Tag Archives: George Harrison

We Have A Way Of Saving In Our Own Lives

As far as super groups go there hasn’t been a truly great one since the Traveling Wilbury’s in my opinion. Monsters of Folk are more like Monsters of mediocrity & the Dead Weather again are just ok, but Fistful of Mercy is one supergroup that may be bucking the trend of average super groups. With Joseph Arthur, Ben Harper & Dhani Harrison this “Super group” has some heavy hitters backing it. Dhani Harrison is  the son of George Harrison & looks/sounds so much like his father it’s eerie. I don’t have much info on Joseph Arthur & truthfully I’ve never heard of him, but his voice is pretty great & melds well with Harrison’s & Harper’s. The Traveling Wilbury’s comparison is an easy one to make considering George was in that band & his son is in this one.

I’ll let you draw the correlation between the two yourself, but suffice it to say i am impressed & can’t wait to see them live when they come up to SF.

Anything You Want – Traveling Wilbury’s

Fistful of Mercy – Fistful of Mercy

Handle Me With Care – Traveling Wilbury’s

Things Go Round – Fistful of Mercy

Last Night – Traveling Wilbury’s

Advertisements

Top 15 Cover Songs of the Decade

It’s come to that time of the year/decade where innumerable lists will come out touting writer’s knowledge of music by saying what the best album, songs or artists of the decade/year are. Some are interesting reads, others are banal wastes of time & yet others are pretentious attempts at musical superiority while showing you have little knowledge about “real” music. It is this final category that Paste Magazine’s 30 best covers of the decade falls into.

Covers are a delicate subject with me. A cover song must be at least similar to the original. Otherwise, you’re not covering another artist’s song you’re simply saying you think they did a shitty job the first time around instead of paying homage. Jimi Hendrix did not cover Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” he dissected it & made it better. Dylan provided the blueprint for Hendrix & Jimi ran with it. Dylan himself has said as much:

It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn’t think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using. I took license with the song from his version, actually, and continue to do it to this day…I liked Jimi Hendrix’s record of this and ever since he died I’ve been doing it that way…Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it’s a tribute to him in some kind of way.

Paste has a reputation for thinking they’re better than everyone with obscure references to obscure songs & praising them from the mountain top as being immortal & themselves as fore bearers to the band’s success. Their list is full of songs that hold little relevancy to anyone except the artists themselves.

It’s a bit disgraceful to see a list of songs with The Polyphonic Spree at #7 with Nirvana’s “Lithium” or Calexico at #8 with Stereolab’s “Peng! 33”. What? Really? Stereolab was an obscure band from the ’90’s that never found success in part because they were bad at making music. The Polyphonic Spree is a band from today that suffers from the same problem. I’m all for opening eyes with new artists. I try to introduce new artists to the masses on this blog regularly, but to indiscriminately toss out labels like “best of the decade” is hyperbolic to the core.

There are a few I agree with on the list, but none above number 9 (they are 28, 20, 18 – which may be the best on their list, 10 & 9). In large part I think Paste is, once again, showing they’re rightly regarded as a magazine strictly for the arrogant hipster, who thinks he knows more about music than you. It’s like saying Sgt. Pepper is too commercial of an album to be the best of all time or the “Godfather” is too widely known to be the best film of all time. Everyone has their opinion & rightfully so, but when an opinion is there to show you how shitty your musical tastes are then it becomes a practice in musical bullying & I think it’s an abhorrent practice.

Music is there to spark conversation, to create unity, to educate, not belittle (unless you’re talking about Gangster Rap). Every time I give an opinion on this blog (or any other place I write) I try to give it context, not to dumb down my point, but to educate in one way or another. I happen to know a lot about music, mostly because I have no life, but also because it happens to be my passion. I do not claim to be the end all be all of musical critics. I’m simply a conduit to better understanding for those that have lives or seek some better form of musical knowledge.

So here is my list of the 15 best covers of the decade with short explanations as to why I enjoy them & why they’re great in my opinion:

#15 – Love Vigilantes – Voxtrot (originally: New Order)

A classic ’80’s song that is faithful to the original without being a complete replica. While expressing the emotion that many families are feeling, it is apropos of the moment in which we live.

