Monday, October 29, 2007

Greetings from Hong Kong!

Hi everybody! Just had to share a photo of a shop I found in Macau:

Ha! What are the odds of that, eh? I guess anything can happen in Macau, the Las Vegas of Asia. We stayed at the Venetian, supposedly the biggest casino in the world, which I don't doubt-- it's massive. I didn't gamble much at all, in fact just a couple hands of Blackjack at the Wynn casino just to say I gambled in Macau. Minimum bets at the Venetian were $25 Canadian per hand of blackjack! The game of choice appears to be baccarat, which I don't really understand even after skimming a wiki article.

I've got some covers here for you that I uploaded pre-China for an anticipated blog-post on Macau. A few variations on Motörhead's Ace of Spades:

Dino Martinis - Ace of Spades
Tarantulas - Ace of Spades
J.B.O. - Ace of Spades
Hayseed Dixie - Ace of Spades

I've been having a great time here in China. It's blown by so fast and I can't even begin to recount all that's happened. The most memorable adventure was visiting my dad's birthplace near the town of Heshan. The home village has barely changed in over 50 years (my dad lived here until he was 3 or 4 before moving to Guangzhou, Cheung Chau, Hong Kong, and eventually Canada when he was 7). I got to see the house, in fact the very room where he was born. Incredible. There was even a large lychee tree that he supposedly planted as a toddler, which would be about as old as he is.

I feel like I'm guest-blogging on my own blog here, ha ha. Tomorrow it's off to Beijing for 5 days, then a few more days in Hong Kong before heading home! A big thanks to Kurtis from Covering the Mouse for covering my blog while I'm away. I had a blast visiting Hong Kong Disneyland, which would be the, um, 5th happiest place on Earth maybe? Probably not, but I'm a sucker for the ol' Disney magic. I loved their Halloween glow-in-the-dark parade which featured the catchiest theme music. It sounded like the Men in Black theme mixed with a remix of Mussorsky's Night on Bald Mountain-- I hope to come across an mp3 of it someday. Nightmare Before Christmas 3D is playing here in Hong Kong, which is awesome since it never came through Edmonton last year. Unfortunately, it's all sold out for the next few days and I'm not sure I'll get to see it before I leave. :(

Be sure to check out Kurtis's previous post on Fong Songs featuring Rainbow Connection, a definite favourite of mine from the classic Muppet Movie. He uncovered even more covers than I have of it... I'll have to check when I get home to see if I have any to add. The music from the Muppet Movie is fantastic with other classics like Moving Right Along (which has spawned its own share of cover versions), Can You Picture That? (by the inimitable Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem), and Hope That Something Better Comes Along. Be sure to check out the Dead Hensons, a muppet/Sesame Street cover band that I discovered a couple years ago when researching one of my earliest posts on the Pinball Number Count from Sesame Street.

Even after I get back, Kurtis is welcome to post anytime he feels like a Disney break. On his own site he's been posting some Halloween-themed Disney covers lately including a cover of the Headless Horseman, a favourite of mine which I used to google regularly years ago to track down the original and any potential covers (note: Joe Satriani did not cover this song...). Here's one he might not have:

Richard Strange - The Headless Horseman (live)
Earlier this summer, Jarvis Cocker organized a night of Disney cover songs (oh my god!) in collaboration with Hal Willner called Forest of No Return. The guest list of performers included Pete Doherty, Bryan Ferry, Beth Orton, Nick Cave, Grace Jones, and many more. BOOM! That's my head exploding from the awesomeness potential of that night's affair. To my knowledge, there were no recordings released or even made of the show (prove me wrong please!!) except for numerous incomplete or poor quality youtube videos of Pete Doherty's Chim Chimeree. This recording of the Headless Horseman I found on Richard Strange's myspace video page before converting it to mp3.

Bing Crosby - The Headless Horseman
The original. I love it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Kermit the Frog's Greatest Hits: Rainbow Connection

Hi everybody! It's Kurtis again from Covering the Mouse filling in for Fong while he is away in China!

Aside from Disney, I am also a huge fan of the Muppet Show and its various movies and spin-offs. One of my favourite songs in the world in the opening number for the Muppet Movie from 1979. It was written by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher and performed by Jim Henson as Kermit the Frog. If you don't know this song I urge you to listen to it now.

Rainbow Connection - Kermit the Frog

The song had surprising radio popularity and it reached #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November of 1979 and remained in the Top 40 for 7 weeks! It was also nominated for a "Best Original Song" Golden Globe Award! Not bad for a sung sung by a frog with a goofy voice!

There have been many covers of this song and I will be posting only a handful.

