Jul 162018
kamasi washington covers

Despite reports to the contrary, jazz is still not dead. Leading the genre well into the 21st century is saxophonist Kamasi Washington, whose experimental, freeform playing style has earned him comparisons to jazz legends from John Coltrane to Pharoah Sanders. Washington recently released a double-album Heaven and Earth and an EP The Choice that included covers of the Fist of Fury movie theme, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “O-o-h Child.”

The theme to the 1972 Bruce Lee film Fist of Fury is like a snapshot of Hollywood themes of old, somewhere between the majestic sounds that defined old Westerns and the soundtracks to early James Bond films. Washington transforms the cover, which he renamed “Fists of Fury,” into a nine-minute experimental protest anthem. With the song, he merges the orchestral soul that defined the spirit of ‘70s blaxploitation flicks with fusion jazz.

Washington opens the track with a blast of strings and percussion and a series of choral style “Ahs” and “Ohs” followed by the opening words: “I use hands to help my fellow man.” The first verse is followed by extended piano and saxophone solos. For the finale, vocalists Patrice Quinn and Dwight Trible call out the lyrics: “Our time as victims is over/We will no longer ask for justice/Instead we will take our retribution.”

More than just a cover, it’s a full-on call to action. “‘Fists of Fury’ is about being assertive and taking the power that you have,” Washington told The FADER in a recent interview. “African-American people are asking for justice from a country that has never given it to us, and at a certain point you realize there’s no intention to give you that justice, and no desire for you to have it from those people you are asking for it from — so why ask? If you’re asking someone for justice that means you feel like justice is outside of your control, and I don’t feel like it is.”

Within the packaging of the Heaven and Earth album, Washington also included a five-track EP called The Choice. The second song is a cover of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” which was written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin and first made famous by the Shirelles. Over the years it has been covered by numerous artists – and King herself recorded a version on her classic 1971 album Tapestry. The track begins with a slow fade-in of percussion, piano and saxophone. Patrice Quinn delivers a bluesy take on the lyrics, and Washington delivers a thunderous solo.

To close out The Choice, Washington performed a reworking of the Five Stairsteps’ 1970 soul classic “O-o-h Child.” A message song through and through with its uplifting lyrics “Ooh child, things are gonna get easier.” Washington stretches the track out to nearly nine minutes and gives it a retro-futurist vibe, combining ‘70s style funk with Star Trek-style sound effects. The lyrics themselves are almost given a back seat as Washington stretches out his solos. Taken by themselves, the three tracks almost make for an album in and of themselves, and show that Washington is a force to be reckoned with in contemporary jazz.

Click here to listen to more Carole King covers.

Jul 022018
cover songs june
Andrew Combs – Reptila (The Strokes cover)

The Strokes’ Is This It songs have been covered to death, so musicians are digging deeper. We heard a killer Angles cover in April from Billie Eilish (more on her in a minute), and now singer-songwriter Andrew Combs takes on this Room on Fire track. His own music leans Nashville Americana, but from the crazy horns here, sounds like he’s been spending time in New Orleans. Continue reading »

Oct 192017
lisa loeb covers

During their 1970s heyday, the family band Five Stairsteps were dubbed “The First Family of Soul.” These days, though, they’re best remembered for a single song: the uplifting slow-burn “O-o-h Child.” It’s become something of a standard over the years, covered by everyone from Nina Simone to Hall & Oates.

The latest make things easier/brighter is Lisa Loeb. Like the Stairsteps, she’s had multiple hits, but one stands above all else: 1994’s “Stay (I Missed You).” Her cover of “O-o-h Child,” off her new off her new kids covers album Lullaby Girl, keeps the basic Five Stairsteps format but slows it down a bit, replacing the big group vocals with a tender ballad croon.

“I’m not the first person ever to cover ‘O-O-H Child,’ but it is one of my favorites from the ’70s and I was really excited to approach it within the context of my Lullaby Girl album with my creative collaborator and producer/arranger Larry Goldings,” Loeb told Billboard, who premiered the video. “I feel that the video really looks like this song recording: it’s real, it’s intimate and it’s calming, but it has a good hint of the real energy behind it, like the original recording that inspired it.”

Check out more from Lisa Loeb on her website.