Friday, May 30, 2008

Canadian Cover Content #9: April Wine Uncorked

All these posts of originals this week were instigated by a bit of an "originals" google bender last week. Of the originals dug up, none were more surprising to me than the following bit of CanCon classic rock. (Apologies in advance if this post holds absolutely no interest for non-Canucks)

In short, CanCan (Canadian Content) regulations require a certain percentage of radio and television broadcasting to be Canadian in origin. For the classic rock stations, that means we were taught early to love The Guess Who, Rush, BTO, Steppenwolf, and The Tragically Hip. That also means we're exposed to an unnecessary amount of Trooper, Loverboy, Streetheart, Harlequin... and April Wine. I mean there's really no reason I should be able to sing-a-long faithfully to 15+ April Wine songs, yet I can. In fact, I'm not even entirely convinced April Wine had that many hits, but they sure are played on the radio as if they did.

Here are a few April Wine songs you should recognize:

  • April Wine - Bad Side of the Moon
  • April Wine - You Could Have Been a Lady
  • April Wine - Sign of the Gypsy Queen
Guess what? They're ALL covers.

A few years ago when I discovered Elton John's great live album 11-17-70, that's when I first realized that the April Wine hit Bad Side of the Moon was in fact a cover song.
Elton John - Bad Side of the Moon
Elton John - Bad Side of the Moon (11-17-70)
The original studio version was released as the b-side to my favourite Elton John song, Border Song.

Hot Chocolate - You Could Have Been a Lady
Here was another shocker: You Could Have Been a Lady was originally by Hot Chocolate, probably most famous for You Sexy Thing!

Lorence Hud - Sign of the Gypsy Queen
From his self-titled 1973 album, Lorence Hud wrote this song popularized by April Wine and played all the instruments on the track.


I like April Wine fine enough, though they're best when taken in moderation (like wine!). I've even seen them live once, performing a free show in Sunshine Village in between ski runs. Here are a few covers of April Wine for you. Props to this fansite since I didn't really know anybody actually covered April Wine.

Treble Charger - Roller [originally by April Wine]
From the soundtrack to the cult Canadian mockumentary FUBAR, which featured several contemporary bands (Sum 41, Sloan, The New Pornographers, and more) covering Canadian metal and rock hits from the 70's/80's.

Clout - Oowatanite [originally by April Wine]
This is a pretty sweet cover of a song many of us now permanently associate with a Lotto 6/49 commercial that used to get a lot of airplay up here. "Ah, the lotto song!" is a familiar reaction to anyone who hears the distinctive bells that kick off Oowatanite. Clout was an all-girl rock group from South Africa who were active in the late seventies. If you imagine Heart covering April Wine, that'll give you an idea of this cover.

The Heelwalkers - Weeping Widow [originally by April Wine]
I have to admit I was surprisingly stoked to find a cover of this song.

Frost - Sign of the Gypsy Queen [originally by Lorence Hud]
Sure we now know it's a Lorence Hud original, but undoubtedly this metal cover is of April Wine.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Doctor, Doctor, give me the news

Moon Martin - Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)
Here's another I just found out about recently. Famously covered by Robert Palmer, the original was written and performed by Moon Martin from his 1978 album Shots From a Cold Nightmare.

Ciccone Youth - Addicted to Love [originally by Robert Palmer]
A side project of Sonic Youth, Ciccone Youth released The Whitey Album in 1988 with this Robert Palmer cover, which was sung by Kim Gordon and recorded at a karaoke booth in a mall.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Originals from Rudy Clark

Ever heard of Rudy Clark? I hadn't until writing this post, but I know you know a couple of his songs.

James Ray - I've Got My Mind Set On You
A hit for George Harrison in 1988, take a listen to the drastically different original version from 1962 written by Rudy Clark and performed by James Ray. And that's not the only obscure original penned by Rudy Clark...

Merry Clayton - The Shoop Shoop Song
The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss), also a Rudy Clark song, was a hit for Betty Everett and has been covered numerous times over the years by artists such as The Supremes, Linda Ronstadt, The Hollies, and of course, Cher. Yet I was surprised to learn recently that the original recording of the song was by Merry Clayton, most famous for her intense wailing opposite Mick Jagger on the Stones' classic Gimme Shelter.

Merry Clayton - Gimme Shelter [originally by The Rolling Stones]
Despite having sung on the original, my gut instinct tells me this counts as a cover. An awesome soul version with some sweet horns, this is a strong contender for number one Gimme Shelter cover, though Ruth Copeland has claimed that spot in my books.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ooh Ooh Love Hurts.

The Every Brothers - Love Hurts
Covered numerous times, though arguably most known as a rock ballad by Nazareth, the original was performed by The Everly Brothers and written by the husband and wife songwriting team of Felice & Boudleaux Bryant. With Nazareth's This Flight Tonight also being a cover of Joni Mitchell, I was surprised that I didn't suddenly find out Hair of the Dog was secretly a cover too. Felice & Boudleaux Bryant wrote a bunch of songs that were hits for The Everly Brothers including Wake Up Little Susie, Bye Bye Love, All I Have to Do is Dream, and Bird Dog.

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - Love Hurts
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - Bird Dog
Here's Joan Jett covering a couple of those Felice & Boudleaux numbers. I was mildly shocked to find out her big hit I Love Rock 'n' Roll is also a cover.

The Arrows - I Love Rock 'n' Roll
The original I Love Rock 'n' Roll by British rock group The Arrows. With this revelation, it turns out I have never heard a Joan Jett original.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Big Ol' Jet Airliner

On Coverville, Brian occasionally has "Originalville" episodes featuring original songs eclipsed by a more famous cover. It goes without saying that as a cover lover I'm equally fascinated with cover origins. Whether it's hearing for the first time Hard to Handle and Respect (both Otis Redding originals), Gloria Jones' Tainted Love, or Joni Mitchell's Woodstock, it's great fun unearthing originals of songs you thought were originals, plus you get to be a jerk know-it-all around your friends. Today's post and all this week I will hopefully enlighten you with some original tunes.