#14 – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie (Originally: Cyndi Lauper)

Another ’80’s song many consider trite pop, but Gibbard turns it into something much more. An anthem of parental & societal oppression. The audience laughs but if you really listen to the lyrics you realize that it is a plea to stop worrying about social mores that tend to pigeonhole people into groups that have no true bearing on who they really are. A beautiful interpretation.

#13 – You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere – Counting Crows (Originally: Bob Dylan)

Redone by many artists, this is faithful to the original from Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes version with The Band. Marketa Iglova & Glen Hansard do a fairly competent version on the I’m Not There Soundtrack, but it really doesn’t compare to Adam Duritz belting this classic out.

#12 – The Long Way Home – Norah Jones (Originally: Tom Waits)

Tom Waits has that writing quality that makes everyone want to redo his songs. Norah Jones is a phenomenal songwriter in her own right & has the perfect voice for this Waits composition. There’s something to be said for a steel guitar & a Tom Waits song that just reeks of awesomeness.

#11 – Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood – Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam (Originally: Nina Simone)

While the Animals may have popularized this song, it was written for Nina Simone by Bennie Benjamin, Gloria Caldwell and Sol Marcus. The song correlates with Yusuf’s own struggles after he changed his name from Cat Stevens to Yusuf Islam & his subsequent inclusion on the Terrorist watch list in the early ’00’s.

#10 – Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want – She & Him (Originally: The Smiths)

Zooey Deschanel & M. Ward covered this song for the 500 Days of Summer Soundtrack perfectly. The echo behind Deschanel’s voice creates a haunting version while staying succinctly true to the original. You can almost hear the anguish in her voice as she desperately emotes Morrissey’s plea for a change in his luck.

#9 – Glory Days – The Avett Brothers (Originally: Bruce Springsteen)

The issue I’ve always had with this song is that instead of saying fastball at the beginning he says speedball. When I hear Bruce say “He could throw that Speedball right by you.” it always makes me cringe as a baseball fan & someone who had a lot of friends who did a lot of drugs. That’s my only complaint, though, I love the song & the Avett’s doing it with a banjo, a kick drum & a tambourine is magical.

#8 – The Weight – Gaslight Anthem (Originally: The Band)

The seminal song in the Band’s career is faithfully done by the Gaslight Anthem’s lead singer Brian Fallon. There’s a lot to be said for a man & his guitar. Fallon has that kind of voice that is suited for a song such as this. It’s a story song, almost in the same vein as The Beatles “A Day in the Life”.

#7 – Sunday Morning – Beck’s Record Club (Originally: Velvet Underground & Nico)

When Beck started his Record Club project it was considered a bit of a lark (especially when I read he considered doing Digital Underground’s album Sex Packets in it’s entirety), but when you hear this song you realize otherwise. I have never been a fan of Beck’s music. I’ve interviewed him a number of times, smoked out with him & find him to be a fascinating person, but musically I’m not evolved enough to enjoy what he does, though I do recognize his talent. Be that as it may I do love this cover so much. When stripped down Beck’s voice is incredible.

#6 – Dancing in the Dark – Pete Yorn (Originally: Bruce Springsteen)

Another Springsteen song covered by a talented musician. Pete Yorn’s first album spoke to me so much that I don’t think I listened to another album for a month after it came out. Yorn with a piano slowly singing this mournful song about escaping the everyday doldrums of life. It’s something we can all relate to, especially in this context.

#5 – I Don’t Wanna Grow Up – Cold War Kids (Originally: Tom Waits)

Hearing the Cold War Kids acoustically is a sound to behold. Hearing them sing Tom Waits’ song about having to accept responsibility as an adult & wanting to stay a child forever is a moment. It’s much like when the Beach Boys released A Beach Boys’ Party where they covered a few Beatles songs among others & made it a sing along. This recording, while much less hokey, has that feel to it.