Rainbow Connection - The Carpenters
Rainbow Connection - Dixie Chicks
Rainbow Connection - Dresden Dolls
Rainbow Connection - Jason Mraz (This Jason Mraz cover is a really great arrangement of the song. Unfortunately, it is a live recording and pretty crappy quality.)
Rainbow Connection - Kenny Loggins
Rainbow Connection - Lea Salonga
Rainbow Connection - Peter Cincotti
Rainbow Connection - That One (I got this mp3 and it was credited to Rockapella and if you listen to it you will hear that it is most definitely not Rockapella. I believe it is a group called No Strings Attached, but I'm not sure. UPDATE: Thanks to Adam, it has been revealed that this is actually a group from the Utah State University called That One.)
Rainbow Connection - Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband
Rainbow Connection - Sarah McLaughlin
Rainbow Connection - Vonda Shepard
Rainbow Connection - Willie Nelson (This cover is one that is commonly mistaken for the original version, but that is not the case! The original was sung by a frog!)

UPDATE: Here is a way better quality version of Jason Mraz singing Rainbow Connection. He goofs in the middle but he's still great!

And I have a few more covers to post courtesy of Cover Lay Down's Boyhowdy!

Rainbow Connection - Loxley
Rainbow Connection - Asylum Street Spankers (The beginning of this track is not Work-Safe due to some vulgar dialogue)

UPDATE #2: I don't know how I forgot about this one but a reader left me a comment reminding me! Me First and the Gimme Gimmes recorded this for one of their many cover albums.

Rainbow Connection - Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

Sunday, October 14, 2007

All You Need Is Beatles Covers

Hello everybody! I am Kurtis from Covering the Mouse and I will be filling in for Fong while he is gallivanting around China for the next month. I am happy to take a break from writing about Disney cover songs like I normally do and write about some other great covers!

Last week I saw Across the Universe and while I have mixed reviews on the movie, I have very positive things to say about the music! Any fan of cover songs will love sitting through this film! 31 Beatles songs sung by the cast of the movie with great arrangements that both pay tribute to the originals and, in some cases, give the lyrics new meaning.

I really suggest picking up the 2-Disc soundtrack. It's worth it.

Girl - Jim Sturgess
I've Just Seen A Face - Jim Sturgess

Beatles songs, originals and covers, have been used in countless movies over the decades. Here are three covers of All You Need Is Love that have recently been used in film.

All You Need Is Love - Jim Sturges and Dana Fuchs from Across the Universe
All You Need Is Love - Ewan MacGregor and Nicole Kidman from Moulin Rouge!
All You Need Is Love - Lynden David Hall from Love Actually

And to prove that the Beatles have been covered by just about everybody...

Eleanor Rigby - Pain
Yesterday - Zamfir

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Unfinished Business

OK, before I go, there's some last-minute things I have to talk about... because my brain's so frazzled right now, I'll just update this post as things come to mind instead of making a new post every time I remember something. First up, SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS.

Simply put, they put on an amazingly live show. Sharon Jones is like James Brown reincarnated into a little "110 pounds of soul excitement". I definitely short-changed them when I neglected to post my Calgary Folk Fest Part II. They played Sunday at the festival and blew everyone away. Anyway, I just got word their 3rd album 100 Days, 100 Nights came out today. This album and their first two releases are available from the sweet digital music store Amie Street is like iTunes or eMusic, but they've got this kinda pay-by-popularity system in place where all songs start at $0.01 and increase in price as more people buy them with a cap at $0.99. In fact, I just bought the entire new album for $3.08!!! Now that's a deal, in fact a steal, no matter how you look at it. You may recognize the horns of her backing band The Dap-Kings on Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson's latest CDs. Sharon Jones herself was tapped to play juke joint singer Lila in the upcoming Denzel Washington film The Great Debaters, due in December. She'll be singing a cover of Lucille Bogan's That's What My Baby Likes plus a few other songs on the soundtrack.

I already bought my tickets last month for her December show in Vancouver. Less than $20! I've seen no-name bar bands for the same price. If she's coming through town, definitely go out of your way to see them. I sure don't dance, but I was dancing at folk fest. Go and buy the new album over here ($4.18 and rising!). I'm not ashamed to hawk this band like a madman.

Preview the album here:

Here she is at the Calgary Folk Fest getting down with fellow soul singer Bettye LaVette... I'll post some of her earlier cover songs later if I have time.

[**UPDATE: 12:24AM, Oct. 3, 2007]
Here's a couple Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings covers, one of which I've posted before but it's sweet so it's back.

