Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cover Me, Day Three : Baby I'm In The Mood For You - Odetta

There are hundreds of Bob Dylan covers to choose from. They range from seminal (The Byrds' Mr. Tambourine Man) to best-avoided  (a quick Google just revealed My Chemical Romance had a go at Desolation Row - has anyone braved a listen?)

I've opted for Odetta's take on Baby I'm In The Mood For You. Odetta was a folk-singer with a background, so I've heard, in opera singing. I could go and check that up, but the past isn't important right now because when the play button is hit on this track, Odetta's in the room - alive and very much present.

I'd seen Odetta Sings Dylan in Mulligan's music shop in Galway (a treasure trove, that place) in the late nineties, but I only really became aware of Odetta when I saw Scorsese's Dylan documentary. It featured this clip and made me go and pilfer a copy of the album from a friend.

It opened with Baby In The Mood For You, and it instantly became one of my favourite Dylan covers. In fact, I'm not sure if it's even a cover anymore - if you asked me to sing it, I'd be attempting the Odetta version. Though it might end up sounding like this.

This is just so much fun to listen to, and it sounds like the singer had a hoot recording it. It kind of makes you wish you were the person Odetta is in the mood for. Her repetition of 'then again, then again' seems to nullify the verses that come before it. Leaving her lonesome home, hitting the highway road, laughing until she cries - all these things are cast aside with glee. The way her voice goes high towards the end of the songs is always a surprise, no matter how may times I listen to it.

Which is a number that keeps increasing. Listen and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cover Me, Day Two : Yellow Submarine - Roots Manuva

Today's song sends me off on a few tangents, setting off a nice little Catherine wheel. What's your favourite Beatles song? Is Octopus' Garden Ringo's finest moment? It also brings to mind some of my favourite re-workings of John, Paul and George's songs. Yesterday, my friend Glen Forde reminded me of Stevie Wonder's peachy version of We Can Work It Out.  The Jim Jones Revue do a demented take on Get Back that's worth checking out.

I've gone for Roots Manuva's version of Yellow Submarine because it makes me smile, but also because the London rapper is one of my favourite artists. Witness(One Hope) is the song he's best known for - it is deadly - but there's also gems like Let The Spirit, Dreamy Days and Too Cold.  He makes great albums, full of wit, bravado and self deprecation, and I think he's a little overlooked.

This is what Yellow Submarine would have sounded like if Ringo had been told that the submarine was coming to get him. With its sparse beats and strings, this is a true re-imagining. Or maybe it's just odd. Either way, I like it and it makes me want to put on more of Roots Manuva's tunes.

Which is always a blast.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cover Me, Day One : Love Is Blindness - Jack White


I've set myself a bit of a mission. For the next seven days, I'll be posting about some of my favourite cover versions. The title for this series is taken from a Springsteen song which, incidentally, isn't a cover. But if you've clicked on the link, you're lepping around to a belter. Best to leave the reading for the next three and a half minutes so.

And you're back! I first heard Jack White's version of Love Is Blindness last year, when Q magazine brought out a CD of artists covering songs from Achtung Baby. It's probably my favourite U2 album; I started listening to it when I was 13 and really getting into music. Love Is Blindness gave me the heebie-jeebies - it still does.

I heard White's cover again recently when I watched what I think is a dodgy trailer for Baz Luhrman's 3D take on The Great Gatsby. Have a look - does anyone else think the hurtling yellow car is straight out of Roger Rabbit? And it's a little disconcerting that Peter Parker is playing the narrator in one of my favourite books.

Anyway, back to the song in question. What I like about the original is that Bono holds back when his voice could go up. He mightn't be known for his subtlety, but he shows some here, bringing out the song's sense of loss, and setting the scene for the rawness of Edge's solo. 

White's version forsakes the opening Hammond organ coda for drum beats, going for a different tone from the get-go. He matches Bono's vocal for the first verse, before letting rip on the second. Restraint is howled away, then the ex-White Stripes' man launches into some suitably messy guitar shredding.

He seems to be playing on the anger that the original alludes to. But, as John Lydon said, anger is an energy. At one point, White sounds lost in the song, changing (or forgetting) the lyrics to 'Love is blindness/I'm so sick of it.'  It's the moment, for me, that marks what makes a great cover - that point where it takes on a life of its own, separate from the original.

U2's Love Is Blindness  is forlorn, watching TV with the sound turned down; Jack White chucks that telly out the window.

Rock 'n' roll.