Archive for the ‘Covers’ Category

Saturday Single No. 763

Saturday, November 27th, 2021

Anything beyond basic mental functions still escape me as I wait for antibiotics to do their work. It’s supposed to be a run-of-the-mill infection, but if so, it’s a badly operated mill. And I’m still waiting for my new glasses.

Still, not wanting to punt entirely, I did a quick search to see which of the nearly 84,000 files in the RealPlayer were ever recorded on November 27 – a reminder: I have that information for maybe ten percent of the files – and I came up with a bunch.

That’s because eighty-five years ago today, Robert Johnson had the last of three recording sessions in San Antonio’s Gunter Hotel. Unless something new has come to light in the past few years, nine tracks from that session survive: “They’re Red Hot,” “Dead Shrimp Blues,” “Walkin’ Blues,” “Preachin’ Blues (Up Jumped The Devil),” “If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day,” and two versions each of “Last Fair Deal Gone Down” and “Cross Roads Blues.”

Of those, my favorite is likely “Last Fair Deal Gone Down.” Now, there’s nothing wrong with Johnson’s two versions, but I thought I’d see how many covers I have of the tune in the stacks. Turns out to be eight, with one version each from Eric Clapton, the Peter Green Splinter Group, Dave “Snaker” Ray, Dave Van Ronk, the Rising Sons, and Crooked Still (described as a neo-bluegrass band from Boston) and two versions from Rory Block.

Of all those, the approach by Crooked Still may be the most interesting, with Aoife O’Donovan’s vocals backed by a combination of banjo, cello and double bass. So here’s Crooked Still, from the 2004 album Hop High, with “Last Fair Deal Gone Down.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 761

Saturday, November 13th, 2021

I’ve been feeling run-down and feverish for the past ten days, and I finally went to see Dr. Julie yesterday. She diagnosed an infection and prescribed a four-week course of some very large pills. She said I should feel better within a week, but to take all four weeks’ worth of the pills to discourage a repeat performance.

So, without much creativity present this morning, I spent a few minutes poking through old posts looking for ideas. When I do that, I sometimes find things I’ve missed. The blogging program supposedly sends me an email every time someone leaves a comment. That doesn’t always seem to work, though.

As I glanced this morning at a post from 2015 about versions of the Laura Nyro song “Stoney End,” I noticed that there were six comments there, far more than usual. I kind of blinked, and then checked the dates: Two of them came in within days of the post going up. But the others were eight months later, a year-and-a-half later, three years later and finally four years later.

Maybe I just missed the email notifications, but I don’t think so. That’s why I find it rewarding to sometimes just click from old post to old post, looking for comments I’ve missed. And one of the four later comments I found at the “Stoney End” post was pretty interesting (at least to me).

Christopher Bentley said that he noticed that as well as dealing with “Stoney End,” I had also uploaded a video to YouTube of Barbra Streisand’s version of Nyro’s “Hands Off The Man (Flim Flam Man).” Bentley writes a blog titled Girls Of The Golden East, focusing on – as he says – “mostly Seventies songstresses of the Soviet satellites,” and he suggested I might be interested in a Czech version of “Hands Off The Man (Flim Flam Man)” as recorded in 1972 by Alena Tichá.

Well, yeah. So, I followed the link he provided to his blog and found the video below. The Czech title actually translates to “I Give You The Cure,” which seems pretty apt for me this week. So “Dám Vám Lék” by Alena Tichá is today’s Saturday Single.

‘If Tonight Was Not A Crooked Trail . . .’

Tuesday, November 9th, 2021

There’s a little note on top of the file in which I write this blog. It’s been there a while, three years maybe. Long enough, anyway, that my eyes tend to slide right past it when I open the file to write a post.

It says, “Tomorrow Is A Long Time.”

I assume it’s a reminder for me to write about the Bob Dylan song, not just a pithy bit of wisdom meant to help me focus on today’s tasks. I further assume the post I had in mind when I typed that potentially enigmatic title – it’s in quote marks, so it has to be a title – was a brief examination of covers of the Dylan song. If so, it’s an example of poor institutional memory, since I did a post like that in 2013.

But that was eight years ago, and my rereading of the post tells me that the Dylan version I would have liked to share wasn’t available in good form at YouTube. (The audio was fine, but the visuals were portions of a show about zombies, which never made sense to me.) So, let’s just review some of the versions of the song I have here in my files.

