Al Green – Before the Next Teardrop Falls (Freddy Fender cover)
Sorry, Beyoncé; the biggest surprise release of the year might be Al Green’s sudden return after a decade away. Well, not totally away; he still conducts weekly services at his Memphis church and, when I attended, was liberally sprinkling quotes from “Love and Happiness” and “Take Me to the River” into his sermons. Best of all: This Freddy Fender cover sounds like Al hasn’t lost a step. It’s apparently a one-off, but hopefully recording it will whet his appetite to do more.
With the exception of a small-minded baker in Colorado with a penchant for litigation, the wedding-service industry has mostly welcomed the legalization of gay marriage in the U.S. because of the new business it brings. Same-sex couples strutting down the aisle in greater numbers presents another hot-button cultural issue: how to find the perfect song for that first dance? Despite the fact that pop music has been loosening its collar since Elvis first shook his pelvis, when it comes to gender roles, mainstream songs tend to be as heteronormative as a ‘50s sitcom, no matter how suggestive the lyrics may be.
To address this issue, and no doubt tap into a lucrative commercial market, MGM Resorts sponsored a six-track EP called Universal Love. The collection features reworked versions of popular love songs with altered pronouns to celebrate same-sex love. The company must be betting big as they tapped serious star power, namely Bob Dylan, St. Vincent, Kele Okereke (lead singer of Bloc Party), Valerie June, Benjamin Gibbard (lead vocalist of Death Cab for Cutie) and Kesha.
A recent trend in the ongoing vinyl revival has been record subscription services, where every month any number of start-ups will send subscribers a few curated records. One such service, Turntable Kitchen, stands out from the pack by commissioning original music: full-length covers of classic albums by younger bands. The service has already released Yumi Zouma covering Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, Jonathan Rado of Foxygen covering Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, and Mutual Benefit covering Vashti Bunyan’s Just Another Diamond Day. Their fourth release is their biggest yet, and also their best. It’s Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service covering Teenage Fanclub’s 1991 masterpiece Bandwagonesque.
One of our favorite bands at last year’s Northside fest, Pure Bathing Culture are currently opening for a little band called Death Cab For Cutie. The kindred Pacific Northwest spirits are perfectly matched- Sarah Versprille’s voice is as distinctive and captivating as Ben Gibbard’s and Pure Bathing Culture as a whole possesses the same catchy, synth heavy, darkly optimistic stylings of their counterpart. It’s these qualities that provide for an effective cover in Elton John’s “Sacrifice.”
They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
Matthew Sweet turns 48 today. In a few weeks his signature album Girlfriend will be old enough to legally drink, but in a more important way, it will never grow old; Sweet’s masterpiece of love and loss is infinitely timeless, and we’re grateful for it permanently placing him in the power-pop pantheon.