Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Batch of BBC Covers

Busy, busy, busy right now. I've got Best Man duties tomorrow at my best friend's wedding(!!) then I'm headed back to the home province for next weekend's Edmonton Folk Fest. To tide you over for the next while, I've got a batch of live covers recorded for Dermot O'Leary's show on BBC Radio 2 where almost every musical guest plays a cover song.

Sharleen Spiteri - All Things Things That I've Done [originally by The Killers]
Sam Roberts - Me & Julio Down By the Schoolyard [originally by Paul Simon]
Voluntary Butler Scheme - Build Me Up Buttercup [originally by The Foundations]
Starsailor - Only Love Can Break Your Heart [originally by Neil Young]
Martina Topley-Bird - Golden Brown [originally by The Stranglers]
Scott Matthews - Is This Love? [originally by Bob Marley]
Ben's Brother - Poker Face [originally by Lady Gaga]

a-ha - A Question of Lust [originally by Depeche Mode]
**from most recent show

Later folks!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Do You Hear the People Sing Covers?

I've always wondered about the iconic poster for Les Misérables (the musical) and just learned it was taken from an illustration of Cosette by Émile Bayard from the original 1862 Victor Hugo classic novel. All this time she's been sweeping just out of the frame with a GIANT BROOM!

Last weekend some friends and I went to see the local production of Les Misérables and since then I've been singing it in my head at work ad nauseum. I'd previously seen it as a kid at the Jubilee in Edmonton in the early 90s, then again a few years ago in London. I think the double album recording of the original Broadway cast was one of our family's earliest CDs and I remember listening to it repeatedly while thumbing through the lyric book. To this day, One Day More still blows me away and is among my Top 100 most played tracks in iTunes. The show got a major boost in publicity from Susan Boyle's star-making performance of Les Miz's I Dreamed a Dream earlier this year on Britain's Got Talent, becoming the highest-selling production in the 46 year history of the Arts Club Theatre Company, selling out 72 shows and extending its run by 2 weeks until August 6 (tickets here starting at $25).

I've always dreamed of a one man rock version of One Day More, but that's probably not going to happen anytime soon as there is quite a dearth of Les Miz covers in general with most falling into the category of former Broadway singers singing Broadway hits. I've yet to discover any bands pushing these songs into different genres... prove me wrong. I Dreamed a Dream is one of the only numbers that's taken on a life of its own with various covers and more inevitably to come following the renewed interest in it.

Neil Diamond - I Dreamed a Dream [originally from Les Misérables]
Although it was originally sung in the musical by Fantine, one of the earliest covers (if not the first) was by none other than Neil Diamond who recorded it live for his 1987 album Hot August Night 2 the same year Les Misérables debuted on Broadway.

Aretha Franklin - I Dreamed a Dream [originally from Les Misérables]
Unfortunately this is cheesy 1991 production Aretha and not 60s Soul Sister Aretha. This could definitely use a better arrangement.

Allison Crowe - I Dreamed a Dream [originally from Les Misérables]
Hailing from Nainamo, BC on Vancouver Island, singer Allison Crowe made headlines a couple months ago when she and her band travelled to London to start their European tour, but were held for hours then deported back to Canada due to new stringent laws in the UK requiring a special permit for "migrant" musicians. This is from her album Live at Wood Hall, which also features covers of Ani DiFranco, Counting Crows, Tori Amos, and others. Check out her official website, which has downloads of several covers. Boyhowdy has also featured her covers multiple times over at Cover Lay Down, most recently in this post from last week.

Mandy Patinkin - I Dreamed a Dream [originally from Les Misérables]
Mandy Patinkin - Bring Him Home [originally from Les Misérables]
Patinkin is a Tony-award winning actor of the stage, so he definitely falls under the Broadway stars singing Broadway hits heading, but he is arguably most widely-known as Inigo Montoya ("You killed my father. Prepare to die") from The Princess Bride. I also have a soft spot for his role as 88 Keys in Dick Tracy. From his 1994 album Experiment, he performs two Les Miz covers.

Empire Brass - At the End of the Day [originally from Les Misérables]
A rare cover of one of the early songs in the musical. I love this number and the Empire Brass get points for at least attempting something different, although it's not quite as rousing and epic as I feel it should be.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Doctor My Cat's Eyes

I've got a cat story for you, but it's not that charming. My cat Jaboo has conjunctivitis (a.k.a. pink eye) and I've been having a fun time playing Capture the Cat and Smear Lotion on Its Eye multiple times a day. Also extremely fun: prying his mouth open and force feeding him expensive painkillers. He's hiding under the couch right now.

Wilson Phillips - Doctor My Eyes [originally by Jackson Browne]
From their 2004 cover album, California.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Lenny [Re-post minus links]

EDIT 07/14/2009: Not sure when it happened, but this post disappeared without so much as a Blogger notice. It's back minus links, though it's vaguely unsettling.

In the land of covers, Kravitz is best known for his okay but unnecessary revision of the Guess Who classic American Woman, which actually earned him a Grammy Award in 2000, the second of a four straight wins in the Best Male Rock Vocal Performance category. It's kinda hard to believe his debut album Let Love Rule came out twenty years ago, a fact marked by a semi-recently released 2-disc deluxe edition. Though I haven't really listened to much of his stuff after the mid-90s, a handful of his songs still get a fair amount of regular play on the ol' iPod. Today, a mini cover tribute to Lenny Kravitz.

Aira Mitsuki - Rock and Roll is Dead [originally by Lenny Kravitz]
This throbbing, schizophrenic electro cover from Japan is a little frightening, but I love that it exists. I recently watched the excellent film The Diving Bell & The Butterfly, in which Lenny Kravitz popped up in a cameo and was reminded that I had been meaning to share this cover for a while.

Riovolt - It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over [originally by Lenny Kravitz]
There are a surprising number of smooth jazz/bossa covers of this song. This is one of the better ones.

The Moog Cookbook - Are You Gonna Go My Way [originally by Lenny Kravitz]
As if a Moog synthesizer cover wasn't enough, it just had to be a an Moog oompah hoedown. The Moog Cookbook put out Moog covers of 90s alternative rock on their 1995 self-titled debut followed by 1997's Ye Olde Space Bande (classic rock covers) and 2005's Bartell (mixed bag o' covers).

Cactus Jack - Are You Gonna Go My Way [originally by Lenny Kravitz]
Serbian rock band Cactus Jack do a more straight up rock cover with some playful zest from their 2002 cover album DisCover. You should just flat-out avoid the Tom Jones & Robbie Williams version of this song.

Lenny Kravitz - Have You Ever (Been to Electric Ladyland) [originally by The Jimi Hendrix Experience]
Remember when Kravitz was rumoured to play Jimi Hendrix in a biopic years ago? The Let Love Rule deluxe edition also features a live cover of Jimi's If 6 Was 9 recorded in 1989.

My all-time favourite Lenny:

I know it's horrible, but it still makes me laugh after all these years.

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.