We start with four versions by Dylan himself: One from around 1962, maybe 1963, included in the 2010 Bootleg Series release The Witmark Demos; one from a 1963 solo performance at New York City’s Town Hall (that would be the first official release of the song, coming out on Dylan’s second greatest hits collection in 1972); and two versions with a band from the 2021 Bootleg Series release 1970.

Here’s that 1963 performance as released on Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, this time without zombies.

Other artists jumped on it right away, of course, with Ian & Sylvia being the first, releasing it in July 1963 on their Four Strong Winds album. That one’s here, as are a few other covers from the Sixties by Odetta (1965), Elvis Presley (1966), the Pozo-Seco Singers (1966), Glenn Yarbrough (the first version I ever heard, from 1967), Dion (in a medley with Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’,” 1968), an obscure group named Street (which included the Dylan song in a medley with a stentorian version of George Harrison’s “If I Needed Someone” in 1968), and by the country-rock duo of Levitt & McClure (1969).

My favorite of those is likely the Yarbrough simply because I heard it first, but I’m certain I long ago featured that one here. After that, I like the version by the Pozo-Seco Singers from their 1966 album Time. There are other, later, versions of the song, but we’ll close things today with the Pozo-Seco Singers.

Saturday Single No. 759

Saturday, October 30th, 2021

Let’s look at what the kids around me were listening to fifty-five years ago this week, as chronicled in the Big 6+30 survey released by the Twin Cities’ KDWB on October 29, 1966. Here’s the top ten:

“96 Tears” by ? & The Mysterians
“Cherish” by the Association
“Last Train To Clarksville” by the Monkees
“Hooray For Hazel” by Tommy Roe
“Dandy” by Herman’s Hermits
“Walk Away Renee” by the Left Banke
“Cherry, Cherry” by Neil Diamond
“Reach Out I’ll Be There” by the Four Tops
“Psychotic Reaction” by Count Five
“If I Were A Carpenter” by Bobby Darin

Even though I wasn’t yet a dedicated listener, I knew almost all of these as my peers listened to radio all around me. They were in the air, and I liked most of the ones I knew. I’m not sure I knew “Psychotic Reaction” back then, and I wonder about the Bobby Darin single. But the rest of them were familiar even though I didn’t have any of those tracks in my collection until probably 1974, when Rick from across the street gave me a hits collection by the Association.

I’ve written about “Cherish” before, noting that when it was getting airplay around me, I recognized it as something special. I’ve also noted here that I certainly didn’t understand the depth of the anguish hidden in the pretty song when I was thirteen; that took years.

The others in that list of ten are fine listening, except for the Tommy Roe single, which I’ve always thought was kind of slight.

And since it’s the 30th of the month today, I’m just going to play Games With Numbers, dropping down to No. 30 on the KDWB survey to see what we’ll listen to this morning. And we find a cover of “Go Away Little Girl,” a song that went twice to No. 1 in the Billboard  Hot 100, once for Steve Lawrence in 1963 and once for Donny Osmond in 1971.

In between those versions, the Happenings took the song to No. 12 in a version that was produced by the Tokens (who in 1969 paired the song with “Young Girl” in a medley that Bubbled Under at No. 118). The production owes a lot to the 4 Seasons. It’s a decent record, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘One Too Many Mornings . . .’

Friday, October 29th, 2021

Johnny Cash covering Bob Dylan is always a good thing. And that’s what I found when I checked the files for tracks recorded on October 29 over the years.

Here’s Cash taking on “One Too Many Mornings.” I found it on a rip of an album called Johnny and June released in 1978 by Bear Records, a firm based in Bremen, Germany. It’s since been released, if I’m reading the info at discogs correctly, on a Columbia Legacy set titled Bootleg Vol II – From Memphis To Hollywood. The visual in the video is from that album.

According to the notes that accompanied Johnny and June, Cash recorded the track on October 29, 1965, in Nashville.

‘Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me . . .’

Friday, October 22nd, 2021

It was ninety-three years ago today in Atlanta, on October 22, 1928 – according to the notes to the CD The Essential Jimmie Rodgers – that the Singing Brakeman recorded a song that I’d guess is one of his best-known: “Waiting For A Train.” The recording was released the following February as Bluebird 5163.

