Monday, May 25, 2009

Return of the Star Wars Covers

May 4th (i.e. "May the Fourth be with you...") passed by without any fanfare and at least one reader wondered what happened to my annual Star Wars covers post. In fact, they had even marked it in their calendar to check Fong Songs that day (how flattering!) and I sure let them down like The Phantom Menace. Fortunately for me, there is a less punny date that I can and will celebrate as Star Wars Day and that's today, May 25th, the 32nd anniversary of the release of Star Wars. Apparently the appropriate gift for one's 32nd anniversary (who knew there was such a thing?) is "conveyances", meaning transportation.

While I thought I'd be out of worthy covers by this point, I did manage to scrounge up a few gems. Happy Star Wars Day!

Maynard Ferguson - Star Wars
This funky disco instrumental cover by the late legendary Canadian trumpet player and bandleader Maynard Ferguson is fitting since he was actually born on the other Star Wars Day: May 4th, 1928.

Lightspeed Champion - Star Wars Medley
A live medley by UK indie artist Lightspeed Champion, who's no stranger to covers having released several free "official bootlegs" including a cover album of Green Day's Nimrod, which I can't track down for the life of me (hint, hint). He also does a nice acoustic take on The Strokes' Heart in a Cage on ShootThePlayer.com.

The Swingle Singers - Star Wars
The Swingle Singers are a famous a cappella group whose original incarnation dates back to 1962. I remember my piano teacher telling me about them years ago since a lot of their albums are vocal interpretations of classical pieces. This comes from their 1997 album Screen Tested, which features their distinct covers of orchestral film scores.

Ron Carter - The Asteroid Field
The Asteroid Field is my favourite piece of Star Wars music, in fact possibly even my favourite composition of any film soundtrack. This jazz cover is from Ron Carter's Empire Jazz, though I find it overly long at just over 9 minutes and pretty much unrecognizable from the original after the first minute. I do have to admit it has a brilliant album cover (as seen at the top of the post).

Epica - The Imperial March
A throbbing cover by Dutch metal band Epica from their new live album The Classical Conspiracy, which also contains unlikely "symphonic metal" medleys of Danny Elfman's Spider-Man score and Klaus Badelt & Hans Zimmer's scores to the Pirates of the Carribean series.

Kuricorder - The Imperial March
From a 2005 Japanese compilation of Star Wars covers Ukulele Force (yes, ukulele based covers!), this is an irresistibly cute rendition of Darth Vader's theme that reminds me of Peter & The Wolf or some sort of Zelda forest march.

James Hill - Mos Eisley Spaceport
Better known as Cantina Band, this cover is also from Ukulele Force. Though almost all the performers on the album are Japanese, this contribution is from Canadian ukulele virtuoso James Hill and it previously appeared on his 2003 release On the Other Hand. After poking around his website and listening to many MP3 samples, I was forced to order a couple of his CDs that I'm eagerly awaiting in my mailbox. Super Mario and Inspector Gadget are a couple of the covers interspersed between his originals-- and they all sound great! I wish he had been on my radar earlier since he just had a CD release show and ukulele workshop a few weeks ago here in Vancouver! And since I am a budding ukulele player...

Riverboat's Jazz Band - Cantina Band
Here's a fantastic New Orleans jazz cover via France by Riverboat's Jazz Band.

Swingtips - Cantina Band
Another Cantina Band cover from Arizona swing band the Swingtips.

The Solids - Ewok Celebration
This is an amusing acoustic cover of the Ewok celebration song from Return of the Jedi by The Solids who may best be known for the theme to the sitcom How I Met our Mother.

Erich Korngold - Kings Row
Now this may be old news in Star Wars circles, but I was quite surprised to come across this bit of musical controversy while looking for covers. This is the main theme from the 1942 film Kings Gold scored by Erich Korngold, which is a clear inspiration for the main Star Wars theme, the first eight notes being pretty much the same. I've seen lawsuits based on weaker similarities than this. A portion of this track seems to have also "inspired" John Williams' Superman theme. My ears were shocked when they heard this.

Speaking of Korngold and inspiration, earlier this year Fong Songs fave Danny Michel (who I'm going to see in concert later this week) collaborated with the Art of Time Ensemble for the 2nd time with their Source & Inspiration series. In 2007, Danny composed two new songs based on the work of Franz Schubert and this year's spotlight was on Korngold. The whole concert which also features Martin Tielli and John Southworth is available for streaming on CBC Radio 2's Concerts on Demand.

8 comments:

Eric Geller said...

Great roundup and thanks for the MP3s!

monorail77 said...

Fantastic set. A whole dozen new SW related covers. Wow! Thank you.

Lots of great stuff but I think the standout for me is the Lightspeed Champion track. Where can I get more of them?

The Korngold track was very interesting. I hadn't heard it before. I recall though (I'm sure you do too) that in interviews, Lucas has said he wanted the music for Star Wars to evoke a "Korngold" feel. In particular he wanted an epic sweep to accompany the "binary sunset" scene (Luke looking off to the twin setting suns on the eve before his big adventure starts). Lucas told all this to John Williams before Williams sat down to write the score. I guess Williams took the "Korngold" note literally!

I have submitted your SW post to the IMDb "hitlist". Hopefully they'll give you a link.

Fongolia said...

Hey thanks! If it wasn't for your prodding, I probably would have passed on doing a Star Wars post this year. It was a challenge to dig up Star Wars covers without repeating from previous posts, but I definitely found some keepers while researching this batch.

As for Lightspeed Champion, I'd check his myspace site and the Hype Machine to hear more.

Ian said...

to the best of my knowledge that green day record is only the first 8 songs
here's a link to that
http://www.mediafire.com/?kwmzdhzxgnl

Fongolia said...

Thank you Ian!

El Arcano said...

Just fan-tastic

fotokalender said...

very interesting. thanks :)

Seisrush Ob said...

Check out jen.exe and the thermal detonators!
http://www.star-wars-comic.com/star-wars-music-theme.html