Jul 162019
 

In Defense takes a second look at a much maligned cover artist or album and asks, “Was it really as bad as all that?”

Pat Boone

Reasons abound for maligning Pat Boone’s career in popular music. The catalyst for his career was a string of covers of R&B tunes by black artists for whom the legacy of segregation never afforded the same amount of wealth. White artists made substantially more than their counterpart artists of color. Major record labels had larger distribution chains, promotional budgets, and stronger connections to radio and television networks to advantage their artists. By contrast, black musicians on “race records” benefited from none of these privileges. While artists like Little Richard, Big Joe Turner, and Fats Domino have enjoyed staying power and wide acclaim for being architects of rock music, in the early decades of that genre, white covers were commercially more successful. Added to this was the exploitative nature of covers on larger labels that made more money than the originals while paying out no royalties to the black originators. Boone was unapologetic that his career benefited from this exploitation.

It is also noteworthy that Boone’s performance and lyricism of some of rock’s first generation of are a case study in the sanitized tastes of the burgeoning white middle class in the 1950s. His smooth vocal delivery was reminiscent of crooners rather than the raspy, full-throated yowl of Little Richard. And the lyrical changes on “Tutti Frutti” were a nod to teenage infatuation stripped of any of the sexuality in Little Richard’s original.

Despite Boone representing the residuals of white privilege while Jim Crow reigned supreme, there is a note of appreciation to be made for Boone and contemporaries Elvis Presley and Bill Haley in helping to extend the reach of rock music to new audiences at a critical juncture in that genre’s history.
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Oct 032018
 
cyrus chestnut smoke on the water

Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” has such a memorable opening riff that whether it’s covered by a high school marching band or Pat Boone, it’s instantly recognizable. The latest artist to take the trip to “Montreux on the Lake Geneva shoreline” is jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut, who included an instrumental cover on his new album Kaleidoscope.

Chestnut is not the first jazz artist to take on Deep Purple’s classic (Google “Smoke on the Water” Jazz Covers if you really need to hear more). But in his five-minute cover he takes the song in a number of experimental directions. So much so that if drug-addled ‘70s rock fans were suddenly transplanted to a Chestnut concert they might have their minds collectively blown.

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Aug 232012
 

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Deep Purple’s hard rock classic Machine Head. In recognition of Deep Purple’s influence some of rock music’s biggest names have contributed a version of their favorite track from the album for a tribute. The result is Re-Machined: A Tribute To Deep Purple’s Machine Head.  There are two very differing versions of the album’s most famous track “Smoke On The Water”, one from guitar legend Carlos Santana with vocals by Jacoby Shaddix and one from alternative rockers The Flaming Lips. Continue reading »

Oct 112011
 

It’s a rare enough thing to get a full covers album based on a conceptual theme. It is a once-in-a-lifetime cover album when that theme is space and the artist is the man who has boldly gone where no man has gone before. Canadian-born actor, musician, author, producer, and director, William Shatner, aka Captain James T. Kirk from the ’60s TV series Star Trek, is that man.

Set for release this Tuesday October 11, Shatner’s Seeking Major Tom will be available as a one volume digital download, two CDs and three vinyl LP set. The album is being released along with his new book Shatner Rules: Your Guide to Understanding the Shatnerverse and the World at Large. Continue reading »

Aug 242010
 

Song of the Day posts one cool cover every morning. Catch up on past installments here.

Now, there’s nothing inherently difficult about getting through 32 songs in eight minutes. Try this: “Hey Jude, please please please roll over the rainbow and turn on the 4th red brick in the wall. Rattle and roll a muzzle of cheeseburger puppets to Alice’s house of the rising sonic exploder and sedate my shame and fortune to the blue suede siren. Small and humble homies gonna cut your hair down to the crossroads, but only the funk soul dandy compares 2 losing my rock lobster. No ‘G’ thang, no cry.”

There’s, that’s 32 songs and it took about twenty seconds [side challenge: how many can you identify?]. Getting through 32 songs and making it sound good though…well, that’s something else entirely. Fredrik Larsson aka. Freddegredde pulls it off in a speedy YouTube medley, nodding at viral videos alongside the rock and pop. View the video below, then peruse the full list of songs below the clip. Continue reading »