993 film adaptation, which marked Robert De Niro's directorial debut. Unfortunately after a full day of trudging around downtown and the Chicago Art Institute, I was nodding off a bit at the back of the theatre. Eep.

Ben Vereen & The Muppets - Mr. Cellophane [originally by Kander/Ebb]
Joel Grey & The Muppets - Razzle Dazzle [originally by Kander/Ebb]
These two Chicago covers were both performed in the first season of The Muppet Show just a year after the musical had opened on Broadway. It was St. Patrick's Day weekend when I visited Chicago (not unplanned), so I was able to take in the dyeing of the river and parade. The river itself is already a murky shade of green, but some sort of powder with carefully guarded secret ingredients is tossed off the back of the boat to transform the water into a wonderfully nuclear green. Between the river dyeing to the site of the parade, I got a bit trapped with hundreds of lost pedestrians on Lower Wacker Drive, wandering aimlessly underground for some sort of way up to street level. Fifteen minutes later we emerged from a tunnel onto Columbus Drive to cries of "Natural light! Beautiful sunshine!" After about an hour of the parade, I had more than my fill of marching bands, curly-haired step dancers, and union workers, so I cheated and made my way backwards along the parade route to the beginning where I found a logjam of floats/entries rearing to go. At that rate, the parade was going to continue for several more hours so off I went to see Wrigley Field.

The White Stripes - Mr. Cellophane [originally by Kander/Ebb]
The Alice Russell show at Schuba's Tavern was a blast. Local funk/soul act The O'My's were an unexpected treat, dutifully warming up the room before Alice Russell and her band took to the stage. She was traveling light on this tour with her album horn section filled in by a guy playing an electric violin thing that looked like it was designed by Picasso. This made things interesting when she performed her cover of Seven Nation Army. Needless to say, I left plenty satisfied. The next night I was invited by a roommate at the hostel to go to the nearby Legends, a blues club owned by Buddy Guy. It was an offer I couldn't refuse since I wanted to go but probably wouldn't have on my own. It was nearly 5 hours straight of great blues music and I got a super rare treat when Buddy Guy himself was coaxed up from the bar to sing a song before disappearing. It was the highlight of what was an already great evening of music, not unlike Buddy Guy's appearance in last year's Rolling Stone concert flick Shine a Light, which also featured a guest appearance by Jack White. The White Stripes performed this Mr. Cellophane cover on the World Café radio show, presumably around the time Jack was dating Renee Zellweger who was nominated for an Oscar as Roxie Hart in Chicago.

Mr. President is not pleased with this shirt. Plenty of tacky souvenirs available in Chicago including a life-sized cardboard cutout of Obama on sale on the 99th floor of the Tower Formerly Known as Sears.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Backlog 03/23/2009

I haven't been blogging as regularly as I'd hope, so here's a grab bag post of links that have filtered through my inbox/RSS reader recently that deserve a click. That Chicago post is still coming, hopefully tomorrow...

  • Covers by German band derpferdheissthorst including Funkytown.

  • Neil Gaiman visits The Colbert Report. Canadians click here, Americans here. And I guess the rest of the world is on it's own. Gee, ain't the internet swell these days?

  • Jason Webley's latest EP, a collaboration with Sxip Shirey is ready to ordered. You'll get a 2-song 7" vinyl EP, a full length CD with all of the music from the 7" and much more, lyrics, and "an extra special gift". Preview the title track Days With You and you may just be inclined to snap it up. As with his previous EPs, it's a limited run of 1,111 copies. After that, it's sold out forever!

  • If you're a Scrubs fan, The Blanks (aka Ted's band) are performing in random towns around the US throughout 2009/2010... and Cairo, Egypt.

  • If you happen to be in Nashville on April 17th, you should try to score tickets to the world premier of William Shatner's Gonzo Ballet at the Nashville Film Festival. The documentary follows the making of a ballet based on Shatner's 2004 album Has Been, produced and co-written by Ben Folds. Just imagine the sequence set to his cover of Common People, which is actually the name of the ballet that was performed in 2007. Bill and Ben are both expected to be in attendance and you can check out a preview here. Common People (the ballet) will actually be making a return to the stage May 14-17 in Milwaukee.

  • Judging by this semi-cryptic photo from Edgar Wright, the Scott Pilgrim movie is shaping up to have a great soundtrack chockfull of CanCon. The film is currently being shot in Toronto, which is the setting of the graphic novels too. How novel, Toronto playing itself for once! Broken Social Scene and Metric have both confirmed involvement I think. Chris Murphy of Sloan has also been seen jamming with Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim. Right now this is pretty near the top of my Want to See list... though I have no idea when it's projected release date is.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Chicago Bound

Oops, ran out of time to write up my planned post (as I pack at 1:48am), so I guess it'll have to be a post-Chicago post. A summary rather than a preview of my trip is better idea anyway. If anyone has any suggestions of things to check out in the Windy City, leave a comment. I have a few gaps in my itinerary over the next 4 days that are open to whimsy. Otherwise, see you next week!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Jack's Got a Brand New Band

So last Thursday on the Little Room, Ben Blackwell (the White Stripes "official archivist" / Jack's nephew) left a note for Nashville Little Roomers to contact him about "an event that I think you'd be interested in." Over the weekend pages and pages were filled with rampant speculation as fans wondered what was brewing in Nashville. Earlier tonight, The Event took place. And what an incredible event it was. Just reading about it makes me giddy.

