Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

For a few years, my most coveted cover album was Rollin' by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, the soundtrack to their variety show from the early 1970s that was filmed in Toronto. As far as I can tell, it was only released on vinyl so it was quite a task to get a hold of it, which I finally did in April 2009 from an online music seller in Montréal (search musicstack.com to find your own vinyl copy!). The main reason I hunted this down so vigorously was my obsession with finding covers of Elton John's Border Song, but the band's propensity for Beatles covers was an added incentive. Their spirited, horn-infused cover of Get Back is my favourite of the album.

Kenny Rogers & The First Edition
Jolly Rogers 5003

1. Good Vibrations [originally by The Beach Boys]
2. The Long and Winding Road [originally by The Beatles]
3. Sylvia's Mother [originally by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show]
4. Joy (Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring) [originally by J.S. Bach; arrangement by Apollo 100]
5. Paperback Writer [originally by The Beatles]
6. Get Back [originally by The Beatles]
7. Border Song [originally by Elton John]
8. I Need You [originally by America]
9. Coconut [originally by Harry Nilsson]
10. Morning Has Broken [originally by Eleanor Farjeon; arrangement by Cat Stevens]

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tasty cover samples from eTown

I briefly talked about the eTown radio show in a February post when I posted the Barenaked Ladies and The Ditty Bops teaming up to cover Johnny Mercer's I'm an Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande (merged with the theme to Welcome Back Kotter, no less). What I neglected to mention was that these cover collaborations are more the rule than the exception in eTown, where they generally play host to two musical guests who play separate sets then are brought together for a big cover finale alongside the house band, The eTones. This part of the show reminds me of a CBC radio show that was regrettably canceled a few years ago called Fuse that also brought together unlikely combos to make wonderful music.

eTown, based in Boulder, Colorado, was founded by the husband and wife team of Nick and Helen Forster in 1991, a socially conscious radio show recorded live as a sort of variety show with musical performances and in-depth conversations with the artists and other guests that range from authors to scientists to politicians to citizens in the community. Another aspect of the show is the E-Chievement Award, a listener-nominated award to "remarkable individuals who are working hard to make a positive difference in their communities and beyond".

There's a bittersweetness to these covers since every one of them is accompanied by the end-of-show patter over an instrumental break and in a few cases, the song is prematurely truncated. But it's a small price to pay to hear some wonderful, wonderful covers! Needless to say, I also dig the Canadian content that makes its way into the show via guest artists or the cover choices. You can subscribe to the eTown podcast in iTunes with a new show every Wednesday and visit etown.org to peruse the extensive show archives.

These are just some of the awesome cover collaborations that have blessed the eTown stage:

Cake & Chuck Prophet - Sympathy for the Devil [originally by The Rolling Stones]
This is the one I most regret not being able to hear in its full unedited glory.

Barenaked Ladies & Catie Curtis - Yellow Submarine [originally by The Beatles]

Big Head Todd and the Monsters & Kathleen Edwards - Long May You Run [originally by Neil Young]

Michelle Shocked & The Bad Plus - Heart of Gold [originally by Neil Young]

Crash Test Dummies & Celeste Krenz - Theme from Gilligan's Island [originally written by Sherwood Schwartz and George Wyle]

Imogen Heap & Gregory Alan Isakov - We Will Rock You [originally by Queen]

BeauSoleil & Ben Kweller - Have You Ever Seen the Rain? [originally by Creedence Clearwater Revival]

DeVotchKa & Au Revoir Simone - Tender [originally by Blur]

Jakob Dylan & Danny Barnes - The Letter [originally by The Box Tops]

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Random Blender of Randomness

Once again, blogging has fallen by the wayside as I've recently found myself spending unhealthy amounts of time in the wide world of Red Dead Redemption while also plowing my way through the third part of Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Blah Blah Blah trilogy (this time she kicked the hornet's nest!). The continued DMCA crackdown and migration of mp3 bloggers off of Blogger also does little to muster my waning enthusiasm.