Paul Pena - Jet Airliner
Several years ago there were a bunch of us coming back from a ski trip in the Rockies and Steve Miller Band's Jet Airliner was playing on a mixtape. A casual acquaintance who was riding in the back seat with me asked us the ol' "Did you know?"... and no, I did not know Jet Airliner was a cover song. Written and recorded in 1973 for Paul Pena's second album New Train, the album actually remained unreleased for 27 years due to label conflicts until 2000. Steve Miller heard the unreleased album (Steve Miller Band keyboardist Ben Sidran produced it) and decided to cover Jet Airliner on the 1977 album Book of Dreams. That car ride was also the first time I learned of Tuvan throat-singing, which Pena had taught himself to do and was subsequently invited to participate in a throat-singing symposium in Tuva, his journey being the subject of the 1999 Oscar-nominated documentary Genghis Blues.

Steve Miller Band - Take the Joker and Run [Demo]
The 30th anniversary re-issue of the Steve Miller Band's hit album Fly Like an Eagle contains this peculiar demo, which is Take the Money and Run sung to the tune of The Joker.

By the way, I added my profile's "now playing" to the sidebar. I only signed up about a couple months ago and I don't really get it other than it's an easy way to post what I'm listening to, which I tried to do manually a couple years ago. Sometimes you might catch a sneak peek at a future post I'm working on.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fun with Entomology & Etymology

Last week the world was introduced to a spider named Neil Young. Jason Bond, a biologist at East Carolina University, discovered a new species of trapdoor spider and chose to name it Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi after the legendary Canadian singer-songwriter. The article notes that earlier this year a whirligig beetle was named after Roy Orbison, which naturally got me thinking cover songs...

I remember Harrison Ford had something named after him (two, it turns out: Calponia harrisonfordi, a spider, and Pheidole harrisonfordi, an ant) so I figured there would be a few more musicians with bugs named after them. I guess it shouldn't have surprised me, but of course there's an extensive wikipedia list on "animals named after celebrities". There are so many it's hard to pick favourites, but I was amused by Strigiphilus garylarsoni (a louse), Arthurdactylus conandoylei (a pterosaur), Avahi cleesei (a lemur), and Psephophorus terrypratchetti (an extinct turtle). Here are some choice cover songs accompanied by an artist's representation of each species.

The Shins - Harvest [originally by Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi]
Rufus Wainwright & Chris Stills - Harvest [originally by Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi]
Discovered in Jefferson County, Alabama, the new species was actually announced in a December 2007 paper co-written by Jason Bond and Norman I. Platnick entitled "Taxonomic review of the trapdoor spider genus Myrmekiaphila," no doubt a thrilling read. In fact, the paper describes 6 new species, though these other critters drew the rock star short straw and were named less prominently: Myrmekiaphila coreyi, M. minuta, M. jenkinsi, M. millerae, and M. howelli. Regarding our friend M. neilyoungi, the paper states, "The specific name is a patronym in honor of Mr. Neil Young, in recognition of his social activism for peace over the course of his distinguished musical career." Males of Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi are recognizable by "the presence of an elongate, well-defined ledge on the palpal tibia, which is excavated retro-laterally (best seen in ventral view)"-- which, of course, instantly evokes the music of Neil Young.

Chris Isaak - Only the Lonely [originally by Orectochilus orbisonorum]
At a Roy Orbison tribute concert in Tempe, Arizona earlier this year, entomologist Quentin Wheeler of Arizona State University announced a new species of whirligig beetle named for Roy and his widow, Barbara. The ending of a species name with "orum" indicates it was named after a couple. The beetle looks as if it's wearing a tuxedo with a shiny black top and, um, a clear cuticle underbelly that allows its white internal tissues to be seen. Wheeler also presented an original piece of whirligig beetle artwork to Barbara who was in attendance. In 2005, Wheeler also co-discovered 65 new species of slime-mold beetles some of which were named after Darth Vader, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, though perhaps not for the reasons you'd immediately think.

Stone Temple Pilots - Get Up Offa That Thing [originally by Funkotriplogynium iagobadius]
The godfather of soul is also one funky mite. In 1985, Asok Kumar Datta named a genus of mite Funkotriplogynium setting the stage for Owen Seeman and Dave Walter, who in 1997 named a new mite species Funkotriplogynium iagobadius: iago meaning James and badius meaning brown. Oh, those sneaky arcaologists! Stone Temple Pilots pay tribute with an unlikely acoustic cover.

The Busters - We Are the Champions [originally by Queen]
McFly - Don't Stop Me Now [originally by Queen]
A distinctive cirolanid isopod from the coral reefs of Zanzibar was named Cirolana mercuryi for Freddie Mercury who was born in Stone Town, Zanzibar. Described by discoverer Niel Bruce as "arguably Zanzibar's most famous popular musician and singer," one immediately wonders what other Zanzibar musicians or singers were even in consideration.

Shooter Jennings - Walk of Life [originally by The Dire Straits]
In 2001, a team of paleontologists led by University of Utah's Scott Sampson discovered Masiakasaurus knopfleri, named for Dire Straits guitarist and lead singer Mark Knopfler because the team had a tendency to find new specimens while listening to the Dire Straits out in the field. This countrified cover is served up by Shooter Jennings, son of Waylon Jennings, not to be mistaken for Happy Gilmore nemesis Shooter McGavin.

