Archive for the ‘Covering Cocker’ Category

‘Quick Stop, Good Day . . .’

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

So as we resume our somewhat dormant project of finding covers for the ten tracks on Joe Cocker’s 1969 album Joe Cocker!, we find ourselves considering the final track on what was Side One of the album, “Hitchcock Railway,” which also happens to be my favorite track on the record (and almost certainly my favorite Joe Cocker track of all time, a status cemented, no doubt, by the rollicking version I recall from seeing Cocker perform in 1972).

The song came from the duo of Don Dunn and Tony McCashen, who released a couple of albums as the Sixties became the Seventies and had a minor hit with “Alright In The City,” which went to No. 91 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1970. They’d put out a single of “Hitchcock Railway” in 1969, but it did not chart.

They weren’t the first to record the song, though. In 1968, José Feliciano had released a single version of the tune that had gone to No. 77. That’s the only time a recording of the tune has charted.

And there aren’t a lot of versions of the song out there. Second Hand Songs lists six. Along with three already mentioned, the website mentions versions by an Irish group called Anno Domini, Latin bandleader Mongo Santamaria and bluegrass singer Claire Lynch. There are at least a few more: I have a 1972 studio version by a band from Ohio called Clockwork and a live cut from Cleveland’s Agora arena, also from 1972 with the same arrangement, credited, however, to a band called Change. (I’m assuming that the band took a new name.)

And at Amazon, there are a few versions I have not heard by groups I’m unfamiliar with: The Hegg Brothers, Sweet Wine, and Chris & Mike.

I like all the versions I have, to various degree, but to be honest, only the Joe Cocker version grabs hold of me by the ear and shakes me around the room. So to find a cover that works with our slowly moving project, we’re heading to bluegrass territory. CLaire Lynch has been performing and recording since the 1970s, first as a member of the Front Porch String Band, and then on her own. She formed the Claire Lynch Band in 2005. Her take on “Hitchcock Railway” was on her 1997 album Silver and Gold.

‘But She Could Not Rob . . .’

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

Taking up our project of replicating Joe Cocker’s self-titled 1969 album through a series of covers, we come to the fourth track of that fine album, “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.”

When I heard the album for the time in the spring of 1972, I was a little skeptical. I knew the original version, of course, from the long set of three medleys on Side Two of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album, where it follows “Polythene Pam” and ends the second medley (leaving listeners with a brief moment of silence before Paul McCartney’s piano opens the final medley with “Golden Slumbers”).

But the song itself – credited to the writing partnership of John Lennon and McCartney but written solely by McCartney – was such a brief snippet, running less than two minutes on Abbey Road, that I wondered as Cocker’s album played how it could be stretched to a full track. Well, Cocker didn’t stretch it a lot, but he and producers Denny Cordell and Leon Russell added a guitar solo between the verses and got the track to 2:37. Good enough.

But as we replicate Joe Cocker! with covers, which other version of “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” do we use? There are plenty to choose from. Second Hand Songs lists twenty-two covers, and there are more listed at Amazon. No doubt there are others not listed either place.

Booker T & The MG’s included the song in an instrumental medley on McLemore Avenue in 1970. It’s a decent version, but it isn’t as good as some of the other covers on the Abbey Road tribute. Ray Stevens covered the song on Everything Is Beautiful in 1970, adding a funky voodoo rhythm behind his blah vocal.

On 1972’s Feel Good, Ike & Tina Turner offered a herky-jerky, gender-flipped cover of the song laden with some of the most unpleasant shrieks of Tina’s career. The Youngbloods turned the song into a near-country shuffle on their 1972 album, High On A Ridge Top, adding slide guitar and some nice country-folk accents and harmonies.

The Bee Gees took two stabs at “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.” The first came for the soundtrack to All This And World War II, which, says Wikipedia, is a 1976 musical documentary that juxtaposes covers of Beatles songs “with World War II newsreel footage and 20th Century Fox films from the 1940s. It lasted two weeks in cinemas and was quickly sent into storage.” As to the Bee Gees’ contribution, the vocals sounded like the Bee Gees and no one else, but the orchestral backing was overly busy. With the addition of Peter Frampton, the Brothers Gibb took another swing at the song for the 1978 movie, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Bracketed by “Polythene Pam” and “Nowhere Man,” the cover is as dull as one can imagine.

I noticed, without listening to them, several other covers of “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.” Eddie Money and Los Lonely Boys each took on the song in 2009, as did British singer-songwriter Karima Francis. Her version was released on a 2009 tribute celebrating the 40th anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ album, titled Abbey Road Now! (The CD was included free with MOJO Magazine No. 191, dated October 2009.)

I also noticed that the tune has been covered by several groups naming themselves with ghastly Beatle-related puns, including Yellow Dubmarine and Shabby Road.

So there are lots of choices out there. But I’m going with the first cover of the song that ever came to me, one that I heard across the street at Rick’s. Here, from his 1970 album Fireworks, is José Feliciano’s idiosyncratic cover of “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.”