#4 – The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carol – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (Originally: Bob Dylan)

While not completely factual this song still does speak to the injustice that was still going on in 1960’s America. Lead Singer, Peter Hayes, expresses the difficulty in remembering all the lyrics before he starts actually singing noting it is a Bob Dylan song. He doesn’t sing it with tonal precision which makes it even that much better. What he does give it is slightly more melody than Dylan (as many often have). The harmonica in the Bridge is not overstated or too intense to overpower the audience.

#3 – My Oklahoma Home – Bruce Springsteen (Originally: Pete Seeger)

When Bruuuuuuce decided to make a tribute album with all Pete Seeger songs I never thought it would work. I love just about everything Springsteen touches, but even this seemed like a stretch to me. I was wrong. The true merit of an artist is the ability to reinvent oneself & make it work. Dylan did it, the Beatles did it & Springsteen did as well. This song about the Oklahoma Dust Bowl holds as much connotation in today’s current economic climate as it did 80 years ago. No one today speaks of the hardships of the blue collar society like Bruce & before him there was no one better than Pete Seeger & Woody Guthrie.

#2 – The Drugs Don’t Work – Ben Harper (Originally: The Verve)

Ben Harper has a way of making songs better as with this Verve song about as Richard Ashcroft put it:

There’s a new track I’ve just written […] It goes ‘the drugs don’t work, they just make me worse, and I know I’ll see your face again’. That’s how I’m feeling at the moment. They make me worse, man. But I still take ’em. Out of boredom and frustration you turn to something else to escape.

Harper brings a subtle vulnerability to this track as if he were actually speaking this to a loved one. The Verve version was a little more gruff, but beautiful nonetheless. Richard Ashcroft is a highly underrated lyricist & never was that made more evident than in this version.

#1 – Long, Long, Long – Jim James (Originally: The Beatles)

Earlier this year Jim James of My Morning Jacket, quietly released a 6 song EP under the moniker Yim Yames covering some of his favorite George Harrison songs. It went mostly unnoticed by critics as it was released primarily online, but it was perhaps the best thing recorded all year. This is one of my favorite Beatle songs from the White Album & James captures the essence of the track with the echoed brilliance of the vocals. If ever a cover song moved me I can not remember when one did it like this one. It is not merely faithful to the original, but luminous in it’s own right.

Top 250 Albums of All-Time – 159-150

#159 – Elephant – The White Stripes

Recorded in only two weeks The White Stripes 2003 album , Elephant, was a throw back to pre-1960’s rock n’ roll/blues albums. It was even recorded on antiquated equipment, 8 track tape machine & pre-1960’s gear. it was Jack & Meg White’s 4th album & their Magnum Opus. It also happened to be their major label debut. The fact that a two person band could pump out a quality album is an achievement in it’s own right, but to do it with such precise brilliance is another thing altogether. While Meg does certainly leave alot to be desired as a drummer she does exactly what any other drummer would do when confronted with perhaps the greatest guitarist of his generation, Jack White (who is the subject of a documentary with Jimmy Page & The Edge). The album was so good that Rolling Stone hailed it as “…a work of pulverizing perfection.” Pulverizing being the key word. With songs like “Seven Nation Army” & “Hardest Button to Button” it draws attention to Jack White’s superb guitar ability & perhaps Meg White’s steady drum play as not being overtly fancy. She is the bass in a band where there is none.

Hardest Button to Button – The White Stripes

Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes

#158 – Songs of Leonard Cohen – Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen’s debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, was a backlash to an ever increasing psychedelic movement propagated by the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Leonard Cohen was first & foremost a poet & only in his desire to showcase this poetry did he create this Beatnik style album. His brand of lonely music was a huge hit in Europe, who just enjoying an Enlightened era of art, but was slow to catch on in the States. However, once his song “Suzanne” caught on it was hailed as an instant classic. Written about sculptor Armand Vaillancourt’s wife Suzanne Verdal it becomes a treatise on religion in the second verse. Cohen speaks of “Jesus as he walked upon the water”, but it ends again with Suzanne. The real Suzanne ended up living in her car in Venice, Ca while Cohen achieved stardom & after 1970 they never spoke again.

