Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Actors singing

Adam Sandler - Werewolves of London [originally by Warren Zevon]
Quite good. In fact, Sandler's mock gruff vocals seem to suit the song well.

Robbie Williams & Nicole Kidman - Somethin' Stupid
[originally by Frank and Nancy Sinatra]
Not bad, though a bit bland.

Jack Black - Let's Get it On [originally by Marvin Gaye]
I remember the first time I saw Jack Black was in an old episode of X-Files where he worked at an arcade (I think) with Giovanni Ribisi who could control lightning...or something like that. Or who could forget in The Jackal when Bruce Willis blew Jack's arm off with some sort of gatling gun. Well, he has since moved on to bigger and better things, and his scene-stealing performance in High Fidelity (from which this cover song is taken from) was a big factor in that.

Wakefield featuring Mary-Kate Olson - Suffragette City
[originally by David Bowie]
Half of the Olson twins plus some guy named Wakefield covering David Bowie should be a disaster, but it's surprisingly tolerable. Mary-Kate's contributions are thankfully limited to singing "hey man" and "suffragette city" every now and then.

Kevin Spacey - Beyond the Sea [originally by Bobby Darin]
I didn't catch the film, but judging from the soundtrack which is full of Kevin Spacey covering Bobby Darin tunes, he seems to do a pretty good job.

Bill Cosby - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
[originally by The Beatles]
This cover is just downright painful.

Sarah Polley - Courage [originally by The Tragically Hip]
Completely different take on the Tragically Hip classic. From the soundtrack to the Atom Egoyan film The Sweet Hereafter, in which Polley also starred.


Unlikely duets:
William Shatner & Henry Rollins - I Can't Get Behind That
From last year's Has Been, which of course featured the fantastic cover of Common People with Joe Jackson, this "song" is more of a back-and-forth rant between Shatner and Rollins.

Eddie Vedder & Susan Sarandon - Croon Spoon
This unlikely duet between the Oscar-winning actress and Pearl Jam frontman is made moreso unlikely by the fact that it's from a 1930's musical. Taken from the soundtrack to Cradle Will Rock, which was directed by Tim Robbins.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

"These wheels are made for crushing..."

Today's theme: the Cake/Ben Folds Five/Satan/Transformers connection
(i.e. just an excuse to post some more Ben Folds content).

Satan is My Motor by Cake
Satan is My Master by Ben Folds Five

Ben Folds Five - Cigarette
Ben Folds - Fred Jones Pt. 2 (live)
Cigarette is off of BFF's Whatever and Ever Amen album. The lyrics are basically one run-on sentence supposedly taken verbatim from a newspaper article Ben read. Fred Jones Pt. 2 is from Ben's first solo album Rockin' the Suburbs and is a sequel of sorts to Cigarette. In this live version, he is joined on harmonies by (in his words) "John McCrea of Cake, y'all."

And yes, I know 87.3% [edit: make that 99.9%] of you are just here for the covers... so here you go:

Crosstown Traffic by Ben Folds Five
[originally by The Jimi Hendrix Experience]

These Boots are Made for Walking by Velvet 99
[originally Nancy Sinatra]

(by the way, you can click either image above to find out more about the Decepticon known as Motormaster.]

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Led Zeppelin Covers

Went to a Robert Plant concert last night... Wow. I'm majorly impressed that he can still wail like he used to, even though he's pushing 60. Kudos to his backing band too, The Strange Sensation, who ploughed effortlessly through his new material and major reinterpretations of classic Zeppelin tracks. Led Zeppelin is one of my favourite bands, so it was very exciting since this would be the closest I get to seeing them live (outside of that DVD they put out a while ago). The new versions of the Zeppelin songs were tinged with Middle Eastern and African influences, and in some cases were nearly unrecognizable. One guy behind me said "What was that... no, that wasn't a Zeppelin song" after Plant & company ripped through Four Sticks, which either showed how different these new incarnations were or revealed his ignorance of all things Zepp. I'll go with the latter since, after all, Four Sticks is off of Zeppelin IV (of all albums). They even played some non-Zeppelin cover songs with Bob Dylan's The Girl From the North Country and a psychedelic earth-shaking version of Hey Joe. The opening band from Nova Scotia, The Trews were good too and closed their set with a pretty sweet rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. My funniest part was when the show ended and Plant said something into the microphone that sounded mysteriously like "See you at Denny's".

As Plant understood last night, there's generally no point in revisiting old tracks unless you've got something new to add. Here's some of my favourite Led Zeppelin covers in some unexpected genres:

Goldbug - Whole Lotta Love [originally from Zeppelin II]
This sweet electronic version of Whole Lotta Love uses samples of Tina Turner's vocals and what sounds (to me) like part of Macarthur Park(?!).