Ben Folds Five - All Shook Up [originally by Preseucoila imallshookupis]
When Elvis sang "my friends say I'm acting as wild as a bug," I doubt he imagined someday a wasp would be named after him and that very hit song. In 2004, entomologist Matthew Buffington of the University of California did just that, honoring the King with the naming of a new species of gall wasp. Do wasps have hips? Ben Folds channels Elvis through incomprehensible mumblings in this goofy cover of All Shook Up.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Indie Kids, pt. 2

I just read on the CBC Radio 3 comments board that those shows in Halifax would be held at elementary schools and not be open to the public, however "they might, just might, do a recording with CBC in Halifax - and that would likely be a public event." We'll keep our fingers crossed for that.

By request:
Langley Schools Music Project - Desperado [originally by The Eagles]
Unlike the other Langley Schools covers which had choirs of up to 60 vocalists, this is simply a remarkable solo performance by 9-year-old Sheila Behman accompanied by piano. The title of the album Innocence & Despair is actually the phrase that music teacher Hans Fenger used to describe this very performance. On one of last year's Inventories, the Onion AV Club declared this one of 14 cover songs better than the original, saying, "the simplicity and seriousness of her sad-angel singing lends the song a surprising poignancy that Don Henley's considerably glossier original doesn't approach."

Moxy Früvous - The Kids' Song
In the early 90's, the federal government of Canada established a public commission, The Citizen's Forum on National Unity, in response "to a perception that the country's unity was being threatened by linguistic and regional divisions," this after the failed Meech Lake Accord designed to bring Québec into the Canadian Constitution. Also known as The Spicer Commission (after its chairperson Keith Spicer), the commission probed Canadians on the future of Canada, gathering feedback on subjects such as Canadian identity and values, bilingualism, constitutional issues, and cultural diversity. OK, mini social studies lesson over. That should provide some context for this Moxy Früvous tune about the overlooked toddler demographic.

By the way, head over to Cover Lay Down today for my guest post featuring folk covers with a boxing theme including a zinger of a bonus cover by Muhammad Ali.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Indie Kids

Sweet gig going on tonight... actually considering the time zone difference it's probably over. But anyway, way out east in a small community outside of Halifax, Nova Scotia choir students from the Dutch Settlement Elementary School, Musquodoboit Valley Education Center, and Upper Musquodoboit Consolidated School put on a concert called Canada Rocks. This ain't no Kidz Bop. The choirs performed songs by Feist, Joel Plaskett, Shotgun Jimmie, Julie Doiron, AC Newman, Islands, K-OS, Wintersleep and Patrick Watson. The event organized by 26-year-old music teacher Jarred Gates also had Shotgun Jimmie and Julie Doiron on hand to perform.

Intentionally or not, this follows in the footsteps of a similar undertaking on the opposite coast of Canada 30 years ago when a music teacher in Langley, BC, Hans Fenger had his students performing contemporary rock songs. Originally pressed as LPs for the students and their families in 1976-77, the recordings were rediscovered in 2000 by a Victoria record collector who sent it to WFMU DJ Irwin Chusid. He in turn was involved in getting these released in CD form as The Langley Schools Music Project. I first stumbled upon this CD at the library a few years ago where I proceeded to play it enthusiastically for amused co-workers. Just listen to a few of these:

Langley Schools Music Project - Rhiannon [originally by Fleetwood Mac]
Langley Schools Music Project - Band on the Run [originally by Paul McCartney & Wings]
Langley Schools Music Project - Space Oddity [originally by David Bowie]

Bowie himself on the Space Oddity cover: ""The backing arrangement is astounding. Coupled with the earnest if lugubrious vocal performance you have a piece of art that I couldn't have conceived of, even with half of Colombia's finest export products in me."

Now imagine this with contemporary indie Canadian bands and you'll see why those Nova Scotia gigs would be awesome. The Musquodoboit area choirs are taking their show to the big city with a "two-date world tour" at Halifax schools in June. This project needs to be recorded immediately. I'd buy it!

[P.S. Check out Cover Lay Down tomorrow for a guest post by yours truly.]

Monday, May 19, 2008

Danny Michel takes over the world!

I seem to be writing a lot about Danny Michel these days, but the man seems to warrant much attention lately, particularly from a cover lover's perspective.

On June 9th at Massey Hall in Toronto, Danny will be part of The Canadian Songbook. Yep, another big concert in T.O. and check out this stacked line-up: Ron Sexsmith, Danny Michel, Luke Doucet, Damhnait Doyle, Kim Stockwood, Marika Bournaki, Karen David, Molly Johnson, Patricia O'Callaghan, Mikel Rouse, Jean Stilwell, Teresa Tova, Nikki Yanofsky, Dan Zanes, and possibly more... all playing Canadian covers!

"The story of a nation is told in its songs as well as its history books, and Canada has never lacked for superb musical narrators. From the chansonniers of Quebec to such icons as Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, Canadian troubadours won acclaim throughout the world, their distinctive voices helping construct an epic account of a land and its people.

Now, in an intimate evening at Massey Hall, a new generation of musicians pay homage to this country's greatest songwriters. Festival artists and special guests will be accompanied by Luminato's own hand-picked house band. Great music, great artists, and a hook to catch the hearts of anyone to whom Canada is more than just a name on a map: it's not just our songs they'll be singing, but our stories too.

Not to be confused with The Art of Time Ensemble's Songbook II with Steven Page of the Barenaked Ladies, June 20 & 21.

And don't forget The Blue Revue with Sarah Harmer, Serena Ryder, Hawksley Workman, Great Lake Swimmers, Danny Michel, and more, June 19.

Wow, if you lived in Toronto concert-going would be a full-time job.