Suzanne – Leonard Cohen

So Long, Marianne – Leonard Cohen

#157 – Loaded – Velvet Underground

Loaded was Velvet Underground’s fourth album & their most commercially successful. Bassist Doug Yule had this to say:

On Loaded there was a big push to produce a hit single, there was that mentality, which one of these is a single, how does it sound when we cut it down to 3½ minutes, so that was a major topic for the group at that point.

This was also Lou Reed’s final album with tensions about the direction of the band after the growing separation between the group & Andy Warhol. Along with that the overall pop/commercial feel of the album didn’t sit well with Reed’s vision of what Velvet Underground should be, so he left & wasn’t even there long enough to hear the final mix.

Who Loves the Sun – Velvet Underground

Sweet Jane – Velvet Underground

#156 – Ricky Sings Again – Ricky Nelson

Ricky Sings Again is Ricky Nelson’s third album, but the first in which he transcends the teen-pop label he had been saddled with for his first two albums & dives into Rock-a-billy music with long time collaborator James Burton, who went on to become a guitarist in Elvis Presley’s band.

Nelson knew and loved music, and was a skilled performer even before he became a teen idol, largely due to his parents’ musical background. In addition to guitar, he played drums and the clarinet. (He showcased his drum skills in the same episode where he made his singing debut.) Nelson worked with many musicians of repute, including the aforementioned James Burton, Joe Osborn, and Allen “Puddler” Harris, all natives of Louisiana, and Joe Maphis, The Jordanaires, Scotty Moore and Johnny and Dorsey Burnette. While Elvis may have served as the catalyst for Rick’s musical career, his real inspiration was Carl Perkins.

From 1957 to 1962, Nelson had thirty Top-40 hits, more than any other artist at the time except Presley (who had 53) and Pat Boone (38). Many of Nelson’s early records were double hits with both the A and B sides hitting the Billboard charts. When Billboard introduced the Hot 100 chart on August 4, 1958, Nelson’s single “Poor Little Fool” became the first song ever in the #1 position on that chart. In addition to his recording career, Nelson appeared in movies, including the Howard Hawks western classic Rio Bravo with John Wayne and Dean Martin (1959), plus The Wackiest Ship In the Army (1960) and Love and Kisses (1965).

It’s Late – Ricky Nelson

Lonesome Town – Ricky Nelson

#155 – Reasonable Doubt – Jay-Z

Jay-Z’s debut album, Reasonable Doubt, is also consequently his best album. While taking events from his real life growing up in Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects, Jay-Z conveys a sense of hopelesness growing up with an urgency to escape the ghetto. His father left when he was 11 & he began dealing drugs in his teens with his new father figurtes being the drug dealers in the neighborhood. He also was one of the forerunners to the subgenre of Gangster Rap called “Mafioso Rap” evident in the opening track, “Brooklyn’s Finest” with the reference to the epic line from Scarface. “Brooklyn’s Finest” also features a cameo from the Notorious B.I.G. which like many songs on the album is considerably longer than most Rap songs coming in at just over four & a half minutes. It like many of the era’s songs relies heavily on sampling from such artists as: Isaac Hayes, The Ohio Players & Ahmad Jamal.

Brooklyn’s Finest (With Biggie Smalls) – Jay-Z

Ain’t No Nigga (With Foxy Brown) – Jay-Z

#154 -Moanin’ in the Moonlinght – Howlin’ Wolf

Born Chester Arthut Burnett (after the 21st President of the U.S. Chester Arthur) Howlin’ Wolf was not only a revolutionary in Blues Music, but also in overcoming stereotypical & seemingly early Blues/Jazz outcomes of succumbing to Alcohol or drugs & either dying young and/or penniless. He came by the name, Howlin’ Wolf when his grandfather heard him trying to yodel along with a popular country song of the day & thought it sounded more like a wolf howling at the moon. His first full length album, Moanin’ in the Moonlight, inspired many an artist such as: Led Zeppelin, the White Stripes, Jimi Hendrix & The Rolling Stones. It is the forefather to the rock sound that inundated the late 60’s early 70’s.