‘Sure Look Good To Me . . .’

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

As we put together an alternate version of Joe Cocker’s second album – the 1969 release Joe Cocker! – there are a few tracks where our choices for an alternate version will be limited.

That’s not the case with the third track on the album, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.” Covers of the tune have been coming out of studios fairly regularly since Lloyd Price wrote and recorded the song in 1952. Released on the Los Angeles-based Specialty label and credited to Lloyd Price & His Orchestra, the record went to No. 1 on two of the three R&B charts tracked at the time by Billboard. It was No. 1 for one week on the Most Played In Juke Boxes chart and for seven weeks on the Best Sellers In Stores charts.

And after that came the covers. Second Hand Songs doesn’t have all of them, but it lists seventy-six covers, starting with Elvis Presley’s 1956 version, which was on his first, self-titled album, and ending with two versions released in 2011: One by the Hucklebucks on the album Juke Box Blues and the other by the venerable P.J. Proby on his self-released album One Night of Elvis – One Hour With Proby.

Along with Price’s original and Joe Cocker’s cover, there are three other versions on the digital shelves here in the EITW studios: Elvis’ version from 1956, Johnny River’s take on the tune from his 1964 album At The Whisky á Go-Go and Paul McCartney’s cover from his Cнова в CCCP album, originally released exclusively in the Soviet Union in 1988. Of those three, I prefer Presley’s take; McCartney’s version sounds like an Elvis impression, and Rivers’ version seems a little flat.

Moving beyond the slender pickings here, two versions of the tune have made the Billboard Hot 100: Gary Stites’ fairly bland cover went to No. 47 in 1960, and the Buckinghams got to No. 41 with a cover that raced ahead about 40 percent faster than any other version I’ve heard. (In Top Pop Singles, Joel Whitburn lists the Buckinghams’ version as “Laudy Miss Claudy,” noting that some pressings used the correct spelling.)

A number of the other versions on the list at Second Hand Songs (which did not yet list Stites’ version) sparked some interest. Little Richard’s cover from his 1964 album Little Richard Is Back (And There’s a Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On) barrels along like a classic Penniman side. Larry Williams released a 1959 cover that’s okay but doesn’t add a whole lot to the versions that came before. The same goes for a couple of covers by British groups: The Swingin’ Blue Jeans in 1964 and the Hollies in 1965.

Later covers came from Sandy Nelson (1967), Ronnie Hawkins, the Nashville Teens and Ike Turner (all 1972), Bill Haley & The Comets (1973), Conway Twitty and Fats Domino (both 1974) and on and on through Travis Tritt (1994), Cliff Richard & The Drifters (1997) and Noel Redding With 3:05 A.M. (2003) with more to follow.

I haven’t listened to all of those – and some I only sampled at Amazon – but I liked (unsurprisingly) the Tritt and Domino versions, and a few seconds of Redding’s version was enough. Nothing much else – and I’ve listened to at least a bit of about twenty-five versions of the tune – made an impression. (And I should note that I got a little weary of the many, many times that covers of the song began with the triplet-rich piano introduction created for Price’s 1952 original by Domino.)

It came down to two versions of the song for our remake of Cocker’s album: Either Price’s original or Tritt’s 1994 cover from the Elvis tribute It’s Now Or Never. And I went with Tritt.

‘If I Have Been Unkind . . .’

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

As I was learning how to make my way across the ocean of rock, blues R&B and all the rest during the early 1970s, I imagine that somewhere, I ran across the music of Leonard Cohen. Someone at a party, a dorm bull session, a quiet evening or somewhere else had to have put onto the stereo one of Cohen’s early albums – Songs Of Leonard Cohen, Songs From A Room or Songs Of Love and Hate.

I would have been unimpressed. The generally spare melodies and arrangements and the plainness of Cohen’s voice would have left me wanting more and would have over-ridden any regard I might have had for the quality of Cohen’s songs. Some of those songs I would have known via covers by other artists, like Judy Collins’ versions of “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye,” “Suzanne” and “Sisters Of Mercy,” and I liked those, but Cohen’s own versions left me cold.

(In writing that, I find some irony, for over the decades, I’ve been dismayed to hear friends say essentially the same thing about Bob Dylan: I like his songs, but I cannot stand the way he sings.)

So even though there’s a fair amount of Cohen’s work on both the vinyl and digital shelves here, very little of it is played. The only album of Cohen’s that I truly like is his 1992 work, The Future, and with the exception of the great track “Closing Time,” my regard for the album is tied more to its time and my place then.

This comes up now, of course, because as we put together an alternate version of Joe Cocker’s second album, Joe Cocker!, we run right into Leonard Cohen’s “Bird On A Wire.” It’s the second track on Cocker’s album, and his relatively spare take on the tune is likely the first one I ever heard. Judy Collins was evidently the first to release the song, on her 1968 album Who Knows Where The Time Goes, and I might have heard that before the spring of 1972, but I don’t think so. Some of the versions released through 1972, according to Second Hand Tunes, came from folks I would eventually listen to – Jackie DeShannon, Dave Van Ronk, Genya Ravan and Tim Hardin among them – but they were not on my turntable then.