The CBC's radio programming for this summer has been announced and Danny Michel and Emm Gryner's cover-based show Under the Covers is one of the new shows. Previously introduced last summer as a one-time special, starting the week of June 23rd Under the Covers will be hitting the airwaves every Saturday night at 9pm on CBC Radio 1 all summer long, which makes 10 one-hour episodes by my count. Danny & Emm will be sharing the best and worst covers and discussing covers with likes of Ron Sexsmith, 54-40, Jann Arden, Sarah Harmer, The Weakerthans and lots more. I hope that means exclusively recorded covers! Definitely required listening.

Sarah Harmer with The Weakerthans - Islands in the Stream (live) [originally by The Bee Gees]
Danny Michel played lead guitar as part of Sarah Harmer's band at this double feature gig that was recorded for CBC Radio.

Emm Gryner - Crazy Train [originally by Ozzy Osbourne]
On her 2001 covers album Girl Versions, Emm took a Tori Amos stripped down piano approach to several rock songs including Blur's Song 2, Def Leppard's Pour Some Sugar on Me, Stone Temple Pilots' Big Bang Baby, and more. Readily available on Amazon, iTunes,, and CD Baby.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

"A man may see how this world goes with no eyes..."

Ack! A quote from King Lear! I'm a fan of synchronicity and this post was inspired by some coincidental events: The Cannes Film fest, Canadian cinema, Jackson Browne covers, Shakespearean ditties... all vaguely tied together by the theme of blindness.

Last night the 2008 Cannes film festival kicked off with the Canadian/Brazilian/Japanese co-production of Blindness, based on the novel by Nobel prize-winning José Saramago (really, if you've won the Nobel prize how can you not preface every introduction with that?). Directed by Fernando Meirelles who also did the excellent City of God and The Constant Gardener, filming was split mostly between São Paulo and Toronto. I haven't read the book so plotwise all I know is that an entire town becomes afflicted with sudden unexplainable blindness. Julianne Moore stars as the Doctor's Wife, the only person in town who can still see, and Mark Ruffalo is the Doctor. All the characters are identified by characteristics or job titles rather than names.

Ben Folds - Doctor My Eyes [originally by Jackson Browne]
The Jackson 5 - Doctor My Eyes [originally by Jackson Browne]

The screenplay for Blindness was adapted by Don McKellar who personally flew with producer Niv Fichman to the Canary Islands to woo Saramago, who had turned down many previous attempts (including McKellar's) to obtain the film rights. McKellar is some sort of Canadian supertalent, being ubiquitously involved in nearly every Canadian arthouse production in the past 20 years as either actor/writer/director or all three at once. You may not know him by name though you might recognize some of his work as writer of the films Roadkill, Highway 61, Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, Dance Me Outside, and The Red Violin among others. He was hilarious as the sadsack "Sadly, I'm Bradley" in Gary Burns' Waydowntown, the writer/star of the offbeat Canadian late 90's sitcom Twitch City, not to mention the director/writer/star of the very underrated Last Night, an end of the world dramedy that acts as sort of the Canadian opposite of Armageddon. In fact, McKellar won the Prix de la Jeunesse award for Last Night at the 1998 Cannes film fest. Maybe you've even heard his voice through four seasons as the eponymous hero of the animated series Odd Job Jack.

Last night I finished watching the third and final season of the great television show Slings & Arrows. Seriously, this is one of best shows in the past 5 years. Smart, wickedly funny, and a fantastic ensemble cast, the show tells the story of the fictional New Burbage Festival (a thinly disguised Stratford festival) and the behind the scenes shenanigans surrounding the production of several Shakespeare plays. When I first stumbled upon the first season at the library I really had no idea what I was getting into. I was intrigued by the cast & crew that included Paul Gross, Don McKellar (surprise!), series co-creator and writer Mark McKinney (Kids in the Hall/SNL), and pre-stardom Rachel McAdams. Colm Feore and Sarah Polley would show up in the next seasons. As is ritual after watching a show or movie, I pored through IMDb to see what other shows these people are in. That's when I was surprised to find out that three members of the Slings & Arrows cast are actually in Blindness! Don McKellar, of course, who played the pretentious nitwit director Darren Nichols; Martha Burns, who played the leading actress Ellen Fanshaw; and series co-creator/writer Susan Coyne who charmingly played the theatre's administrative assistant Anna Conroy. Not exactly a Slings & Arrows reunion, but some bonus incentive for me to see Blindness when it's eventually in wide release. Part of what makes the show great is the stellar cast that make up the rest of the theatre's denizens, a list so long I'd just be repeating IMDb.

I'd rather not spoil what happens, so you'd do well to pick up the complete series for immediate viewing. Yes, like several TV shows in the UK or Japan, Slings & Arrows was conceived as a complete series with a distinct beginning, middle, and end instead of running indefinitely for years until the writers run out of ideas, or in some cases in spite of writers running out of ideas. As much as I'm a huge fan of Lost, the show took a huge step forward when the creators negotiated a definitive end date, which enabled them to actually plot out the rest of the series with greater certainty.

Each six-episode season of Slings & Arrows follows the production of a different Shakespeare play: Hamlet, MacBeth, and King Lear. Accordingly, each season has a humourous theme song based on that season's play, performed over the credits in the theatre's pub by British acting veterans Frank & Cyril portrayed respectively by Michael Polley (Sarah Polley's dad) and Graham Harley, who sort of remind me of Statler & Waldorf from The Muppets as they drolly comment on the action from the sidelines. Though they sound like they're singing old theatre standards, all the songs are written by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, who were also responsible for the music of The Drowsy Chaperone, the Tony-award winning Broadway musical co-created by Bob Martin (also co-creator and writer of Slings & Arrows) and guess who? Don McKellar.