Rasputina - Rock and Roll [originally from Zeppelin IV]
This cello-rock version rocks the socks off those string quartet tributes.

Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra - Black Dog [originally from Zeppelin IV]
Black Dog works surprisingly well as a big band swing song from this Canadian swing band.

Stone Temple Pilots - Dancing Days [originally from Houses of the Holy]
As messed up as Scott Wieland appears to be, he and his bandmates consistently put out some of my favourite covers.

Other related songs:

Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes - Hey Hey What Can I Do
I'm hesistant to call something a cover song if any member of the original band appears. Armed with Jimmy Page, The Black Crowes do a more than ample job rocking out Zeppelin tunes and more on their Live at the Greek double-disc album. The original song was not on any of Led Zeppelin's albums, but was released as part of a boxset I think.

Dread Zeppelin - Viva Las Vegas
Dread Zeppelin performs Zeppelin tunes in a reggae style with an Elvis impersonator lead vocalist. It probably shouldn't work, but it does. In a way, they sort of performed mash-ups before they became fashionable by infusing Zeppelin riffs into covers of other classic rock songs (or even original songs). They manage to do something new with their renditions with a good sense of humour. For instance, lead singer Tortelvis recites a passage from Meville's Moby Dick over the extended drum solo from Zeppelin's Moby Dick. Another example is their combinations of Heartbreaker/Heartbreak Hotel or Black Dog/Hound Dog. The track I've posted combines Elvis Presley's Viva Las Vegas with riffs from Zeppelin's Custard Pie (plus some sort of Godzilla overtones). Best cover since the Dead Kennedys.

Jake Holmes - Dazed and Confused
Alas, Led Zeppelin is pretty notorious for ripping off other artists and not giving credit where due, which has led to a number of lawsuits and settlements. Here's the original Dazed and Confused by Jake Holmes, which is actually quite awesome in its own right. In an interview I read with him, he was surprisingly not all that bitter about the whole deal despite not getting any credit or money whatsoever. Apparently he did write a letter to the band in the early 80s about getting credit on the song, but never got a response...

Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe - When the Levee Breaks
The classic Zeppelin track has its roots in this old recording by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe, now available from public archives.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

George McFly, You One Crazy Cat

That image is, of course, from Crispin Glover's legendary appearance on the David Letterman show in 1987. He showed up in a wig, striped pants, and shoes with giant heels acting like he was on drugs (on later Letterman appearances he claims to have been in character... or that it was not even him). It's a little hard to describe what happens, but the climactic moment is when Glover attempts to show off his kicking prowess. Check out an old article on Waxy.org here for more details. This bizarre incident repeatedly crops up in interviews with Crispin Glover, though I had never actually seen the clip until today. There's a pretty good video of the interview here (link at bottom of page). Strange stuff.

Anyway, some Crispin Glover covers!

Ben [originally by Michael Jackson]
This song has a strange story in its own right. The original song was MJ's first hit as a solo artist from the film Ben, which was a sequel to the 1971 movie Willard. Ben, if you were unaware, is one of Willard's pet rats who eventually rebels and becomes the leader of an army of killer rats. It's the only song I know of that is an ode to a rat. Okie dokie, then. In 2003, Crispin Glover starred in a remake of Willard and covered this tune for the soundtrack.

These Boots are Made for Walking [originally Nancy Sinatra]
This is the craziest, but funniest cover I've ever heard of this song from Crispin 'Hellion' Glover's album "Big Problem Does Not Equal the Solution. The Solution = Let It Be." His delirious vocals are somehow more sincere and palatable than Jessica Simpson's version... well, it makes me laugh anyhow.

[EDIT: I forgot to mention that Mr. Glover will be playing the role of Grendel in the currently-in-production Neil Gaiman/Roger Avary-penned Beowulf, directed by Robert Zemeckis. Angelina Jolie will play his mother (no joke).]

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Harvey Danger (and Death Cab for Cutie postscript)

Today in the mail I received Harvey Danger's new album Little by Little. It's their third album and the first one in about 5 years. They're probably best known for their big hit in the 90s Flagpole Sitta (i.e. "I'm not sick, but I'm not well), and were subsequently labelled one-hit wonders... which is unfortunate because their follow-up album King James Version is great and one of my favourite albums ever. I discovered the band by accident when I took out King James Version from the library on a whim since it was just ordered in and I was attracted to its shiny new cd case. I was hooked immediately. A few months later, I bought the CD in Toronto from a bargain bin at HMV for 99 cents. Best. Deal. Ever.

They disbanded soon after making the King James Version album in 2000, but had a reunion concert late last year... which leads to the new album. It's released today in very select stores (easiest to get it from their website), although the entire album will be released for free on their website in a couple weeks. I, of course, being an HD-uberfan pre-ordered the album/t-shirt/button/sticker combo from their site.

