Jun 292010

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

The Cold War Kids covering Creedence Clearwater Revival is like Coldplay covering U2, Lady Gaga covering Madonna, or John Mayer covering Eric Clapton. Every aspect of their sound indicates the Kids hold John Fogerty and CCR in some esteem, so you wonder if a cover can make the leap beyond mere reverence.

It can. The Kids have been playing “Long As I Can See the Light” on tour for a little while now, but this performance at Rolling Stone HQ strips the band down a organ-fueled trio. Nathan Willett’s cracking falsetto can bring new emotion to even the most obvious choice.
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Health Care

 Posted by at 4:00 pm  No Responses »
Mar 222010

Last night, at 10:45pm, the health care bill passed by a vote of 219-212. It’s been a hard fight and I think even the bill’s most ardent supporters will be glad to move on. The “debate” never recovered any sense of maturity after a particularly nasty summer, but hopefully once the dust settles the benefits will win out over the rhetoric.

Fatima Mansions – Lady Godiva’s Operation (The Velvet Underground) [Buy]
Hearing John Cale and Lou Reed go back and forth about this operation is enough to make one a Christian Scientist. You’re not sure if you’re in an E.R. or a torture chamber.

Soul Asylum – Sexual Healing (Marvin Gaye) [Buy]
This song came out in 1982, but for some reason the FDC still hasn’t approved sexual healing as a legitimate medicinal procedure. They must still be conducting tests…

Jeffries Fan Club – Healthy Body (Operation Ivy) [Buy]
Operation Ivy only released one proper album, but their songs have been covered by everyone from Green Day (“Knowledge”) to the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies (“Sound System”).

The Detroit Cobras – Insane Asylum (Koko Taylor and Willie Dixon) [Buy]
The Detroit Cobras are the best cover band around. It’s not even close. Who else would have inspired an entire blog devoted to unearthing the songs they cover?

Garland Jeffries – Washington D.C. Hospital Center Blues (Skip James) [Buy]
It’s not surprising that Skip James has only good things to say about hospitals. After all, his career was resuscitated in one when blues archivists John Fahey, Bill Barth and Henry Vestine came for a bedside visit in 1964. He died five years later, but not before being covered by Cream and performing at the Newport Folk Festival. [more delta blues covers]

Soda & His Million Piece Band – St. James Infirmary Blues (Trad.) [Buy]
This song is actually included on a White Stripes tribute album because of how often they performed it. Soda fills out the garage song with lowdown dirty horns and a duet with a girl who sounds like she might just be St. James herself. [more White Stripes covers]

Florence and the Machine – Hospital Beds (Cold War Kids) [Buy]
I called Florence and the Machine’s recent album Lungs the twelfth best album of 2009, but if they became a covers band I would have on complete. The Kids’ bloozy crunch gets an AED jolt from one of the most powerful voices in music today. [more Cold War Kids covers]

Hell Blues Choir – I Don’t Need No Doctor (Ray Charles) [Buy]
The great thing about Hell Blues Choir is how little they sound like a choir. We heard them swing through “Downtown Train” a few weeks ago, but “I Don’t Need No Doctor” sounds even less choral. It even has a guitar solo! [more Ray Charles covers]

Foetus in Excelsis Corruptus – Faith Healer (Sensational Alex Harvey Band) [Buy]
Foetus varied their name often throughout their career, taking on such unpleasant pseudonyms as You’ve Got Foetus on Your Break and Scraping Foetus off the Wheel. You get the sense they might have been on Rep. Bill Stupak’s side on the no-coverage-for-abortions issue.

Jill Sobule – Don’t Let Us Get Sick (Warren Zevon) [Buy]
This song breaks my heart every time. Warren Zevon had a lifelong phobia of doctors, avoiding checkups until it was too late. Even when he was diagnosed with cancer, he refused treatment, choosing instead to record one more album. The Wind was released on August 26, 2003. Warren died twelve days later. [more Warren Zevon covers]

Jan 212009

–Edit: Lots of posts disappearing from blogger. I’m reposting this one with links since it was so recent, but the others will be sadly link-less.–

An exciting day tomorrow. I don’t even remember what it’s like to have a government I trust, so it’ll be nice to see old G-Dubs head back to Crawford. Here’s hoping that Obama and co. can get this country back on the road to peace, justice, and compassion.

Elliott Murphy – Better Days (Bruce Springsteen)
One of Springsteen’s better songs from his stagnant period with the “Other Band” in the early 90’s. He often joked that after decades of songs about the down-and-out, when he finally wrote some happy songs, everyone turned away. Sounds like he’s back to positivity with next week’s Working On a Dream though. We’ll see how that pans out. [Buy]

Sanctus Real – Beautiful Day (U2)
U2’s Christian roots are widely known, though one would be amiss to call them “Christian rock.” In fact, most Christian radio stations will play covers of U2 songs, but not the originals. In that case, they might play this one, from an all-Christian rock cover disc to U2 released for charity. Sanctus Real crunchifies this recent cut, keeping it just stadium-ready enough at the chorus. [Buy]