I imagine that my first exposure to the tune came with Boz Scaggs’ version, found on his 1969 self-titled album recorded in Muscle Shoals, a track highlighted by Duane Allman’s sweet work on dobro. (Also on the album, of course, is the epic “Loan Me A Dime,” which features Allman’s ferocious slide work.) I got the album in the spring of 1989, but I imagine I’d heard Scagg’s version of the tune long before, though I have no idea when.

Scaggs’ version is just one of more than eighty covers of the tune listed at Second Hand Songs. Three versions are listed from 1929, by Riley Puckett, by Ed (Jake) West, and by Carson Robison and Frank Luther, who recorded as the Jimson Brothers.

The most recent version of “Waiting For A Train” listed at the site was by Billy Bragg and Joe Henry. They recorded the song in Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, the same room where Robert Johnson recorded twenty-three tracks during three sessions in November 1936. Bragg and Henry released their version in 2016 on the album Shine a Light: Field Recordings from the Great American Railroad.

There was a surprise, though, waiting for me at Second Hand Songs. Listed with the versions of “Waiting For A Train” were thirteen versions of the song “Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me,” with the words credited to Mississippi John Hurt. The website says that Hurt first recorded the song in 1966, a take that was included on the posthumous 1972 album Last Sessions.

I’ve noted here before that Second Hand Songs is a good place to start but not always complete. That’s the case here, as in the digital stacks here I find a version of “Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me” that Hurt recorded in 1963 for the Library of Congress. That version was first released in 1982 on an album titled Avalon Blues: The Library of Congress Recordings, Vol. 2 and has been released on several anthologies since (as has the 1966 version) as shown by the photo in the video below.

Whichever came first, it’s a surprise and a delight to hear the same melody as Rodgers’ “Waiting For A Train” used as the basis for an entirely different song (as was frequently the case in the folk and blues tradition).

Saturday Single No. 757

Saturday, October 16th, 2021

As promised, I went looking for interesting covers of “Love Is A Rose,” having offered the earliest versions of the song – by Linda Ronstadt and Neil Young – here last week. I used as my guide the list of covers offered by Second Hand Songs.

It wasn’t a lot of fun.

Now, I didn’t listen to all the covers listed, nor did I listen to any of the covers all the way through. I let the first twenty or so seconds suffice, so there may be a misjudgment or two here. Too bad.

The first covers after Ronstadt’s version came out were from country/rock singer Wayne Berry in 1975 and country singer Sue Richards in 1976. Neither version is available at YouTube though you can find other stuff by both of them.

I checked out a version from 1976 by a Swedish group called New Strangers, and it was kind of dull and plodding. The other version from the 1970s I took a chance on was from Greek singer Nana Mouskouri; she sounded shrill.

In 1998, a singer named Lynn Marie seemed to want to turn the song into a polka. A few years later, in 2006, a country group named Grantham Road laid heavy on the bass and guitar on all four beats. In 2007 a duo – I think, perhaps a trio – called Dirtbird turned the song into a slice of dissonant Americana.

And then I saw a familiar name: Terri Clark. In 2012, the country singer recorded the song for her album Classic. I’ve not listened to a lot of Clark’s stuff, but I’ve got a CD or two of hers, and I’ve enjoyed almost everything I’ve heard. Her take on “Love Is A Rose” is no different: It’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Hammer Of The Gods . . .’

Wednesday, October 13th, 2021

I’ve been reading a lot of the discussions over the past few days about how we should no longer be celebrating Columbus and how we should change the name of the holiday to Indigenous Persons Day. Some folks brought in Leif Erikson’s Norsemen, and a few even mentioned the Phoenecians as folks who got to the shores of the North American continent before Columbus.

My take on it? Columbus was an evil man, evil enough that other Spanish explorers around him – who were pretty bad actors themselves – sent him back to Spain in chains. He’s not someone we’d should really want to celebrate. His navigational feat (along with those of other explorers), however, did open the North American continent to exploration, exploitation and settlement. But there were already other folks here, of course, who were dispossessed and nearly exterminated by that exploration, exploitation and settlement.