Just doing my part to spread the word on Harvey Danger. Here's some of their stuff:

Meetings With Remarkable Men (Show Me the Hero)
The opening track off K.J.V. that started my Harvey Danger addiction.

You Missed the Point Completely, I Get the Point Exactly
Oddly enough, this is not the longest song title on the album.

Underground [originally by This Busy Monster]
This is a cover of a fellow Seattle band called This Busy Monster and Harvey Danger puts their twist on the song. The original song, which was an early recording by the band and is not available on CD, can be heard on their website here (link at the bottom right of page).

Save it For Later [originally by The English Beat]
This is one of those covers where I've heard versions by Pete Townshend and Flashlight Brown, though never actually heard the original.

Another Washington band, Death Cab For Cutie seems to be making the rounds on MP3 blogs lately. The indie band has made the jump to a major label with their just released new album Plans. Apparently, they've gotten lots of recognition from being featured on The OC. This is one of those bands that I keep hearing good things about, but never get around to listening to. I should get on that... Anyway, Death Cab sort of owes it to Harvey Danger for its initial gig and mini-tour back in the day (see here). Now it's come full circle, with the reunited Harvey Danger opening(!) for Death Cab for Cutie next week at a Hurricane Katrina Benefit Concert in Seattle. Strange reversal of hype. Also should mention that Death Cab frontman Ben Gibbard also has a side band The Postal Service, who did the awesome song Such Great Heights.

Friday, September 09, 2005

I'm a Creep, I'm a Weirdo.

When I first heard Radiohead's classic angst-ridden Creep, I misheard the lyrics as "I'm a creep, I'm a widow", which in retrospect only vaguely makes sense. Apparently, the band grew to hate this song, which brought them their first huge success. The memorable guitar scratchings preceding the chorus was an attempt by the guitarist trying to screw the song up (or so I'm told), which ironically made the song even more classic. I just recently found out that my favourite Radiohead song My Iron Lung is actually the band's bitter response to the overwhelming popularity of Creep. Intriguing.

In my iTunes collection, this song rivals Come Together, Whole Lotta Love, and Suffragette City as single most covered song... though they all got nothing on Crosstown Traffic. Here's a few:

Gina Jeffreys
I love this version, which is one of my favourite covers ever. It sort of reminds me of that scene with the singing Sirens from O Brother, Where Art Thou?. This is from one of the Andrew Denton's Musical Challenge CDs, which showcases artists performing unlikely covers.

SKAndalous All-stars

The Senti-Mentals

Moby's comments at the beginning of this version make me wonder what other bands covered Creep at Glastonbury 2003... a little research turned up nothing except that Moby probably misinterpreted what he had been asked to do. Other bands apparently did do some Radiohead covers (not specifically Creep) including The Darkness doing a version of Street Spirit (Fade Out), which incidentally rocks.

The Pretenders

Richard Cheese
Of all the Richard Cheese lounge covers, this is one of the few that (for me) transcends its novelty value.

Found this cover by some guy, Yonner, who posted on the BenFolds.org forums. A lot of people didn't like it and let him know too... On first listen, it does sound like a complete butchering of Radiohead, though with his omission of chunks of lyrics it reminded me of a creepy poetic lullabye. Not great and a little annoying, but different nonetheless.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

E-Town Pride

After the last post on Alberta's centennial, I was inspired to throw out some tunes with an Edmonton connection (a couple covers for good measure too).

The Arrogant Worms - We Are the Beaver
A couple years ago, the folk-comedy group The Arrogant Worms came to town to perform a show at the Winspear Centre with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. All dressed up in tuxes, they unleashed their comedic stylings on the crowd with an epic orchestral oomph. Being a long-time Worms fan, I was lucky enough to get to go to this concert, which was also recorded for a TV special on Bravo I think. In their words: the US is the eagle, Russia is the bear, and Canada.... well, we are the beaver.

Captain Tractor - London Calling [originally by The Clash]
My favourite Edmonton band who just had their 10th anniversary party gig a few months back. This Clash cover is off their 2nd East of Edson album and is my favourite version of the song.

Captain Tractor - The Last Saskatchewan Pirate
[originally by the Arrogant Worms]
At the Arrogant Worms symphonic gig, they were jokingly resentful of Captain Tractor's success with this cover.

The Arrogant Worms - The Last Saskatchewan Pirate
Another one accompanied by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.

Painting Daisies - Don't Leave Me Here
This all-girl bluesy rock band hails from mighty E-Town and won CBC's The Great Canadian Music Dream, a television series that was sort of like Canadian/American Idol but with real bands.

The Corb Lund Band - Mora (Blackberry)
The first time I heard of Corb Lund was when I was working at the downtown library and he was playing a gig in the library's basement theatre, which was odd since there aren't a lot of gigs down there. Now he's got a few albums out and his band was a double winner at the 2004 Canadian Country Music Association Awards. Plus, he got a Juno nomination in 2003 as well. He's about the closest thing to country that I enjoy.

