In a joint collaboration with my weekday roommate and Bronx ally Skip Serpico, I’ll be discussing a mix CD a week. He makes them, I listen to them and provide my in the moment commentary. You, hopefully, read said commentary and maybe open up your musical horizons. You can come here every week for the Serpico Mixes. And you should also visit Skip’s site, Fission Spaghetti, for his musings on food and Saturday Night Live (and more!)
Theme: Covers Vol. 2
I Will Survive by Tony Clifton- Not a good version of this song, by design. So instead of really addressing it, let me take a moment to admonish the Academy for repeatedly failing to honor Jim Carrey for his performances in THE TRUMAN SHOW, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, and MAN ON THE MOON, from whence this song comes. You have are to blame for the likes of THE NUMBER 23 and MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS! I hope you are pleased with yourselves.
Mrs. Robinson by Booker T. & The MG’s- I do not care for this. Not one bit. I miss the vocals terribly and the musical track is noxious.
Mahna Mahna by Cake- It’s not a bad repackaging and the horns part at 2:18 is appropriately jazzy but it just lacks the joy and personality of the original. Not surprising when you are up against the Muppets though, I suppose.
Fight the Power by Barenaked Ladies- I feel weird about a band of white men from Canada covering this song…
Sunday Bloody Sunday by Saul Williams- It is not as good as the original, in my opinion, but I ended up liking it more than I expected. (Please note: I expected not to like it at all.) I like the fuzzy music track. I did not like the spoken word bit at the end much.
Hava Nagila by Dick Dale- A surf rock version of Hava Nagila? Did they use this in Pulp Fiction? I…haven’t the words. Not offensive but the definition of inessential.
Metro by Idle Warship- This is a Berlin song, right? I do not have much of a memory of it, so the song has nothing to compete with.
That said, I’m still only ok with it. Even as a cover it feels very 80’s (which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself) but the lyrics just do not do much for me and they are so front and center there’s no way to not come into the song through them.
Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town by The Killers- Sometimes I think the Killers do this sort of thing just to mess with fans. I know they don’t, of course. But I do wonder…
Anyway, this sounds nothing like anything in the Killers’ catalog would suggest you should expect. Which is disappointing to me.
Walk On By by Isaac Hayes- Now this is a cover I can get behind. Love how drenched it is in the sounds of the decade. It’s all Hayes’ voice and horn blasts and funk synth lines.
I do have to say, though, I did not think the women backup singers were used as well as they could be.
Baker Street by Foo Fighters- Oof, when Grohl first comes in on vocals, he sounds so mumbly.
It gets better pretty quick from there, like his voice finds the right tone, volume, and clarity level. Unfortunately, as a cover this doesn’t offer much different from the original.
This Land is Your Land by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings- I love America but I don’t generally love this song. We had to sing it in a concert when I was 3rd or 4th grade and I suffered every word of it.
This version though...this is enough to make a man change his mind.
Ocean of Noise by Calexico- A pretty, subdue version of this song that still knows to elevate the tone at key moments for the first 3 or so minutes. Then it opens up nicely, the music swelling, really filling the headphones and the vocals following suit. Very good.
Joga by Georgi Kay – This is another original I am unfamiliar—it’s a Bjork song—, but I love this version here. Beautiful layer of her voice over a simple, sparse musical track makes it a heartbreaking, magnetic piece.
Rebel Rebel by Seu Jorge- What if someone did a version of “Rebel, Rebel” with all the rebel bled out of it. Well then, even singing it in a foreign language wouldn’t save it.
Wichita Lineman by Johnny Cash- A song that, while not for Cash, fits perfectly with his style. He actually seems a little brighter than you might expect given the song has the high capacity to go pretty dark without much of a push. I think it was released in ’03 but his voice sounds remarkably young.
Christian Brothers by Queens of the Stone Age- A bit more tawngy, lower volume Queens than people might be familiar with. I don’t know the source song so it provokes no kind of nostalgic connection, but it is a decent tune even devoid of that.
I Can’t Make You Love Me/Nick of Time by Bon Iver- Ok, so we can all just agree that Iver crushed it here, right? And that it probably didn’t need the “Nick of Time” coda? But is still great regardless.
Jolene by The White Stripes- This is such a natural cover for the Stripes that I was not even a little surprised that it is good.
I was pleasantly surprised that White didn’t trade the pronouns (because, hey, why not just leave it be) and less happy with what sounds like a dog panting in the background of the music track.
Dancing on My Own by Kings of Leon- This is a great example of an against type cover yielding great results. And that it is a Robyn song I re-discovered through this project here makes it even better. The mix seemed a little off in the first 15 seconds or so of the song, but it quickly rights itself so I’m docking it for that in the least.
Benny and the Jets by the Beastie Boys- If you needed a version of this song that sounds like a drunk man singing in front of an enthusiastic audience, well, here you go.