Wednesday, 20 June 2007

under the covers

This is inspired by one of my favourite blogs Say Anything Syndrome from a post about alternate versions or 'covers' of songs. I've always held a torch for bands who can reinvent songs into something special and new, and this post was the catalyst I needed for me to dig around my music library for some examples of these.

After scouring my music library I came up with nice selection of covers which radically manipulate the originals in each case, performing perhaps ethically-questionable experimentation to their original rhythms, phrasings and melodies.

(If you download only 1 track make sure it's this one by Nada Surf)

On review of the tracks I chose I believe these to all be excellent examples of what is to be gained by considerate reorganisation of the track's core structures. It is my firm belief that some songs are more easily re-moulded into alternate versions, or to borrow a concept in neuroscience; they have greater reorganisational 'plasticity' (as the infant brain does, seen in it's better ability to recover function after injury compared to that of an adult - interested? See Wikipedia here).

This is not to say that the efforts of these artists has not required immense skill to reshape these songs, but rather that they have been able to do so because the potential has existed in the first place. In some cases I would say I prefer the reorganised versions, with which you are more than welcome to disagree with me. Well without further ado here they are,I hope you are enlightened.

First up, setting the standard very high indeed is a cover of a pretty middle-of-the-road Dylan song by the god-like-genius of Jimi Hendrix. For me this cover completely gives a new life and meaning to a song which in it's original form plods along like any of Dylan's less-acclaimed work. It's no wonder that it's topped best ever cover listings before; from the heavily-accented intro beats, to the immediacy of Jimi's vocals and the cosmic guitar solos - Hendrix sounds as majestic as ever. This cover is simply a masterpiece, never mind what is considered of the original.

MP3: All Along the Watchtower - Bob Dylan
MP3: All Along the Watchtower - The Jimi Hendrix Experience

I've been waiting for ages for a good opportunity to post this next song. Whilst not technically a cover, it's a live re-working a song by the production genius of LCD Soundsystem. In it's 'shallow' version, LCD show how the indie-dance vibe of Tribulations can be stripped to it's bare bones and still work quite beautifully. A very nice example of re-phrasing vocals too.

MP3: Tribulations - LCD Soundsystem
MP3: Tribulations (shallow version) - LCD Soundsystem [infos]

This next cover is of a very sexy song and by a very sexy lady too. I'm talking about Gwen Stefani of course, and the song 'what you waiting for?' which I stumbled upon in a covered version in a CD that came free with Q magazine. This is an admirable effort by the boys in Franz Ferdinand. Especially nice is the intro riffs they add, the heaviness of the bass and the splicing-in of Billy Idol's White Wedding at the end.

MP3: What you waiting for? - Gwen Stefani [info]
MP3: What you waiting for? - Franz Ferdinand [info]

I heard this next song for the first time in it's covered form as I expect many others did in an episode of series 1 OC. It's the bit when Anna is leaving Newport for good, she's at the airport with her bags, Seth has only just found out she's leaving and him and Ryan rush to the scene to stop her. As he runs through the airport he catches sight of her and calls her name. She turns around, startled. He tells her she can't leave, that he needs her - he thinks she loves him but is mistaken. Still he pleads for her to stay.

As the chorus of the song kicks in, she turns around and tells him goodbye with her final advice: 'Confidence, Cohen'. The song playing in the background 'if you leave' is co-ordinated perfectly with what's happening on-screen and makes for a very emotional goodbye scene. This is all thanks to arranging genius of Nada Surf, who took what sounds like a throw-away 80's pop track and made it something so beautifully heartfelt and emotional. The building of layers upon the simplicity of a pulsing bass-line lifts this song to a higher plane.

MP3: If you leave - OMD
MP3: If you leave - Nada Surf [info]

And now I've talked about all that whoosy emotional stuff, how about we end on a cover by a ballsy punk legend? Joey Ramone turns this sensational jazz classic into his own with the help of chugging rhythm-guitar and well-placed riffing. Joey is keeping the same message of the song, he's still saying 'what a wonderful world', it's just in a very different tone to Loui. It's one with the certainty of a rock n' roller whos been through it all, survived it all, and is still sure: it's a wonderful world.

MP3: What a wonderful world - Loui Armstrong

MP3: What a wonderful world - Joey Ramone

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