Ellen McIlwaine – Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder)
The third in our string of Inaugural performers is the most relevant; this is actually the song Wonder chose to perform yesterday with Usher and Shakira (video). Originally a classic soul stomp, McIlwaine’s funky blues guitar takes it a completely different direction. [Buy]

Pearl Jam – People Have the Power (Patti Smith)
It’s a popular song for the politically-conscious artist to take on, be it Bruce Springsteen or U2. At a live show in ’03 Eddie Vedder propelled the band through this grunge-rock growl of an anthem. You can see him perform it with Smith herself here. [Buy]

Status Quo – Getting Better (The Beatles)
A cut from Sgt. Pepper’s getting even more orchestral and layered? Not possible you say? The Quo is here to tell you different. With strings, horns, and glockenspiel, the sound matches the optimism. [Buy]

Doyle Bramhall – I Can See Clearly Now (Johnny Nash)
It’s a hell of a song, but most versions of this soul classic sound about the same. Not true of Bramhall’s blues rocker, copious guitar work embellishing the joy in his voice. [Buy]

Cold War Kids – A Change Is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke)
It’s a live one, from a set at Bonnaroo ’07 at which they also covered the much more pessimistic “Dirt in the Ground” by Tom Waits. This one’s been cited a lot recently, first in Obama’s Grant Park acceptance speech in which he said “It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.” [Buy]

Barb Jungr – Things Have Changed (Bob Dylan)
Jungr’s a perennial Dylan cover artist, bringing a dark cabaret to Bob’s Oscar-winning theme for Wonderboys, arguably the best song he’s written in the last twenty years. [Buy]

Floyd Dixon – Blue Skies (Tom Waits)
Nope, this isn’t the Irving Berlin song of the same name (though that would have been a good choice too), but a very early Waits songs that he never saw fit to put on an album. A shame, because this tale of moving beyond hardship is beautiful. The guys knows he has a long way to go to be happy again, but he’s willing to try. It’s a good metaphor for America these days actually. [Buy]

Bob Dylan – This Land Is Your Land (Woody Guthrie)
Pete Seeger and Springsteen sang this one at the Inauguration concert and, fun as that was, it didn’t reinvent the song like Bob did at a 1963 show. Toying with the melody as is his wont, Dylan doesn’t let reverence to his idol interfere with a fresh interpretation. Woody would have been proud. [Buy]


 Posted by at 3:29 am  1 Response »
Aug 262008

I’m sitting here watching the Democratic National Convention, which is something else. Hundreds of political bigwigs, dressed in stern suits, acting like cheerleaders with the banners, cheering, waving at the camera, etc. I almost expected Howard Dean to streak. So as this damn election continues to never end, here are some political songs. Trying playing them over the campaign commercials; it make might make them more enjoyable.

Kodiak – Political World (Bob Dylan)
An underrated gem from Dylan’s underrated Oh Mercy, it touches on every sense of the word political. “We live in a political world / In cities of lonesome fear / Little by little you turn in the middle / But you’re never sure why you’re here.”

Sam Bush – Mr. President (Have Pity on the Working Man) (Randy Newman)
This song hits the theme of this election dead on: which candidate will have the most pity on the working man.

Cold War Kids – Electioneering (Radiohead)
I didn’t get a chance to throw this in last week’s Radiohead post, but doesn’t this sound familiar: “I will stop, I will stop at nothing / Say the right things when electioneering / I trust I can rely on your vote.”

Pickin’ On Series – American Idiot (Green Day)
I’m normally first in line to criticize series like this, which tend to just take the chords to a song and play them on a different instrument (banjo, accordion, distortion guitar, whatever). For this song at least, these anonymous session musicians sound like they tried for more than a paycheck, with a harmonies, solos, etc. And, unusual for the genre, it’s not instrumental – a big plus.

Deluxx Folk Implosion – I’m Just a Bill (Schoolhouse Rock)
Everything you forgot from eighth grade history is here in this song. I grew up on Schoolhouse Rock, and the fact that a full disc of covers exists (Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks) makes me very happy indeed.

Donavon Frankenreiter – Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
A furious anti-Vietnam diatribe, the sentiments apply today as much as they did in 1969 now that a fortunate son’s in charge. Frankenreiter does away with John Fogerty’s blazing guitar line for some sensitive-guitar chiming acoustic.

Ann Vriend – Rockin’ in the Free World (Neil Young)
Kudos to Cover Lay Down for turning me onto this one, a song so often covered the same way, as easily jammable as “Watchtower”. With an ominous string section though, Vriend’s take is almost gothic folk, emphasizing the struggle you have to get through to keep on rocking.

Billy Bragg & Wilco – Stetson Kennedy (Woody Guthrie)
Greatest song ever about voting for a third-party candidate. Though I can’t think of any others.

Joan Baez – Christmas in Washington (Steve Earle)
Joan Baez, doing a political song? Shocking indeed. Calling out both Republicans and
Democrats is direct even for her though. This is a more recent offering than her flower child 60’s days, from her 2003 release Dark Chords on a Big Guitar.

Barenaked Ladies – Fight the Power (Public Enemy)
BNL seems about as likely to fight the power as a wet noodle, but that just adds to the novelty fun of this. I can’t imagine Chuck and Flav would approve though.