What Have You Done For Me Lately? [originally by Janet Jackson]
This Land is Your Land [originally by Woody Guthrie]
Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) [originally by Mickey Newbury]

[**UPDATE: 12:59AM, Oct. 3, 2007]
I'd like to direct your attention to Stereogum's free cover tribute to REM's Automatic for the People. Haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but it's great that Stereogum is continuing this tribute series that started with a 10-year tribute to OK Computer. Interesting trivia that I learned earlier this year: did you know Zeppelin's John Paul Jones did string arrangements on Automatic for the People? That includes Drive (a personal fav) and Everybody Hurts.
Paul Anka - Everybody Hurts [originally by REM]

[**UPDATE: 5:17AM, Oct. 3, 2007]
Typical. Before a big trip I always stay up all night doing nothing in particular. In completely unrelated to covers news, I just read there'll a new Wallace & Gromit short film by next Christmas. Brilliant, Gromit, brilliant! Read the exciting news here.

Alright, that's it folks. I better get packing. See you in November!

Cover Lay Down

There's another new cover blog on the block: Cover Lay Down. His niche is folk cover songs, folks. Already the first post and planned future posts will cover (no pun intended) artists and songs that would not likely find their way to my blog simply because of my relative unfamiliarity with the genre. The inaugural post deals with a Richard Shindell cover album (See? Already an in-depth article on someone I've never heard of!) with covers of Springsteen, Dar Williams, REM, and more. If you scroll down to his intro post, I was positively delighted to read about my "incredible ability to compile cross-genre coverlists the likes of which I've never seen". WOO! I should make a banner and hang it on my blog permanently like a thumb's up from Ebert.

As per my unofficial welcome policy, here's a cover from Toy Story.
Riders in the Sky - You've Got a Friend in Me [originally by Randy Newman]

...and a folk cover for you too:
Brewer & Shipley - All Along the Watchtower [originally by Bob Dylan]
From the folks that brought you the wonderful One Toke Over the Line, a cover of the oft-covered Bob Dylan classic. It's been covered so many times, I'm surprised at how much this one stood out. Different, but I like it.

Bob Walkenhorst - One Toke Over the Line (live) [originally by Brewer & Shipley]
I fell in love with this song as a kid even though it was way before my time and references to "tokes" sailed clear over my short head. I remember my dad used to buy these Solid Gold cassette tapes from gas stations and these would provide the soundtrack to long camping roadtrips. The Solid Gold series (probably one of those Time-Life compilation series) covered the gamut of music from the 50's through the 70's. Now that I really think about it, those cassettes left a huge mark on my impressionable mind. That was literally my first exposure to the Beach Boys, Jerry Lee Lewis, Mamas & the Papas, Roy Orbison, Big Bopper, The Guess Who, Eagles, Buddy Holly.... I could go on and on. It was a real lesson in music history, even if I didn't realize it at the time. Brewer & Shipley's One Toke Over the Line stands out as a song I rushed to rediscover once file-sharing became prevalent.

It's great to have a new face on the cover block since I will be MIA for the next month. In fact, I leave tomorrow for China! I'll be gone for 5 weeks and when I return I'll be making my big move to Vancouver. You may have noticed a dearth of posts in the past couple weeks as I've prepared for this big trip to visit the mother country for the first time. I'll get the opportunity to explore some of my heritage with my grandmother, check out my dad's birth village, and have many other exciting adventures in spite of the fact that I myself speak no Chinese whatsoever (except for counting to 10 in Cantonese).

In the meantime, my blog will not go completely silent. Fong Songs will temporarily turn into a travel blog, assuming I have internet access. To get your cover fix, I've also given Kurtis from over at Covering the Mouse the Heigh Ho to fulfil whatever non-Disney cover desires he so chooses. Speaking of which, it's Jungle Book week over there right now and there'll be a guest post from me coming up on Thursday, by which point I should be reaching Hong Kong! In some blogger griping news, when I added Kurtis as a contributor it wiped off my profile link from the sidebar and due to to the "convenient" automated process of the blog layout, I couldn't add it back in. I actually had to use the Internet Time Machine to find some old source code to slip back into the template. Yet more Beta Blogger Blues... my god, it's been 10 months and it's still incompatible with Macs.

Have a good October, folks! See you in November.

P.S. I didn't win Led Zeppelin tickets. :(
The Hold Steady - Hey Hey What Can I Do? [originally by Led Zeppelin]
Hey Hey, what can I do to get face value tickets? And Hey Hey, what can I do to make this guy sing in time with the music? The Hold Steady must be an acquired taste. The last minute of this song makes me want to rip my ears off. But... you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life. Or in Zeppelin's words: Good times, bad times, you know I've had my share... Good times are on their way.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Goodbye, Miss Moneypenny

"Pretty Penny was her name
She was loved and we all will miss her.

I was saddened to learn that Canadian-born actress Lois Maxwell, known to millions as Miss Moneypenny in 14 James Bond films, passed away this weekend at the age of 80.

Stone Temple Pilots - Pretty Penny
Chaka Khan - Diamonds are Forever [originally performed by Shirley Bassey]