Graham Harley & Michael Polley - Cheer Up Hamlet
Graham Harley & Michael Polley - Mackers
Graham Harley & Michael Polley - A Walk in the Rain

Graham Harley & Michael Polley - Call the Understudy
Graham Harley & Michael Polley - I Played the Part
Over the end credits, every show ends with Call the Understudy except for the series finale which closes on a bittersweet note with I Played the Part.

Can't get enough Slings & Arrows? Check out this Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project site for behind-the-scenes footage and interview clips, most of which ended up on the DVDs as special features.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Second Helping of Cake

Hi, folks - it's Boyhowdy, usually of Cover Lay Down, occasional gate-crasher here. Yesterday's post about Cake sent me to the stacks for one of my absolute favorite folk covers; your usual host hasn't heard it, so here, for everyone's enjoyment, is a beautiful solo acoustic cover of Mexico from undersung countryfolk star and ubiquitous country songwriter Kim Richey.

Kim Richey - Mexico [originally by Cake]

You may not have heard Kim, but if you listen to country music, you've heard her compositions; Kim has written songs for almost every major country artist playing today, from the Dixie Chicks to Brooks and Dunn to Tricia Yearwood. Yeah, country's not my thing either; I had to look it up. But never fear, Kim's own performance isn't country -- it's delicate acoustic folk, the real deal. Take a listen to another cover, this one from a pretty countrified Randy Newman tribute album called Sail Away I featured recently over at Cover Lay Down:

Kim Richey - Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father [originally by Randy Newman]

That's a far cry from the hipster-pop-meets-mariachi-band sound we started with today, isn't it? Not that there's anything wrong with Cake's unique approach to music -- Fong and I clearly share a love of this band with the tasty name. Last time Cake came through my neck of the woods, I had a previous commitment and had to miss the show. But since I've regretted it ever since, let's finish up today with one of the covers Fong says they played last night, plus another of my favorites, so we can all share in the jealousy.

Cake - War Pigs [originally by Black Sabbath]

Cake - Never, Never Gonna Give You Up [originally by Barry White; not to be confused with the Rick Astley song]

PS: Thanks to Fong for letting me hang out. Next time, I'll try to remember to bring some ice cream to go with all that Cake.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mmmm... Cake

There's Cake on the menu tonight at the Vogue Theatre.

Cake - Long Line of Cars

Cake - The Guitar Man [originally by Bread]

Cake - I Will Survive [originally by Gloria Gaynor]
Arguably one of the most well-known covers in the past 10 years, people still love to whip this out in covers discussions as if they're the first one to have discovered it... appealing to the hipster douchebag in all of us, though I think Cake set an early precedent for indie bands ironically covering pop hits. Gaynor herself is not a fan of the cover, though simply because of John McCrea dropping the f-bomb once.

While we're on the topic of Cake and survival...

missFlag - Still Alive [originally by GLaDOS & Jonathan Coulton]
A few weeks ago this cover was featured on Coverville and for the life of me I could not figure out where I knew missFlag from. I checked the ol' gmail archives because I thought it was a band that had sent me mp3s for the blog or something. Then I searched my seldom checked hotmail account and found a myspace friend request... from missFlag. I was coerced into signing up for myspace over a year ago in order to access certain features from bands I like that are on myspace. missFlag became my "friend" though like most of the barrage of new artists that pile up in by inbox, they inevitably were forgotten until (surprise, surprise) my interest was piqued by a cover song. Not just a cover song, but a JoCo cover song, so that deserves major attention right there. Also notable is the fact that missFlag is a pop band from Israel, the 5 members having met amidst Jerusalem's relatively small music scene over a mutual love of Coldplay. Last year, KCRW gave their single Hidden Thieves plenty of spins. Check their official site and their youtube cover of Toxic.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Hooked on Classical

Just over a week ago I went to see Danny Michel twice at The Railway Club, a small club in downtown Vancouver that used to be exclusively for railway workers in the 1930's. One of the songs Danny played from his new album is called Motorcade, about "a couple in Guatemala who get robbed". What's interesting about this particular track is that it was inspired by, as stated in the liner notes, "the slow movement of Schubert's Second Piano Trio". Remember last week I mentioned The Art of Time Ensemble? Well, last year Danny was one of several artists commissioned to write and perform original songs inspired by the Schubert piece. The other artists were Sarah Slean, Andy Maize (The Skydiggers), Martin Tielli (The Rheostatics), and John Southworth. The whole show used to be online at CBC, but now seems to have been taken down unfortunately. The album version of Motorcade features special guest Mike Garson on piano. Garson was David Bowie's piano guy, appearing on Aladdin Sane and onwards, so clearly this was a thrill for Danny who, of course, did a whole album of Bowie covers.

Danny Michel - Motorcade

Danny Michel - Young Americans [originally by David Bowie]
OK, I know I just posted this a couple weeks ago, but it is one of my all-time favourite covers and I'm really gunning for it to make the 2008 Coverville Countdown. And you know who played piano on the original? That's right, Mike Garson. Plus, on Danny's site I just noticed for the first time a quote from David Bowie regarding the Danny's Young Americans cover:
"he's a great little mover. never seen anyone move quite like that. are his arms double jointed? the maracas are a beautiful thing, out of nowhere they come and the backup voices are really moving and intimate. this is a good, good cover.
There you go... "a good, good cover" so says the Man himself.

