Last night, London’s Royal Albert Hall held the “The Sound of 007” concert, promoting a new documentary of the same name about James Bond themes. A host of artists came out to sing some of the greatest (and, in a few cases, not-so-great) Bond songs, and plenty of videos are now online.
In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
Jamie Cullum is a jazz artist with fluency in the crossover to pop. He has won and been nominated for jazz-specific and more general awards alike, collecting a Rising Star British Jazz Award and most recently a Radio Academy Award for his BBC Radio show. He also scored a nomination for a Best Original Song Golden Globe, for “Gran Torino.” Admittedly, 2005 was a bit of an awkward year when he won both the BBC Jazz Award for Artist of the Year and the Worst British Male award from the parody Naomi Awards. Showing perseverance, Cullum won the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Award for Best British Male two years later.
Many of Cullum’s covers come from two “Song Society” albums, where he challenges himself to create a new take on a song in an hour, allowing for a lot of creative improvisation to shape the end product. The songs chosen include new hits on the pop charts as well as some throwbacks and standards. Other covers are sprinkled throughout his original albums as well. Here we take a sonic journey through a handful of his covers that both show his range as an artist and span original genres and decades. This doesn’t even cover (ha) his whole jazz cover album Interlude, so if you are a jazz cat, check it out.
P.S. Fun fact: Cullum is married to Roald Dahl’s granddaughter. If you are a Matilda, BFG, Willy Wonka, or Witches fan, there is even more of a reason to read on.
The first post of the month features covers of every track on a famous album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
In 1967 Jimi Hendrix exploded on the scene with his debut Are You Experienced. It only took about twenty seconds into “Purple Haze” to realize rock and roll wasn’t going to be the same. Though Hendrix covers tend to be an excuse for self-indulgent guitar wankery, approaching Jimi’s compositions from other angles reveals an underappreciated songwriting talent.
Edit 1/16: Links removed by request of the RIAA.
RDM – Purple Haze
If Hendrix had lived longer, maybe he would have experimented with mariachi. Since he didn’t, RDM explores the possibilities. [Buy]
Will Phalen – Manic Depression
The number one test of a good song: being able to withstand the transition to solo acoustic. [Buy]
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Hey Joe (Billy Roberts)
After he blew up in Britain, Jimi brought the Experience to perform on lame variety show It’s Lulu (hosted by the “To Sir With Love” singer). After her inane introduction, Hendrix dutifully makes it through about two minutes of the song before declaring “We’re going to stop playing this rubbish” and busting into Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love.” The show quickly pulls the plug, but the video lives on. [Buy]
Screaming Trees – Love or Confusion
Grunge pioneers Screaming Trees never achieved the fame of fellow Northwest residents Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but before the label blew up Sub Pop released this song on a 1988 compilation. The guitars are just as loud as ever, but crunch and noise take the place of soloing. [Buy]
Emmylou Harris – May This Be Love
When Emmylou Harris released her acclaimed Wrecking Ball in 1995, she brought her sound over to a new generation of alternative radio listeners with the help of a non-country producer (Daniel Lanous in this case). It set the prototype for Johnny Cash’s American Recordings. [Buy]
Beauty Pill – I Don’t Live Today
Some of Hendrix’s hardest rocking songs are also his saddest. [Buy]
Jamie Cullum – The Wind Cries Mary
Jazz-pop pianist Jamie Cullum’s 2003 album Twentysomething featured covers of “Singing in the Rain” and “I Could Have Danced All Night.” Needless to say, this swinging choice came out of left field. [Buy]
Pat Metheny – Third Stone from the Sun
This song has a similar title as the awful ’90s television show 3rd Rock from the Sun (responsible for the cardinal sin of bringing French Stewart into our lives). Try not to hold that against it. [Buy]
Giant Sand – Foxy Lady
Attending the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary show in October (my review), I saw Jeff Beck bring out Billy Gibbons for a faithful version of this one (video). As anyone familiar with their work will guess, Giant Sand takes it in a different direction. Dissonance meets spoken-word recitation in this blast of atonal noise. [Buy]
Patti Smith – Are You Experienced?
Patti released this on her 2007 covers album Twelve. While good, it paled next to more ambitious takes on “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Gimme Shelter.” In live performances like this one though, she stretched it out to a blistering twelve minutes complete with free-form poetry and dissonant clarinet solos. [Buy]