So Jack White's new band The Dead Weather was unveiled featuring Alison Mosshart (of The Kills), Little Jack Lawrence, and Dead Fertita (once part of the Raconteurs on their first tour and also from Queens of the Stone Age). The Kills actually opened for the Raconteurs last year when they came to Vancouver for their second show in 5 months, though I had to skip it since they just had to play on the exact same day (a Thursday!) I flew to the other of the continent to see Ben Folds Five. Anyway... about 150 friends, family, and lucky, lucky fans were in attendance by invitation only at the brand new headquarters of Jack's label Third Man Records. As guests walked in, they were given a limited edition 7" vinyl of the band's debut single, hand-painted by the band themselves. Drool. Cameras and cellphones weren't allowed, but they had people walking around the room taking polaroids of you and the band. Among the attendees: Jack's wife Karen Elson, Meg White, Brendan Benson, and (somewhat bafflingly) Sheryl Crow and Martina McBride. From what I've been reading, it was as much about the opening of this physical Third Man Records location as it was about the new band. The building contains "the label's offices plus a vinyl record store, photo studio, dark room and performance stage." Sweet, time to go to Nashville.

Songs from The Dead Weather's upcoming album Horehound (due in June) were blared from the speakers as black and white movies of the band pressing the vinyl were projected on the walls. Then the band played a 20-minute set. Jack's on drums/vocals, Alison on lead vocals, Little Jack on bass, and Dean on guitar. The new single Hang You From the Heavens is already up on iTunes along with the b-side, a cover(!) of Gary Numan's Are Friends Electric?. You can also listen to it at their website.

This L.A. Times article about the event has even more exciting news. Apparently Jack intends to "reissue whatever music of his own that's out of print as well as recordings that are out of circulation"! In the same article, the White Stripes manager said "they've made a movie and there will be a new album out, probably next year". I'm thinking the Glace Bay show/cross-Canada tour DVD might finally happen? Fingers crossed.

By the way, on Friday I'm headed to Chicago for a self-proclaimed 4-day weekend. I have a Chicago-themed post lined up before I leave, but all this White Stripes talk makes it hard for me not to post this next stuff right now. As is the usual when I travel, I check concert listings just in case there's any interesting gigs happening, provided of course that I'm not traveling specifically for a show in the first place. So I noticed this Friday the 13th, British soul singer Alice Russell is playing at Schuba's Tavern and I figured it's hard to go wrong for only $14 a ticket. I recognized the name since she sings lead vocals on Nostalgia 77's Seven Nation Army, my second favourite White Stripes cover (Chris Thile takes tops). Since I found out about the show, I grabbed her 2008 album Pot of Gold off eMusic and I dig it a lot. It also happens to have a cover of Gnarls Barkley's Crazy, which the Raconteurs also covered on their '06 tour. To complete this little cover triangle, I'm still trying in vain to track down Gnarls Barkley doing a live cover Holly Golightly & The Greenhornes' There's An End (I know it exists!).

Nostalgia 77 - Seven Nation Army (feat. Alice Russell) [originally by The White Stripes]
Nostalgia 77 - Seven Nation Army (feat. Alice Russell) [Grant Phabao Remix] [originally by The White Stripes]
The Raconteurs - Crazy (Live) [originally by Gnarls Barkley]
The Legion of Doom - Crazy As She Goes [Gnarls Barkley vs. The Raconteurs]

Monday, March 09, 2009

Squirrel Nut Zippers Coming Soon!

This news is a couple weeks old, but in case you missed it the Squirrel Nut Zippers announced their first album since 2000's Bedlam Ballroom. The upcoming record is a live album called You Are My Radio, which features newly recorded live versions of tunes from the SNZ catalogue. No official release date yet, but you can check out the album site (hosted on Topspin) to listen to and download a live version of the instrumental track Memphis Exorcism. I can't find the exact mention of it anywhere, but I swear I read somewhere a studio album of new material is also due before the year is out.

Click Here!

One of my favourite all-time bands, SNZ reunited in late 2006 after several years off and have been basically touring since then. I was fortunate enough to meet them and see them perform in '07 when they came up for the Calgary Folk Fest. Ha, looking back at Part I of my sum-up post, it occurred to me that I never did finish writing part II. Basically, the doomed-to-blogger-draft-hell post involved me weaseling my way into the volunteers' after party to see the Squirrel Nut Zippers play again.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Grovers 30-Second Wrap-Up

Oops, let's pretend the Grovers were running on past the 5-hour mark... no time for acceptance speeches, critics' analysis, post-show interviews, or any of that jazz. Here are your 2009 Grover winners as decided by the Fong Songs Readers:

Best Non-Original Song by an Oscar-Winning Musician:
Jorge Drexler - High & Dry [originally by Radiohead]

Best Rendition of Beyond the Sea by an Oscar-Winning Actor Named Kevin:
Kevin Spacey - Beyond the Sea [as made famous by Bobby Darin]

Best Cover of an Oscar-Winning Song by a Canadian Jazz Artist:
Holly Cole - Baby, It's Cold Outside [originally by Frank Loesser]

Best Cover of an Oscar-Winning Song:
The Dan Band - Flashdance/Fame [originally performed by Irene Cara]

Best Cover by an Oscar-Winning Actor or Actress:
Clint Eastwood - Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive [originally by Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer]

If you're like me and already forgot the other nominees, you can check out the ballot here.

Way to go Clint. They like you, they really really like you.

Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra - Clint Eastwood [originally by Gorillaz]

Oh, in case you haven't noticed, I've succumbed to tweeting on the sidebar.