Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
“Stay With Me Baby” was written by Jerry Ragovoy, the master of of slow-burn hearts a’rending songs like this. Here he was joined by, oddly, George Weiss, better known for the “Lullaby of Birdland” lyrics and the syrupy evergreen of “(What a) Wonderful World.” Nothing syrupy here, though. Is there a song with more wracked rawness than this almost primal howl of grief, an astonishing masterclass in anguish? The open throat of Lorraine Ellison combines with the freeze-frame build from piano to orchestra, again and again, ramping up the tension from verse to verse. Ellison’s biggest hit by a country mile, (only) #64 in 1966, she actually had a decent enough track record of other recordings, sufficient to fill a brace of best-ofs that contain considerably more than just that that one song, if largely similar fare.
It takes a certain sort of singer to be able to fulfil the commitment of the song, which perhaps is why it gravitates towards those whose life stories are known to contain similar emotions. Sadly, some of these form part of period piece recreations for TV shows, and have little to add or offer to the need of this piece. Which is a shame, as Chris Cornell‘s rendition for Vinyl is a doozy, and would be a definite inclusion, had it added any originality beyond his exquisite vocal. But there are still a few who pack the necessary punch in the gut, yet with additional touches of nuance to stand out from the throng.