Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Since I don't write my own songs, I guess I can be considered a cover artist (if I can use such grand a term for jamming away on songs I like.) And because of this, I have developed a fascination with covers that "real" artists do of songs I like.

For example, I really like the cover of Wall of Death by REM. Got it playing on the iPod right now...

Yesterday the sound track to I Am Sam arrived. It's a movie that I never saw, but the sound track has a bunch of artists performing Beatles songs*; so I had to get it.

If you are thinking of getting a copy for yourself, note that there's at least three different versions of the album out there; the original with 17 tracks, a foreign import with 19 tracks, and an 'extra tracks' version with 20 songs. I bought the latter, but quite frankly, I don't think you gain a lot with those extra songs...

The first playing of the CD was somewhat of a bust. Sarah McLachlan does her usually excellent work on Blackbird and Eddie Vedder's You've Got to Hide Your Love Away is spell binding, but Ben Harper seems to be channeling Cat Stevens on Strawberry Fields and Golden Slumbers never worked for me as a song on it's own; it needs Carry That Weight to finish it off. It might have worked had Ben Folds version been drastically different from the original; but it isn't.

It seemed that for the last half of the album, each song was worse than the preceding one; Nick Cave's Let It Be, just about broke my heart.

Most disappointing (though not the worst song on there by a long shot) was Howie Day's cover of Help!

I have a live tape of him performing Help! solo, and despite the poor quality of the recording, it's phenomenal. The Beatles original - despite the title and lyric - is performed as an upbeat, fast rocker. In the live performance Howie slows it down, simplifies the accompaniment, and his voice really makes it sound like he's in therapy looking for help, rather than singing a rock song.

But either someone over-produced the cut on the album, or Howie's on Prozac, as the CD version - though it starts almost as slowly - adds in electric guitar and way too much "stuff" so that it loses all the charm of the acoustic cover. Howie almost sounds happy.

Okay, I'll quit complaining as I know I couldn't do anything half as good, but still; 'Uggh.'

By the end of the CD I was thinking I'd file it away and never play it again, but I gave it another go this morning. On second hearing, things weren't quite as bad as they seemed; but that may just be damning it with faint praise.

If only you could buy You've Got to Hide Your Love Away and a couple of tunes that you like (if you do) from iTunes; but they only have the partial album available, and none of the songs I'd have bought....hmmm.

*Full disclosure; yeah I am a big Beatles fan and that might color my attitude to these songs, but I can think of lots of cover's of Beatles songs I have liked.

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