Anyway, here's a grab bag of covers that have caught my attention recently. The Boss covering Bryan Adams? Kenny Loggins covering Feist? Joseph Gordon-Levitt covering Tom Waits? I'm not making these artist-cover combos up!

Bruce Springsteen - Cuts Like a Knife (live) [originally by Bryan Adams]
Last month, an all-star cover of Don't Stop Believing by Springsteen, Lady Gaga, Elton John, Sting, and others made headlines. Lost in all the OMGs and LOLs was that it was 80s nostalgia night at Sting's Rainforest Fund benefit and there were a bunch of random cover pairings such as Elton John doing a Material Girl/Like a Virgin medley, Sting dong She Drives Me Crazy, and perhaps the least likely, Bruce Springsteen adding horns and a rambling story about a girlfriend who left him to a nearly 10-minute version of Bryan Adams' Cuts Like a Knife.

Garfunkel and Oates - One More Minute [originally by Weird Al Yankovic]
Garfunkel and Oates (AKA Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome) were recent guests alongside Weird Al on an episode of the Comedy Death-Ray Radio podcast. In tribute, they performed a cover of one of Weird Al's best originals, One More Minute, with added cussing.

Kenny Loggins - 1234 [originally by Feist]
Finally got a listen of Kenny Loggins' All Join In album from last year, more or less a cover album sung more often than not with his kids. On the whole, the album may be a little too saccharine (it is on the Disney label after all), but I do enjoy how the coda to his Feist cover gets the Beatles treatment, incorporating bits of Penny Lane, All Together Now, and Two of Us, the latter two of which were also covered on the album.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt - Blind Love [originally by Tom Waits]
Admittedly there's a huge hole in my music upbringing when it comes to Tom Waits, so I don't really know how this rates as a cover, but it sounds pretty decent to me. I am super stoked for Gordon-Levitt's turn in Inception though!

Keller Williams & The Keels - The Switch and the Spur [originally by The Raconteurs]
Keller Williams recently released Thief, a bluegrass cover album with an eclectic tracklist from Amy Winehouse (Rehab) to Marcy Playground (Sex and Candy) to The Presidents of the United States of America (Bath of Fire. Major kudos for covering this sweet track from The Raconteurs' Consolers of the Lonely.

The Oneups - Rainbow Road [originally from Super Mario Kart]
Last month, video game cover band The OneUps released their long-awaited (by me) Super Mario Kart cover album. Ah, Rainbow Road sure brings back the memories.

Evelyn Evelyn - Lean on Me (live) [originally by Bill Withers]
Via krewechief's Live Music Blog, the conjoined twin cabaret act Evelyn Evelyn fittingly covered this classic song live in Toronto. The twins are the brainchild of Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley and ironically I've seen them each "separately," so I was totally bummed to miss their Vancouver show while I was in Toronto.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Merry Merry Lou

A quick one for you. Last week, I featured Hello Mary Lou, written by Gene Pitney. I also mentioned that the co-writing credit given to Cayet Mangiaracina has its own story...

In short, Mangiaracina (now Father Mangiaracina, a Dominican priest), was in a New Orleans rock band out of high school called The Sparks that had a local hit with Mangiaracina's Merry Merry Lou, written in 1954. A few years later after he had left the band to study for priesthood, The Sparks won a talent competition and got to record with Decca Records in New York, the result being a Merry Merry Lou/Ol' Man River 45 record in 1957. Ricky Nelson's recording of Hello Mary Lou was released in 1961, Decca quickly sued, Mangiaracina was given a co-writing credit, and he still receives royalties to this day.

It didn't take long for the first cover to surface, recorded and released by fellow Decca artist Bill Haley in the same year under the name Mary Mary Lou. Sam Cooke also had his own version on his Encore album in 1958.

The Sparks - Merry Merry Lou

Bill Haley and His Comets - Mary, Mary Lou [originally by The Sparks]

Sam Cooke - Mary, Mary Lou [originally by The Sparks]