Oct 152021
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Isto

Here’s a great example of how internet rabbit holes work. I wanted to find out if the Broccoli family that produced the James Bond movies was named after the vegetable or the other way around (answer: inconclusive but leaning toward the former). I learned that broccoli was considered a delicacy in America in the early 20th century. Then I remembered the famous New Yorker cartoon. Well, I thought, that explains that, and went to learn more about that. This was where I learned that Irving Berlin wrote a song called “I Say It’s Spinach (And the Hell With It),” so of course I had to go find it on YouTube.

This is how I discovered Isto.


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Sep 282021
 
cody fry eleanor rigby

Cody Fry’s new arrangement of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ by The Beatles pays homage to the original whilst being a thing of beauty all on its own. Fry released a score video to accompany his cover which he orchestrated and arranged himself. His vocals are accompanied by the ‘Lonely People International Choir’ which involved participants globally sending in recordings of their contribution. This cover features a full orchestra backing Fry’s ominous delivery of the lyrics. Continue reading »

Aug 162021
 

Colin HayFirst things first: don’t be so hard on yourself. Sure you know who Colin Hay is; he’s the chirpy singer from Men At Work, his slightly husky and agreeable tenor singing about a land where women glow and men plunder. A Scot, who found fame in Australia, he has lived and kept his career going in the US, a resident of Los Angeles for many a long year. Men At Work still exist, sporadically, with Hay the last man standing from the original line-up, but he also has a bevy of solo recordings, amiable and pleasant fare, with a great live show to boot. Now he’s got a new cover collection out, called I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself.

Why a cover album? Well, his choice for the title track gives a clue–that’s right, it’s another quarantine album, where the artist is stuck at home and wants nothing to do with idle hands. It seems these are the songs that have inspired and uplifted Hay over the years. Unsurprisingly, most stem from his teens, with the Beatles, the Kinks, and even Gerry and the Pacemakers all represented. And nothing off-center in the song choices, they all being staples and standards.

Which is perhaps the problem. Songs as ubiquitous as this cry out for something a bit different from the the love and respect he clearly has for them. Individually, they are all polished and presentable. Thrown singly into a performance amidst his own or his band’s stuff, you’d sit up and take note. Together, not so much, it all becoming a little M.O.R. Inoffensive. Bland, even. Having said that, I dare say they would fly off the merch table at a gig, and maybe that is the target demographic.

The title track is a strong start, initially just strummed guitar and Hay’s straining but never strained voice. The piano and strings are then a bit Bacharach. As I guess they would be, he being the author and the originator of the original presentation. A bit too Bacharach, frankly, way more Dusty than the White Stripes. Likewise, when it’s just Hay’s unadorned vocal, “Waterloo Sunset” is fine, but then the strings and some sort of backing chorale gloop in and drench the beauty within this old chestnut.

Strangely, “Wichita Lineman” just about works within this production style, Hay’s vocal endearingly and plaintively sad. Whereas “Norwegian wood” really doesn’t. Here Hay sounds like a busker who has strayed into a an easy listening orchestral jam session. Ghastly.

“Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying”? I had to catch myself here, trying to recall the original, before remembering this was peak Gerry and the Pacemakers at their cloying best. Which actually means that Hay here has, after all, done something surprising with it, excising no small amount of the sickliness that Gerry Marsden regularly injected into it during his later cabaret years. Similarly, I like his rendition of “Ooh La La,” a more “modern” song, sort of. His voice is closer to Ronnie Lane’s, who sang the original for the Faces in 1973, and thus infinitely preferable to Rod Stewart’s latter-day revamp of his old band’s song. I’ll go further, I like this a lot. And like even more the next song, Del Amitri’s “Driving With The Brakes On.” No extraneous strings, just voice, guitar, and piano. Well, most of the way through, the conductor unable to keep his hands of the baton, if with more restraint than earlier on this disc. Are things looking up?