So would any of those early versions work for our purposes today? I like the idea behind Collins’ country-tinged take, but I think the vocal gets lost. Ravan’s take from 1972 is restrained with a slowly building backing, and I like it, too. Plenty of covers have come since then, of course, and I’ve heard and liked some. But among all the versions of the tune that I’ve heard – and that list also includes covers by k. d. lang, the Neville Brothers, Fairport Convention, Kate Wolf, Johnny Cash and more – I keep coming back to Jennifer Warnes’ foreboding version on her 1987 album of Cohen’s songs, Famous Blue Raincoat.

‘Will My Love Grow . . .’

Friday, December 11th, 2015

When I decided last week to put together an alternate version of Joe Cocker’s second album – the 1969 self-titled outing with an added exclamation point – there were a couple tracks that had me a bit concerned: Would I find enough covers to make a decent selection? (In the case of one track, which we’ll get to by and by, I wondered if there were even any other versions of the song out there.)

One track about which I had no worries was the second one on Side Two: According to several sources I’ve seen in the past week, George Harrison’s “Something” has been covered more than 150 times, making it the second-most covered Beatles song after “Yesterday.” The song first showed up on Abbey Road in September 1969 and went to No. 1 in November that year as a two-sided single with “Come Together.” (And I suppose I maybe should have tackled the tracks on the Cocker album in order, but I didn’t.)

As it happened, Cocker was one of those who had the first chance at recording the song, according to Walter Everett in his 1999 book The Beatles as Musicians: Revolver Through the Anthology. Everett says that Harrison offered the song to Joe Cocker in March 1969, before the Beatles recorded the song (and while the group was working on the album that became Abbey Road).

But Abbey Road came out in September 1969, and Joe Cocker! came out that November. Still, Cocker’s version of the tune was among the first covers – if not actually the first – to be released. Second Hand Songs notes that Peggy Lee’s version also came out in November 1969 (and cites a recording date in April of that year), as did a version by Tony Bennett. The most recent cover listed at Second Hand Songs is one by Billy Sherwood, released in April this year on the tribute compilation Keep Calm and Salute The Beatles.

Here at the EITW studios, there are thirty versions of the tune on the shelves; those include multiple versions by the Beatles (from Abbey Road and Love), by Harrison himself (from the 1990s Anthology, from The Concert For Bangla Desh and from the 1992 set Live In Japan), and by Paul McCartney (from several live sets, including the 2002 Concert For George).

Among those I passed over for this portion of the Cover Cocker project were easy listening versions by Ray Conniff, the Lettermen, the Mystic Moods Orchestra and Ferrante & Teicher, a faux Twenties take by the Templeton Twins with Teddy Turner’s Bunsen Burners, a stellar instrumental by Booker T & The MG’s (from McLemore Avenue, the group’s Abbey Road tribute), and an eleven-minute version by Isaac Hayes.

I was tempted by Booker T & The MG’s, but then I wandered a bit further down the list and clicked on the cover of Harrison’s tune by Jr. Walker & The All Stars. It’s from the 1971 album Rainbow Funk, and it went right to the top of the list:

‘My Burden Is Heavy . . .’

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

As the RealPlayer settled the other night on Joe Cocker’s version of Bob Dylan’s “Dear Landlord,” I wondered, as I regularly do with so many tracks, about other covers of the tune. So I headed off to Second Hand Songs and a few other places.

Dylan’s original was on his 1968 album John Wesley Harding, and Cocker covered it in 1969 on Joe Cocker! And I came up with several other versions, including one that was a real surprise to me. We’ll get to that one in a bit, because as I looked, I had an idea. Cocker’s album, his second, has long been one of my favorites, and I wondered about putting together kind of an alternate version of the Joe Cocker! album, seeking out other versions of the ten tunes, some of them perhaps the originals but most of them other covers.

And I headed out into the wilds of the ’Net to see if that were possible. And yes, it is. So this is the first in a series of posts offering those tunes. We might at times do two or more tracks in a post as we make our way down this road, but today, we’ll satisfy ourselves with one.

During the 1969 sessions for the album Unhalfbricking, the British folk-rock group Fairport Convention took a stab at “Dear Landlord.” The track didn’t make the album, but it showed up years later as a bonus track when Unhalfbricking was released on CD. (If I’d ever replicated my Fairport Convention collection on CD, I would have known about the track long ago; there’s only so much money and so much shelf space, you know.)

The YouTube poster who uploaded Fairport’s “Dear Landlord” offered a quote from an unidentified member of the group, a comment that I would guess was taken from the notes that accompanied the CD release: “An out-take from the Unhalfbricking sessions. We would have added more instruments to this Bob Dylan-composed track had it been chosen to be on the album. As it is, its simplicity is one of the strongest points.”

With that, here’s the first track in our journey: