Friday, March 24, 2006

Cover Me

To my eternal chagrin, TV-Holic recently pointed out the fact that American Idol contestant Chris Daughtry's "new arrangement" of Johnny Cash's "Walk the Line" was not, as Chris had claimed, an original, but a nearly note-for-note mimicry of the band Live's version. Ready to throw down on TV-Holic for unjustly maligning my favorite Idol, I downloaded the Live version off of iTunes, and sadly, he was right. Chris changed the key and rocked out the end a little, but it was pretty much the same.

Jose and I are now taking bets as to how long it's going to take Chris to dump his wife after he gets a) really famous and b) groupies. Because if he'd lie about re-creating a song.... Sigh.

Anyway, my attempt to forget the whole sorry mess led me to start mentally scanning my CD library and iTunes list for some of my favorite song covers (I told you all I was random.). To make my personal list, the artists had to come up with a different instrumental arrangement and riff on the original melody to create something entirely new. (Like I THOUGHT Chris D. had done to "Walk the Line." Still bitter.)

Here's my list. Feel free to add some of yours, if any.

1) "32 Flavors" (Original by Ani DiFranco, covered by Alana Davis): This was the song that had me running to the nearest music store, ready to snarf up every CD in Davis's discography. (Fortunately for my budget, that was only three.) Though Davis's version is still recognizable, she uses her jazzy purr of a voice to color up the melody with a few subtle riffs and runs (no Mariah-like screeching), and consequently she owns this song. Beautiful.

2) "The Reaper" (Original by Blue Oyster Cult, covered by Alana Davis): Yeah, she's here twice. Love her. Davis slows it down and turns the Cult classic into acoustic brilliance, which makes me want to grab my guitar and forget all about Suzanne Vega every time. (Except that, oh, my guitar-playing SUCKS.) I adore this version, despite the fact that there's no cowbell. ("I've got a FEVER, and the only cure is more cowbell.")

3) "Guantanamera" (Originally who knows who the heck recorded this Cuban classic? Covered by Celia Cruz, with Tito Puente.) Man, I miss Celia. That growl, that energy, that singular voice, punctuating every song with her trademark "Azucar!" Celia had a way of making every song she sang brand new, even one I had considered somewhat tired. You cannot hear Celia sing "Guantanamera" without dancing. (I used to have it on a workout CD, and I once nearly got sucked under a treadmill a la George Jetson because I started throwing a salsa step into my run.) Plus, my husband was born in Guantanamo, so we both have a little extra affection for Celia's cover. (If you listen to it, I have to warn you that La India comes in out of nowhere and starts bleating in the middle. Fortunately, this blemish on an otherwise perfect cover does not last long.)

4) "Saltwater" (Original entitled "Theme from Harry's Game" by Clannad. Reimagined by Chicane featuring Maire Brennan): Is it a cover if you're using the same singer? Whatever the case, I love Clannad, and I love the way Chicane ripped the Harry's Game version apart, sped it up, and put it back together to a trance beat. Is it sampling? Is it a cover? Is it something new altogether? I have no clue, but I like it.

5) "Dust in the Wind" (Original by Kansas, covered by Daughter Darling.) I've always loved the original, but Daughter Darling's acoustic version--which I found on someone else's cover list on iTunes--made it a favorite of mine for those days when I feel like taking out my guitar and torturing the neighbors with my singing.

6) "Blue Monday" (Original by New Order, covered by Flunk.) OK, all of you purists are going to hate this one, especially since the lead singer sounds like the woman who sang "Unpack Your Adjectives" from Schoolhouse Rock. But I like this slightly Bjork-ish, slowed down, acoustic version.

7) "The Man Who Sold the World" (Original by David Bowie, covered by Jordis Unga.) Jordis was a contestant on last year's Rock Star: INXS, which my brother Troy and I watched religiously despite the fact that whatshername the useless host and the Paula Abdul-esque Dave Navarro contributed way too many minutes of utter insipidness to the show. Anyway, before Jordis lost her confidence and choked, she delivered a poignant, powerful version of the Bowie original that had both of us raving for weeks. Definitely worth a download.