Sadly not, as that busker is still here, this time mangling “Across The Universe,” aided and abetted by Mantovani-alike again. With that bloody wretched choir. Beam me up, Scotty, a fast forward just quick enough to find a not-bad “Can’t Find My Way Home.” As in not that good, just (that word again) inoffensive.

Final track is the Jimmy Cliff classic “Many Rivers To Cross.” Methinks he bases this telling on the Linda Ronstadt version, the piano and guitar broadly redolent thereof. Which is no bad thing, it’s OK, and as good a place as any to close the album.

I think this is a great shame: Hay still has the voice and this is for the most part a good sound song selection. But just who is he listening to on production? The PR says his “frequent collaborator/producer” Chad Fischer, who seems a big cheese on TV themes. Figures.

Heck, what do I know, but, if I did, Colin, I’d say “it’s a mistake”…….

I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself tracklist:
1. I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (Dusty Springfield cover)
2. Waterloo Sunset(Kinks cover)
3. Wichita Lineman (Glen Campbell cover)
4. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) (Beatles cover)
5. Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying (Gerry & the Pacemakers cover)
6. Ooh La La (The Faces cover)
7. Driving With The Brakes On (Del Amitri cover)
8. Across the Universe (Beatles cover)
9. Can’t Find My Way Home (Blind Faith cover)
10. Many Rivers to Cross (Jimmy Cliff cover)

Jul 092021
 

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!

The Jaded Hearts Club

Let’s start our final day of Supergroup Week with the band that started my own deep dive into supergroups…

The origin story of The Jaded Hearts Club is so pure of heart (just look how happy they look above!). Jamie Davis, co-owner of Transcopic Records, wanted a Beatles cover band for his birthday party, so he recruited his musical friends, Matt Bellamy (of Muse), Nic Cester (of Jet), Graham Coxon (of Blur and co-owner of Transcopic), Miles Kane (of Last Shadow Puppets), and Sean Payne (of the Zutons), to help him out. After that initial foray into covers, the band released a cover album in 2020, expanding beyond the Beatles.

This inspired me to look into other supergroups, their origin stories, and the musical networks that create them. What musicians have a day job as musicians but still have creativity overflowing to pour into side projects? There’s an extra layer when supergroups cover other musicians’ work (I’m not including when they cover songs originally by members from their formal musical careers). Cover bands are the ultimate anti-ego; they’re paying their respects to music that has influenced them.

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Jul 092021
 
Tenacious D Beatles cover

Rock Gods commune among us on the Internet these days. In a brief but cheery post shared to his official Facebook page earlier this week, Paul McCartney gave his hearty seal of approval to fellow (comedy) rockers Tenacious D’s latest release: an off-the-wall cover of The Beatles’ “You Never Give Me Your Money / The End.” Continue reading »

Jul 062021
 
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

David Crosby (formerly of Byrds), Stephen Stills (formerly of Buffalo Springfield), and Graham Nash (formerly of the Hollies) formed the creatively named Crosby, Stills & Nash supergroup in 1968. There were no formal ties between the three; they had just played together in non-formal settings and were wrapping up their involvement in their previous bands around the same time. Starting in 1969, Neil Young (who knew Stills from Buffalo Springfield) was in and out of the group. This supergroup is the first band to have all members inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, true supergroup status!

Despite their popularity and success, there was frequent transition between being a trio and being a quartet due to conflicting dynamics within the group. They started as CSN in 1968, became CSNY in 1969, and then went on a hiatus in 1970. Until 1973 everyone was working solo, and then CSNY 2.0 arose in 1973. By 1976 they were down to CSN. Young made his final stint in the band starting in 1988 but wasn’t always part of the touring, especially in the 2010s.

Crosby, Stills & Nash were supposed to release a covers album, teased in 2010 and 2014, but it never happened. A devoted fan has crafted a place holder if you can’t let it go.

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