Smokestack Lighting – Howlin’ Wolf

Moanin’ at Midnight – Howlin’ Wolf

#153 – Ritchie Valens – Ritchie Valens

Never before has the flip of a coin meant so much in the history of rock n’ roll. On a snowy night, Feb. 3, 1959, Ritchie Valens won a coin flip with guitarist Tony Alsup & less than 10 minutes later Valens, Buddy Holly & the Big Bopper were all dead in a horrific plane crash in Iowa. At 17 years old Richard Valenzuela became a Rock n’ Roll Martyr. It was in death that he grew as an icon in the Chicano rock movement. It was one month after his death that his self titled album, Ritchie Valens,  was released with songs like, “La Bamba”, “Donna” & “Come On Let’s GO”. Ritchie Valens was the stepping stone for artists like Santana, War & Los Lobos (who have covered many of Valens’ songs). When Ritchie Valens died that night at 17 he was ensured of beomcing a rock icon for decades to come, but without being able to actually see the impact his music had on others one must truly wonder if it was ultimately worth it ot his family & himself?

Come on Let’s Go – Ritchie Valens

La Bamba – Ritchie Valens

#152 – Pablo Honey – Radiohead

Besides “Creep”, the album also included the melodic, perhaps ironic, and Sonic Youth-influenced single “Anyone Can Play Guitar” and U2-like single “Stop Whispering”. Also, on Pablo Honey, are ethereal rocker “You”, fan favourite “Thinking About You”, and “Blow Out”, the latter of which is apparently the band’s personal favourite from the album, and points ahead to their future sonic manipulations.

By mid-1993, “Creep” had become a hit in Israel, then the United States, and then a worldwide hit, finally reaching number 7 when it was re-released during the Autumn of 1993 in the band’s native Britain. “Creep” went on to define the band’s early career, at the expense of anything else on Pablo Honey. The song, whose self-loathing lyrics struck a chord with many fans, was released around the same time as other so-called “slacker” anthems such as Beck’s “Loser” and was seen by some as a part of the grunge movement kicked into high gear by Seattle bands Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Radiohead eventually fell into a media-created niche as the “British Nirvana”, due both to “Creep” and to the equally morose (if not equally successful) other songs on the album. In fact, Radiohead did share similar influences as Nirvana, notably the Pixies and R.E.M., although The Smiths were also a large influence on the band at this time.

However, the band are not unanimously pleased with “Creep”. Although at first ecstatic at their success, they soon came to resent being unable to escape its shadow, inspiring the bitter song “My Iron Lung”. When performing live in 1993 and 1994, much of the audience would often leave after “Creep” had been performed, ignoring all the other material from Pablo Honey. One exception was “Prove Yourself”, a song Yorke removed from setlists after he realised the crowd would always chant along with its disturbing refrain, “I’m better off dead.”

Creep – Radiohead

Blow Out – Radiohead

#151 – All Things Must Pass – George Harrison

All Things Must Pass is the first triple album by a solo artist, the original vinyl release featured two records of rock songs, while the third, entitled “Apple Jam” was composed of informal jams led by Harrison with musician friends and other famous musicians.Received as a masterpiece upon its 1970 unveiling, All Things Must Pass is widely considered to be one of the best albums made by a Beatle as a solo artist. It is certified 6x Platinum by the RIAA.

The outpouring of the wealth of material on All Things Must Pass took many critics by surprise, with Harrison having long been overshadowed by the talents of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, despite the fact that some of his later period Beatles inclusions (“While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Something,” and “Here Comes the Sun”) were hailed as highlights of their respective albums. Consequently, as Harrison had only placed just a few songs on any given Beatles album, he had amassed many compositions by their break-up, enabling him to release many of them simultaneously on All Things Must Pass.

Harrison had been accumulating the songs he recorded for the album as far back as 1966; both “The Art of Dying” and “Isn’t It a Pity” date from that year. In bootlegged conversations from the Get Back sessions, Harrison revealed that John had rejected “Isn’t It a Pity” three years before, and that he (Harrison) had considered offering the song to Frank Sinatra.

