Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Canadian Cover Content #13: Happy Canada Day!

It's Canada Day today, which means it's also free agent frenzy in the NHL, like a double national holiday. Like every year it seems, there's lots of high drama surrounding my hometown Oilers trying, and often failing in a spectacular manner, to lure the big fish to town. I'm a big fan of our goaltending switch (from Roli to the Bulin Wall), but that's enough hockey talk for now. I've got my all-CanConCover playlist going and I'll share some tunes with you in honour of our country's birthday.

Damhnait Doyle - Everlong [originally by Foo Fighters]
The most overlooked and underrated cover album of 2008 has to go to Damhnait Doyle's Lights Down Low, which was produced by Danny Michel. You'd think with Danny's involvement I'd be all over this, but for some reason I neglected to check it out until earlier this year when I stumbled on it at Amie Street. Maybe it was the track list that didn't blow me away which includes a few that have already been over-covered like I Want You to Want Me or Love Will Tear Us Apart (again and again). But I was wrong, Doyle's versions they're worth listening to regardless. Danny's fingerprints are all over the album from his distinct guitar sounds, back-up vocals, and even the song selection. Covers of Train in Vain and a duet with Damhnait on Bob Marley's Is This Love? shouldn't surprise anyone who knows Danny digs The Clash and reggae in general as evidenced during his DJ stint on CBC's Under the Covers. Here's a gem (among many) from the album, an atmospheric cover of the Foo Fighters' great Everlong. For all their stature here in Canada, The Tragically Hip don't get a lot of cover love so it was cool to hear Damhnait's version of Bobcaygeon on the album too.

Danny Michel - Helpless [originally by Neil Young]
Colin James - Heart of Gold [originally by Neil Young]
Speaking of Danny Michel, a couple weeks ago he was part of Luminato 2009 in Toronto where a ton of Canadian musicians including Jason Collett, Cowboy Junkies, Steven Page, Sarah Slean, and more gathered to re-create Neil Young's 1971 concert at Massey Hall. The whole show can be streamed here, but here are Danny's cover of Helpless and Colin James' reggae-tinged version of Heart of Gold. By the way if you missed it, a very special guest showed up in the middle of Neil Young's frequent concert closer The Beatles' A Day in the Life-- great youtube vid here.

Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For [originally by U2]
In the past 6 months, this has probably been one of my most played covers. It starts off fairly normal with just a pair of voices and guitar before the gospel choir resoundingly echos the chorus and later lines. Then the cover takes a bluesy rock turn and kicks it into high gear with the choir still in tow. Most excellent.

The Euphorics - When the Night Feels My Song [originally by Bedouin Soundclash]
I prefer the sound of four-part a cappella groups over the big college a cappella groups, so I was very pleased to discover The Euphorics whose album Born to Sing includes great covers of Billy Joel's River of Dreams, I Wanna Be Like You (from Disney's The Jungle Book), Neil Young's After the Goldrush, and this version of When the Night Feels My Song by fellow Canadians Bedouin Soundclash.

John Stetch Trio - The Mighty Hercules (live in Edmonton) [originally by Johnny Nash]
I don't often get an opportunity to trumpet hometown cover content, but earlier this week I learned about Edmontonian jazz pianist John Stetch whose Juno-nominated CD TV Trio is all jazz covers of 70s and 80s TV themes. And there are some awesome cover picks from the Looney Tunes' This Is It, The Price is Right, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Star Trek and many more. However, my favourite pick is of the 60's Canadian cartoon The Mighty Hercules, which featured a theme written and performed by Johnny Nash, later of I Can See Clearly Now fame. There have been some doubts whether it's the same Johnny Nash, but all my research seems to point to yes. The show must have been re-aired in the 80s because most of the people I know distinctly remember Hercules, his centaur sidekick Newton ("Herc! Herc!"), and Toot the pan-piping satyr battling the villanous Daedalus in crappy, often re-used animation. AND the awesome theme song: "Softness in his eyes, iron in his thighs, virtue in his heart, fire in every part of the Mighty Hercules!" sung without a trace of irony. I love it and it's great to find someone finally cover it. This live version recorded at the Yardbird Suite in Edmonton is from a show that's up on CBC Radio 2 in its entirety.

TV Trio is available at iTunes, (um, not .ca for some reason), and CD Baby. Check out the Japanese version of the theme here.

Wide Mouth Mason - Billie Jean [originally by Michael Jackson]
One more MJ cover for you, a bit of a rarity from Saskatchewan rockers Wide Mouth Mason. I actually got this from a Wide Mouth Mason Greatest Hits album that was only released in China. I didn't realize until I got back that their cover of Billie Jean only appears on that album, so I lucked out when I picked it up in Beijing though it's probably a bootleg.

D.D. Jackson - Head Over Feet [originally by Alanis Morissette]
D.D. Jackson - Hand in My Pocket [originally by Alanis Morissette]
Here are two great piano renditions of Alanis Morissette's Head Over Feet and Hand in My Pocket by Ottawa-born jazz pianist D.D. Jackson. This is from a tribute night to Alanis Morissette, a CBC's Radio 2 concert that is unfortunately no longer available online.

Coincidentally, I'll be down in Seattle this weekend for Jason Webley's Elevanniversary Spectacular and Camp Tomato, so for the very first time I'll be in the US for Independence Day festivities. Amanda Palmer has also twittered her presence at both events with a potential ninja ukulele gathering in the works... should be an awesome weekend.


Ray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ray said...

Yeah, Canada Day, like THAT'S a real thing.

Happy Independence Day!