This reminded me that I meant to do a whole post of classical covers a while back... A topic suggested but not ultimately used for the Coverville Round Table discussion was whether classical music can be considered cover songs. Clearly for many pieces written a few hundred years ago, there is no "original" recording, but would recordings of the same piece by, say, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, or the Czech National Symphony Orchestra all be covers? My gut instinct is "no", though part of me also thinks "why not?". In this case, I feel as if the genre almost has to be changed or something dramatically different has to occur to count as a legitimate cover. Classical music lives in its own distinct world where the term cover version doesn't really make sense for the same reason that there are movie remakes, yet the umpteenth performance Shakespeare production is hardly considered a remake. Or am I wrong?

Dolce de Musica - Aria Sulla Quarta Corda [originally by J.S. Bach]
The funny thing about a lot of the famous classical pieces is that even though you might not recognize the title (or the composer for that matter), there is a good chance you'll recognize the song simply based on usage in film, commercials, and television. This one, for example, is popularly known as "Air on the G String", yet I really can't pinpoint one specific instance where I'd know it from. This version starts off as a fairly normal piano/string arrangement, then D.d.M unexpectedly throws in a reggae twist. It changes gears a couple times to a swing beat and even a marching beat while never seeming haphazard. I picked up this CD while I was in China, admittedly only because there were some Disney covers on there, but I quickly became a fan of this Bach cover.

Bond - Carmina [originally by Carl Orff]
Opera Babes - O Fortuna [originally by Carl Orff]
These are two versions of the same piece O Fortuna from German composer Carl Orff, who in the mid-1930's set music to Carmina Burana, a medieval collection of poetry. This song has been used so often in pop culture it's basically a cliché for Epic Gothic Showdown. Both groups attempt to bridge the classical/pop music divide, though Bond was actually banned from the UK Classical charts. Their version is a bit more radical with a heavy dance beat and distinct overuse of orchestral hits.

Toy Dolls - Toccata in D Minor [originally by J.S. Bach]
Toy Dolls - Eine Kleine Nacht Musik [originally by Mozart]
Two classical covers by British punk rock band the Toy Dolls. It sounds like they're just goofing off in the studio on Eine Kleine Nacht Musik, but it quickly turns into an acoustic guitar jam reminiscent of Dueling Banjos. That's two posts in a row with Toy Dolls covers, though I've never posted their great punk cover of The Devil Went Down to Georgia. They also do an awesome cover of Any Dream Will Do from Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen - Rondo [originally by Mozart]
A dixieland jazz cover of Mozart's Piano Sonata #11, better known as the Turkish Rondo. For me, this will be permanently associated with the computer game Lemmings.

Angélique Kidjo - Lonlon (Ravel's Bolero) [originally by... Ravel]
The last track on Angélique Kidjo's Grammy award-winning Djin Djin is a cover of Ravel's Bolero sung not-quite a cappella (there's some sparse instrumentation in there).

Dakesh York - Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata [originally by Beethoven]
From an album of remixed classical songs called Masterworks Reworked: Remixes for a New Generation.

Dev Large for Devastator Enterprises - Fantasia [Dirty Raw Bobo James Mix] [originally by Mussorgsky]
From a Japanese album Disney Breaks & Beats, this is a remix of Modest Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain. Of course, this is from a particularly memorable sequence of Walt Disney's Fantasia where a Satan-like demon (named Chernabog, so I'm told) awakes on Bald Mountain and summons all the ghosts, goblins, demons, and other such creatures to party all night on the mountaintop. I think one of Walt Disney's goals was to bring a greater appreciation of classical music to younger generations and you know what, I think it may have worked at least a little bit. Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, The Nutcracker Suite, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, The Rite of Spring... I'm sure my first exposure to these classical pieces was through Fantasia, though my mom tells a popular story of her looking over and seeing my dad, my sister, and I with our heads back and mouths open, sleeping in the theatre. Subconsciously though, I absorbed all these songs.

Be sure to also check out this old WFMU post which features a whole album of surf rock covers of classical numbers by Japanese band Takeshi Terauchi & The Bunnys.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Indy Film

Last Friday, I had the pleasure and privilege of seeing the first great movie of the summer. My friend asked me to hold off on seeing Iron Man until he gets back from vacationing in the UK, so I checked the movie listings to see what else was playing. Lo and behold, playing at the theatre literally two blocks away from our place was RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK: The Adaptation. Intriguing, no doubt. I vaguely remember hearing about this a couple years ago, then I did some quick googling and realized I was in for a rare treat indeed.

For the full story, read this 2004 Vanity Fair article on the project or the official site.

In a nutshell, three pre-teens from Mississippi, Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala, and Jayson Lamb, started to film a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark in the summer of 1982, a year after the film was originally released. To realize the monumental scope of this undertaking, remember they didn't have a DVD or even VHS copy of the film for reference. Using their memory, making-of books, the published screenplay, a comic book, and a bootleg audio recording (surreptitiously captured from the 1982 re-release) they pieced together a book of shots they'd need to film... all 649 of them. Amidst puberty, cast changes, production shut-down (by parents), burned garages, and even the release of the two official Indy sequels, they filmed their version with startling commitment over the course of the next SEVEN years.

Cut to several years later, the guys had gone their separate ways. Every once and a while, the film would get shown to curious friends or classmates. A video copy would eventually make its way to filmmaker Eli Roth, who at the time was finishing off his debut feature Cabin Fever (he'd later direct Hostel and Hostel II). At a Austin film festival co-sponsored by Ain't-It-Cool-News' Harry Knowles, they popped in the Raiders videotape at Roth's suggestion. The audience went nuts and a legend was born. Eventually even Steven Speilberg would see their tribute and send them letters of appreciation.