I say: Tear down the statues, cancel the holiday and find another day in the calendar to mourn the Native American cultures lost to Manifest Destiny and to celebrate the Native Cultures that survived. I guess we can call it Indigenous Persons Day, though that seems kind of stiff. I like what Canada did when it used First Nations as a combined term for those who were here before the Europeans. That might be the term we should be using.

Anyway, to take kind of a left turn, as I was pondering this stuff in the past few days, I was reminded of a video posted at YouTube a year ago today. A user there who goes by the name of “the_miracle_aligner” posted a video offering Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” sung in old Norse.

In the notes, the_miracle_aligner credits a user named Constantine Bard for the backing track. (Constantine Bard’s page is filled with versions of current and older pop songs recast in medieval form.) And the_miracle_aligner credits Angus Bolton for translating the words of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page into old Norse and offering some pronunciation training.

So here’s how Erikson’s men might have sounded had they been singing Led Zeppelin as they came ashore in what was to become northeastern Canada sometime around the year 1000.

Saturday Singles Nos. 755 & 756

Saturday, October 9th, 2021

Having mentioned yesterday that Neil Young’s “Love Is A Rose” grew out of an earlier song titled “Dance Dance Dance,” first recorded by the band Crazy Horse, I thought we’d take a quick look that way this morning.

After “Dance Dance Dance” came out on Crazy Horse’s self-titled debut album in 1971, a few people jumped on the cover wagon: The New Seekers had a slight hit with it, with the record going to No. 84 on the Billboard Hot 100 in a five-week run a year during the autumn of 1972. That year that also saw covers of the song by Dave Edmunds and the band Cochise. More covers followed, but not until the 1990s.

Maybe next week we’ll look at a few other covers of both “Love Is A Rose” and “Dance Dance Dance,” but for now, here’s “Dance Dance Dance” as it was released in 1971 on Crazy Horse’s first, self-titled album and then as the New Seekers released it. They’re this week’s Saturday Singles.

‘A Hand Full Of Thorns . . .’

Friday, October 8th, 2021

We were heading home from an errand the other day when Neil Young’s unmistakable voice came from the radio speaker, courtesy of WXYG in Sauk Rapids:

Love is a rose
But you better not pick it
It only grows when it’s on the vine
A handful of thorns and
You’ll know you’ve missed it
You lose your love
When you say the word “Mine”

I wanna see what’s never been seen
I wanna live that age old dream
Come on, lass, we can go together
Let’s take the best right now
Take the best right now

I wanna go to an old hoe-down
Long ago in a western town
Pick me up if my feet are draggin’
Give me a lift and I’ll hay your wagon

Love is a rose
But you better not pick it
It only grows when it’s on the vine
A handful of thorns and
You’ll know you’ve missed it
You lose your love
When you say the word “Mine”
Mine, mine

Love is a rose, love is a rose
Love is a rose, love is a rose

“I only know the Linda Ronstadt version,” said the Texas Gal. “Did Neil Young write it?”

“I think so,” I said, being pretty sure that he did.

“It kinda caught me by surprise,” she said. “It was a little different than the way Linda Ronstadt sings it.”

And it is. Ronstadt puts an extra chorus in just before the verse about the hoe-down in the western town, then adds another chorus later on, along with an instrumental, making her version of the tune run about thirty seconds longer.

And the thought came to my mind as we got home: Which one came first? So, I did some digging. And it got a little complicated. The melody first showed up in a Young-penned song called “Dance Dance Dance,” which was first recorded by Young’s back-up band Crazy Horse and released on the group’s self-titled album in 1971. (All of the release information here comes from a combination of Wikipedia, Second Hand Songs, and discogs.)

Somewhere in the next few years, Young gave new words to “Dance Dance Dance” and came up with “Love Is A Rose.” As Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young rehearsed for their 1974 tour, Young recorded the song, planning to include it on an album titled Homegrown. The album was shelved, and Young released his 1974 recording of the song in 1977 on his anthology Decade.

Meanwhile, Ronstadt recorded the song in 1975, releasing it as a single in August of that year and on her album Prisoner In Disguise in September. The single reached No. 63 on the Billboard Hot 100 but stalled when its B-side, “Heat Wave,” began to get air play and went to No. 5. Ronstadt’s album, Prisoner In Disguise, went to No. 4 on the Billboard 200.

Young finally released Homegrown, including “Love Is A Rose,” in the summer of 2000.