He began writing “My Sweet Lord” while touring with Delaney & Bonnie in late 1969, and would later utilise their backing group “Friends” as an important part of the All Things Must Pass sound. He made one last detour before beginning work on All Things Must Pass, visiting Dylan while the latter was starting sessions for New Morning in May 1970, learning “If Not For You” and participating in a now-bootlegged session.

If Not For You – George Harrison

All Things Must Pass – George Harrison

My Sweet Lord – George Harrison

#150 – Transformer – Lou Reed

Transformer is Lou Reed’s breakthrough second solo album, released in December 1972. Unlike its predecessor Lou Reed, eight songs of which were leftovers from his Velvet Underground days, this album contains mainly new material. Transformer was produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, who had been strongly influenced by Reed’s work with the Velvet Underground. The album features some of Reed’s best-known songs such as “Walk on the Wild Side”, “Perfect Day” and “Satellite of Love”, and made him an international star in his own right.

Although all songs on the album were credited to Reed, it has long been rumoured that “Wagon Wheel” is actually a David Bowie composition. The first single from the album, “Walk on the Wild Side”, became an international success, despite its adult subject matter (it was edited in some countries and banned in others) & is now generally regarded as Reed’s signature tune. “Satellite of Love” was issued as the second single in February 1973.

Satellite of Love – Lou Reed

Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed

I Really Want to See You

Jim James, using the moniker Yim Yames has released his long awaited EP covering George Harrison songs, but only on his website. Must’ve been hard for Ringo to be surrounded by such brilliant musicians. To think that out of that band, The Beatles, came some of the most amazing music in the American/British lexicon. Three of those guys Paul McCartney, John Lennon & George Harrison (who may be the most talented of the bunch) are in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame aside from their recognitions for being in the Beatles.

Jim or Yim does a remarkable job of covering George Harrison without becoming a caricature. I do wish he had covered “Got My Mind Set on You” but we can’t be too picky. I suppose since it wasn’t written by George that it wouldn’t really be a tribute. Regardless, here are some great songs by Jim/Yim James/Yames & George Harrison, plus two videos of “Got my Mind Set on You”.

Long, Long, Long – Yim Yames

My Sweet Lord – Yim Yames

All Things Must Pass – Yim Yames

Behind That Locked Door – Yim Yames

George Harrison after the video.

My Sweet Lord – Geoorge Harrison

All Things Must Pass – George Harrison

Got My Mind Set on You – George Harrison

All Things Must Pass (Rooftop Concert) – The Beatles

All Things Must Pass (Demo) – The Beatles

Long, Long, Long – The Beatles

New Releases – June 16, 2009

Here are the new albums coming out this Tuesday that I think are relevant:

Let It Roll: Songs by George HarrisonGeorge Harrison

George Harrison’s first-ever career-spanning solo hits collection, Let It Roll: Songs by George Harrison. Special packaging includes a 28-page booklet featuring previously unseen and rare photos, and newly-written liner notes by Warren Zanes. The collection’s 19 tracks have been digitally remastered by Giles Martin at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios. “Let It Roll: Songs by George Harrison is a gathering of material that takes us far into the territory that was ultimately a place unique to George Harrison,” writes Warren Zanes in his liner notes essay for the new collection.

George Harrison – If Not For You (Bob Dylan Cover)

Collected: 1996-2005The Wallflowers

The Wallflowers releasing a greatest hits album is like me writing my memoirs 10 years ago. They were a solid band & I saw them live twice, enjoying both shows, but I just don’t see the point of a greatest hits album. They made 3 albums, right? Maybe 4 I’m too lazy to look it up & the first 2 were great, but Jakob Dylan is far better on his own.

6th Avenue Heartache (Live) – The Wallflowers

Monuments & MelodiesIncubus

I could write the exact same thing I just wrote about the Wallflowers, but instead ladies & gentlemen…George Jones:

Incubus – Echo

Before you say anything about Linkin Park, keep in mind I said relevant.