All this preamble and it's really not an easy film to see in theatres. As I understand it, due to a rather informal agreement with the copyright holders (i.e. distribute this and you will be sued), it can only be seen at free screenings at film festivals or charity events. Last Friday was the latter, an event benefiting the Canadian Cancer Society organized by some guy (forget his name) who waited patiently for someone to bring this film to Vancouver, then realized with the impending release of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that he would have to be that someone. Major standing ovation for that guy, way to go! The theatre was packed to the brim, sold out in spite of the greatest fear of the organizers, who had unceremoniously been given the cold shoulder by all the local entertainment weeklies. With filmmaker/Indiana Jones himself Chris Strompolos also in attendance, the place was abuzz as nobody really knew what to expect. Were we all about to be sucker punched with a glorified home video? Steamrolled by a giant paper maché ball of doom?

***UPDATE: The event was sponsored by Kick-Start Cardio with the proceeds specifically benefiting the Canadian Cancer Society's Camp Goodtimes, a summer camp for children with cancer. Jason Kurylo is the man who organized that whole event so I doff my virtual fedora to him. Great job!

Ironically, last weekend also saw the wide-release of Son of Rambow, in which two young British kids attempt to remake Rambo. But this, this was the real deal. It was brilliant. On multiple levels. Within minutes, you realize you're not just watching any fan-made film. Before it started, Strompolos apologized in advance for the poor video quality and sound. It didn't matter... we all know the story, the scenes, the lines, all burned in our collective memories. The magic came from watching, in fact cheering as the scenes unfolded with remarkable ingenuity and dedication. Just how are they going to pull off the giant boulder? They do it. Gunfight in a burning saloon? With reckless abandon, they get it done. The crowd ate it up with Rocky Horror Picture Show-like audience participation. We laughed, we clapped, we cheered. Oh man, the "Hovitos" were a pack of Lord of the Flies kids with arrows and spears, then they chase Indy over the fields where he yells for Jock to start up the engines... of their getaway boat. Trust me, it works. A collective "AWWWW" of regret was let out when the puppy (a hilarious stand-in for that cheeky monkey) eats from Indy's plate. We know what happened to the monkey after that. When teenage Indy kisses teenage Marion, it might just linger a little longer than the original film... The truck chase scene with Indy thrown through the windshield, hanging on the grill as it pulls off, then being dragged by his whip. THEY DO IT. This is just as exciting as the real thing (i.e. the original) because this IS the real thing, sans stuntmen, sans safety experts.

And they don't cop out and film the best bits of the film, they faithfully recreate scenes Indy lecturing his university class, after which a 12-year old Brody brings Indy to meet with some teenage C.I.A. guys to discuss the Ark. In fact, this film is longer than most animated films and the only notable scene missing is the fight with the the big bald Nazi on the plane wing. Even the end credits were getting cheers and laughs (transportation: Mr. Zala) with one particular line inviting gasps. This is the sort of homebrew, community filmmaking that was celebrated in Be Kind Rewind, and in a way lamented since these days such an undertaking seems unremarkable with a generation of youtubers. There's so much to rave about this film, the most entertaining one I've seen in months and by far the funniest, but you really have to see it for yourself... and there's the rub. You probably won't. The only upcoming confirmed screenings are in Minneapolis and Nashville, but keep an eye on that page for updates. Who knows, maybe you can be the one to bring Raiders: The Adaptation to your hometown.

And the story isn't over yet. Producer Scott Rudin (The Royal Tenenbaums, No Country for Old Men) optioned the rights to their life story with, get this, author Daniel Clowes (Ghost World) writing the script. Strompolos told us the script's finished and there's expected to be movement on the project this summer. Perhaps with the imminent return of the real Indy to theatres, this project will also take off! Here's hoping we see an adaptation of this adaptation on the big screen soon. Maybe Clowes can get some pointers from Charlie Kaufman.

Toy Dolls - Raiders of the Lost Ark [originally by John Williams]
A live, off-key rendition of the classic Indy theme by English punk band, the Toy Dolls.

Walter Murphy - Raiders of the Lost Ark [originally by John Williams]
A funky disco-fied version. When I found this I couldn't figure out why Walter Murphy's name was so familiar... then I realized he wrote music for Family Guy including its main theme.

Kate Capshaw - Anything Goes [originally by Cole Porter]
A cover song from Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom as performed, in Mandarin no less, by Kate Capshaw who would later become Mrs. Steven Spielberg. Ah "Temple", the black sheep of the Indy, quadrilogy now. I'm pretty sure this was the first one I ever saw, though monkey brains is the only thing that stuck with me. I've re-watched it a few times since, the last instance when the trilogy was re-released on DVD. On each subsequent viewing, it seems to get just a little worse. Short Round and "Willie"... I cringe a bit just thinking about it, though I think I'll give it another shot before the new one comes out because I am constantly reassured that it's "not that bad".

Sunday, May 04, 2008

May the Fourth

Here we go again, folks... Happy Star Wars Day! I pretty much used up all my Star Wars covers last year, but here's what I scrounged up this time 'round. John Williams, here's to you. Looking forward to hearing the ol' Indy theme in the theatres once more.

Symphony X - Star Wars Suite
Symphony X is a prog rock band where progressive equals "more guitars". Here's their interpretation of the Star Wars theme with over 15 guitar tracks... since 13 or 14 was surely not enough. However, it just can't compete with the sheer gusto of Anchorhead whose "darth metal" Shredisode IV still awaits its inevitable sequels.

David Matthews - Star Wars
David Matthews - Princess Leia's Theme
A funk keyboardist who was James Brown's bandleader starting in the 1970's, David Matthews released his jazz-fusion-sci-fi-disco concept album Dune the same year Star Wars hit theatres. Side A: original compositions based on Frank Herbert's sci-fi classic Dune. Side B: covers of these two Star Wars tracks, David Bowie's Space Oddity, and the theme from Silent Running(?!), the 1972 Douglas Trumbull film.