8) "Personal Jesus" (Original by Depeche Mode, covered by Pat McDonald.) McDonald takes this new wave classic and turns it into acoustic funk. Love it.

9) "Time After Time" (Original by Cyndi Lauper, covered by Eva Cassidy.) Another artist taken from us too soon, Eva Cassidy had a way of re-creating a song that made you forget all about the original. The way her clear, lovely voice could run in and out and all around the original melody was absolute magic. Since Eva did mainly covers, I could fill up another ten spots on this list with her song reworkings. But this one will always be my favorite, just for the sheer beauty of it.

10) "Uncle John's Band" (Original by the Grateful Dead, covered by the Indigo Girls.) Covering this Dead song in their trademark two-part-harmony style, the Indigo Girls arguably improved upon the original. I never get tired of hearing this one.

And a short list of covers that grossly insulted the original artists:

1) "Landslide" (Original by Fleetwood Mac, made blase' by the Dixie Chicks). I like the Dixie Chicks, but girls, don't mess with Stevie and the band.

2) "My Prerogative" (Original by Bobby Brown, butchered by Britney Spears.) Now, I am no Bobby Brown fan (poor, poor Bobby Christina), but with a voice like that, Brit, you don't want to give people the chance to compare you to anyone else.

3) "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (Original by Nirvana, messed up royally by Tori Amos.) Tori, don't you ever, EVER, touch Nirvana again. Ever. And stay away from Pearl Jam.

4) "It's the End of the World As We Know It" (Original by REM, turned into a complete horror show by No Doubt.) I don't know if there are extant copies of this cover anywhere, but if there are, they should be destroyed immediately and promptly forgotten. It was New Year's Eve, 1999, and MTV had invited No Doubt to come perform this song on their New Year's special. They came, they saw, they royally sucked. Actually, the band was fine, but Gwen not only stood in one place to lean over and squint at the cue cards like a nerd who'd broken her glasses, but she completely butchered the lyrics. It went something like this:

GWEN: "That's great, it starts with an earth! ... Quake! ... Birds and snakes! .......And ehhhhhhhh, Lenny Beeeeeehhhh is mehhh mehhhhhhhhhhh. Eye of a weeehhhhhhhhh wehhhh meeehhhh mehhhh, wehhhhhhhh, ... Airplanes! ... It's the end of the world as we know it, and I! Feel! Meeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh."

Worst. Cover. EVAH.

And you know, if Melissa McGhee was booted off American Idol for forgetting Stevie Wonder's lyrics, shouldn't Gwen have at least been publicly humiliated? Tom says she ran off the stage and cried afterward, to which I say, "You should have!" I mean, didn't the trip over in the Lear Jet and the scads of money MTV paid you give you enough time and incentive to memorize your words like a big girl and not grossly insult one of the greatest alternative bands of all time? Sheesh.

Thanks to my brother Tom for reminding me of this aural travesty. I've been wanting to publicly vent about that for six years.

"Seven Days to a Less-Scatterbrained Me" update: Brushed teeth with wrong hand without incident, though I suspect that if the dentist had given me one of those little red chewable pills afterwards that show the plaque you left behind, I would have looked like I'd just eaten someone. Forgot to close eyes in shower until I was just about to get out. Drat! Will redo tomorrow.


Tom said...

I need to hear a rant on No Doubt's cover of "It's the End of the World as We Know It" from New Year's Eve 1999 on MTV.

Tracy Montoya said...

That wasn't a cover--that was a complete horror show. But for you, Tom, I'll go back into this entry and add it.

Did you like my SNL reference?

Tom said...

I did catch that. "Explore the space!"

It would have been good to also throw in,"I need some Chronic...What?!...-cles of Narnia!"

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Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

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