King Letus - It's Still Rock and Roll to Me [originally by Billy Joel]
I found this at the library on an Alberta punk compilation.

Procol Harum - Conquistador (Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra)
This band is probably most famous for the oft-covered A Whiter Shade of Pale. In 1971, they recorded a concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra at the Jubilee Auditorium.

U2 - With or Without You (Live from Edmonton)
On their 1997 PopMart tour, U2 played two shows at Commonwealth stadium here in Edmonton. I got to go to one of the shows, which is odd since this was years before I started actively going to concerts. This track was recorded at one of the shows and featured on their Please EP.

Pixies - In Heaven / Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)
[originally from David Lynch's Eraserhead]
When the Pixies reunited last year, Edmonton was in the first wave of gigs they had played in 10 or more years. In fact, almost all of the shows were small venues across Western Canada, thus frustrating many fans south of the border and abroad. I was able to buy 4 tickets for an unbelievable price of $30 per ticket (scalpers were getting $200-300 from rabid fans!). I was right up there just couple metres away from the stage as the Pixies blew us away. And with some fancy DiscLive technology, we were able to purchase a "professional" bootleg of our show just minutes after it ended. Probably the best souvenir one could get from a concert... more bands should be doing this. Trivia: Pixies opened for U2 on the 1992 Zooropa tour.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

I'm back & Happy 100th B-day, Alberta

Got back yesterday morning after over 20 hours of driving during the last 2 days.

I was vaguely disappointed by last Friday's Ben Folds show. The music was great and all, but he barely played for an hour with no encore and quickly had to vacate the stage for Rufus Wainwright since the whole outdoor show apparently had to wrap up before 10pm (noise bylaws, I reckon). A lot of the people there weren't even there to see Ben Folds, but to either see Rufus or sit and drink wine. Did I mention this concert was at a winery? I think the older folk were clueless about the performers but had some sort of season pass to the Summer Concert Series which includes (later) the likes of Mark Knopfler, Steve Winwood, Robert Plant, and Tori Amos. Plus, I had a junky seat way at the back. Hopefully I'll get to see him perform again someday in a better venue (with better seats!).

One of the highlights was a hilarious live cover of Dr. Dre's Bitches Ain't Shit. He apologized to the band's adoptive family in Seattle, who he said had probably not heard such salty language before. I'm sure the parents in the crowd with their toddlers weren't too impressed either, but it was a hoot. Check out a studio version of it here:

Ben Folds - Bitches Ain't Shit

Another cool part was when Rufus Wainwright joined Ben on stage for a cover of Careless Whisper. Here's a version of that recorded at a show last year:

Ben Folds with Rufus Wainwright - Careless Whisper
[originally by Wham]


I came back to Edmonton just in time for our province's 100th birthday celebration yesterday. I had a ticket to the big gala show at our newly renovated Jubilee Auditorium. It was a big live television thing synchronized between a bunch of cities/towns in Alberta, but mainly in Edmonton and Calgary. The Prime Minister, Governor General, Lieutenant General, and Premier were all there for this 2 hour show which featured performers like Paul Brandt, Jann Arden, and K.D. Lang. The show kicked off with a big country song about Alberta from Paul Brandt, which made me vaguely embarrassed that our province is stereotypically defined by horses, tractors, haystacks, and cowboys. I'm not a country music fan, so I thought I was in for a long night. Thankfully, the rest of the show was more diversified with some rock, jazz, Celtic, and native performances. There were also simultaneous province-wide fireworks supposedly bright enough to be viewed from space. Organizers had hoped for NASA to take photos of the event, though apparently the available satellites over North America were focused on hurricane Katrina, which does seem a bit more important than a big birthday party.

The showstopper of the night was a gut-wrenching, fist-clenching, wall-shaking performance by K.D. Lang of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. Oddly enough, this was the second time in less than a week that I had heard this song performed live. Rufus Wainwright also did a cover of it last Friday beautifully accompanied by his cousin Lucy. Though his version was great, the person who yelled "Wooooo! The Shrek song!" basically underlined the vaguely cheapened effect of having the song so prominently featured in the big CG ogre film [trivia: John Cale's version is in the film and Rufus's is on the soundtrack]. Here's K.D. Lang's take off her album last year of Canadian covers, Hymns Of The 49th Parallel.

K.D. Lang - Hallelujah [originally by Leonard Cohen]

Later in the show Paul Brandt came back on stage for a dreadful cover of Convoy (not gonna post it). I generally don't like country music and combining that with Convoy makes my ears bleed. Ian Tyson ended the show with some old-school country, which I enjoyed in spite of myself (so there, I don't hate all country music).