Evil Genius Orchestra - The Throne Room
The Evil Genius Orchestra has a whole album of Star Wars lounge covers called Cocktails in the Cantina, which tackles more than just the usual Star Wars themes. Where else can you hear a cover of Lando's Palace or Ben Kenobi's Death/Tie Fighter Attack?

Spekkosaurus - Star Wars vs. House of the Rising Sun
A piano arrangement that cleverly mashes up two familiar melodies.

Richard Cheese - Darth Vader's Theme
Darth Vader's Theme AKA The Imperial March, covered by Richard Cheese and his crew with the usual panache. Fans take note, he'll be retiring after his 2008/09 set of tour dates. You may not have realized this but Richard Cheese is none other than Mark Jonathan Davis-- uh, not to be confused by Mark David Chapman... as I just mistyped in google. And just who is Mark Jonathan Davis? Well, he's the evil genius behind Star Wars Cantina from back in the day-- definitely NOT to be confused with Weird Al, as is often the case.

Mark Jonathan Davis - Star Wars Cantina [parody of Barry Manilow's Copacabana]
Mark Jonathan Davis & The X-Swing Fighters - The Phantom Medley [parody of too many songs to mention]
Pre-Cheese, MJD also did a medley just before The Phantom Menace was released and all of our hopes were dashed.

Josh Perschbacher - Duel of the Fates
The key theme from The Phantom Menace as rearranged for the organ by Joshua Perschbacher. It's definitely missing the epic O Fortuna-like chanting in an ancient tree language, but kudos for even covering it. If you dig it, he also covers the Imperial March and Cantina Band, available on iTunes, CD Baby, and elsewhere.

Patton Oswalt - At Midnight I Will Kill George Lucas with a Shovel
I don't listen to too many comedy albums, let alone multiple times. But this bit by Patton Oswalt just kills me every time, perfectly summing up everyone's general dissatisfaction about the prequels. Warning: not safe for the kiddies.

Some other links:

  • Check out WFMU to hear The Bordens, a family band from Dryden, Ontario, cover the main Star Wars theme.
  • See and hear a remarkable cover of the Cantina Band on a "Chapman stick", a wacky bass/guitar-in-one instrument thing I've never even heard of.
  • Amie Street has Meco's Star Wars album FREE (as of this writing)... US only though.
  • found this completely random video when I typed "Leia's Theme" in google. Starts off as some generic youtube house party video, then... well, just watch. (warning: some language)

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Reminder: Laura Barrett on Fuse

Don't forget today that Laura Barrett will be joining The Hylozoists for a session of CBC's Fuse, available as a stream on CBC Radio 1 at 3pm wherever you happen to be.

I also just noticed that Laura Barrett's on Amie Street so definitely head there if you want to get her whole 4-song EP for 70 cents (or more depending when you read this).

Friday, May 02, 2008

I Am Iron Man

Hey, guess what comes out today? I had virtually no interest in this movie when they announced they were making it. My childhood comic book palette consisted primarily of Spider-Man, Hulk, Punisher, Wolverine, Batman, and Groo... no Iron Man. But things started to get intriguing as more news started coming out, particularly the casting of Robert Downey Jr. and Terrence Howard (who is apparently a huge fan of the comic). Director Jon Favreau & company seemed to be genuinely working hard to make sure this was done right. And then the trailer hit and aside from the obvious usage of Black Sabbath's Iron Man (eyes were rolling), I gotta say it got me pretty pumped for this.

Bud E. Luv - Iron Man [originally by Black Sabbath]

Lounge Brigade - Iron Man [originally by Black Sabbath]

The Bad Plus - Iron Man [originally by Black Sabbath]

The Cardigans - Iron Man [originally by Black Sabbath]
The Cardigans - Iron Man (First Try) [originally by Black Sabbath]
The "First Try" version is from their b-sides/rarities collection Other Side of the Moon. The Swedish band also cover Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Ozzy's Mr. Crowley... guess they're big fans.

UPDATE 05/03/20008:
Thanks to Boyhowdy for a couple more Iron Man covers including his personal favourite, an instrumental by Four Tet.

Four Tet - Iron Man [originally by Black Sabbath]

Giant Sand - Iron Man [originally by Black Sabbath]

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Another Concert Alert for Torontonians

I just read about this:

The Songbook II: featuring Steven Page of the Barenaked Ladies, June 20 & 21, 2008 8pm

Steven Page of the Barenaked Ladies will be accompanied by an ensemble comprised of some of Canada’s finest musicians including: Phil Dwyer (sax), Rob Piltch (guitar), Rafael Hoekman (cello), Joseph Phillips (bass), Steven Sitarski (violin) & Andrew Burashko (piano).

Songs by Leonard Cohen, Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, Rufus Wainwright, Jane Sieberry and Radiohead; in fresh new arrangements by innovators from the worlds of pop, jazz & classical music such as Gavin Bryars, Rob Carli, Phil Dwyer, Kevin Fox, Jonathan Goldsmith, Jim McGrath, Owen Pallett (AKA Final Fantasy), Tom Walsh and Cameron Wilson.

The Art of Time Ensemble is a fascinating musical collective organized by artistic director Andrew Burashko of classical and jazz musicians, now in its 9th season of concerts. The Ensemble produces "unique and intimate
concert experiences that bridge the worlds of classical music, popular music, film, literature and theatre". Last year, they collaborated with Sarah Slean for the first Songbook consisting of new arrangements of Canadian artists including Leonard Cohen, Feist, and Sarah Harmer (listen online here).

Tickets can be purchased here between $24-$36.

Undoubtedly I will not be in attendance and there's a strong likelihood you won't either, but fortunately CBC Radio 2 is the Art of Time Ensemble's official partner so the concert should be recorded for future broadcast.