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  • How Faithful Should You Be with Cover Versions of Songs?

    This is a spin-off thread from Ras's thread about covering a 60s tune.


    I'm with those who don't mind changes in cover versions. I often substitute chords (like an Am for a Cmaj), do the tune in a different key, mess with the melody lines, add harmonies, etc. Certainly, I get creative with arrangements, in some cases because I can't play the instruments used in the original


    I tend to think trying to sound like the original isn't a good strategy, because you'll always not be what people remember and love.


    Also, some songs work in several different ways, so it's fun to put on a "different set of clothes" on the song and see it from a different perspective. For example, I'm doing a cover version of "Magie Noire," which to me is sort of the perfect mid-80s French pop electronic dance music. No way I could do it better. But, I'm doing a more guitar-centric treatment, and giving the vocals less urgency...in the original, the singer resisted trying to be brought into the girl's spell, in my version I'm more resigned to it as "the way it is." So it's the same song...different treatment, and instead of people comparing it to the original (e.g., "that sucks"), they'll hopefully see the song in a different way, and appreciate it all the more.


    But live...I dunno. I think a lot of cover bands sort of have to sound like the original, or face angry crowds throwing beer bottles at them. When I do covers live, which is rare, I do them very differently and people don't complain. Then again, they tend to be more concert situations rather than "house band" environments

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  • #2

    I will probably be in the minority in this.  To me, the best cover versions are the ones in which people perform the song as if THEY wrote it.  

    Unless you are a cover band, tribute band, bar band doing covers, etc., as a creative artist, it seems utterly pointless to do a song like the original.  It's already been done.  Don't you have some other way to interpret the song?

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    • sailorman
      sailorman commented
      Editing a comment

      That's a tough call.   I play in a cover band and we pride ourselves in coming as close as possible to the originals for most songs.   But that's sort of our 'job', and what folks expect (as Craig said).   Before the band got together, I was recording covers just for fun, with some of my old band mates.   We usually tried to get close to the originals, just to see if we could do it.   But I'd always try to play solos as if I were in the studio with that band;   here's how I would have played it.

      In recent years, I've heard covers on the radio that are almost indistinguishable from the original.   I usually make some sort of snide comment like "what's the point, it sounds just like the original?"   To which my wife usually replies, "Yeah, but it's exposed a whole new audience to the song, that might have never heard it otherwise".  Considering that my kids are singing along with it, that's certainly true.   So perhaps the band was playing homage to the original?   Maybe so.

      Of course, there are plenty of examples of bands that do a cover and really make it their own;   Joe Cocker's "A Little Help from my Friends", Hendrix' "All Along the Watchtower".   They became definitive versions in their own right, without in anyway detracting from the originals, standing on their own.

      So I guess "it depends".


    • Ernest Buckley
      Ernest Buckley commented
      Editing a comment

      UstadKhanAli wrote:

      I will probably be in the minority in this.  To me, the best cover versions are the ones in which people perform the song as if THEY wrote it.  

      Unless you are a cover band, tribute band, bar band doing covers, etc., as a creative artist, it seems utterly pointless to do a song like the original.  It's already been done.  Don't you have some other way to interpret the song?


      If you`re in the minority, then I`m with you. Nothing is more boring than a cover that sounds like the original. 


    • Geoff Grace
      Geoff Grace commented
      Editing a comment

      UstadKhanAli wrote:

      I will probably be in the minority in this.  To me, the best cover versions are the ones in which people perform the song as if THEY wrote it.  

      Unless you are a cover band, tribute band, bar band doing covers, etc., as a creative artist, it seems utterly pointless to do a song like the original.  It's already been done.  Don't you have some other way to interpret the song?


      This sums it up for me as well.

      Best,

      Geoff


  • #3

    I have been quite happy doing nothing but Zak Claxton covers. I usually invert the melody and play the chord changes backwards.

    Comment


    • rasputin1963
      rasputin1963 commented
      Editing a comment

      mcmike100 wrote:

      I have been quite happy doing nothing but Zak Claxton covers. I usually invert the melody and play the chord changes backwards.



      I think mcmike is channeling Angelo here,  may he RIP.


  • #4
    Anything goes as long as you can piece together the original.

    Comment


    • #5

      Anderton wrote:

      This is a spin-off thread from Ras's thread about covering a 60s tune.

      I'm with those who don't mind changes in cover versions. I often substitute chords (like an Am for a Cmaj), do the tune in a different key, mess with the melody lines, add harmonies, etc. Certainly, I get creative with arrangements, in some cases because I can't play the instruments used in the original

      I tend to think trying to sound like the original isn't a good strategy, because you'll always not be what people remember and love.

      Also, some songs work in several different ways, so it's fun to put on a "different set of clothes" on the song and see it from a different perspective. For example, I'm doing a cover version of "Magie Noire," which to me is sort of the perfect mid-80s French pop electronic dance music. No way I could do it better. But, I'm doing a more guitar-centric treatment, and giving the vocals less urgency...in the original, the singer resisted trying to be brought into the girl's spell, in my version I'm more resigned to it as "the way it is." So it's the same song...different treatment, and instead of people comparing it to the original (e.g., "that sucks"), they'll hopefully see the song in a different way, and appreciate it all the more.

      But live...I dunno. I think a lot of cover bands sort of have to sound like the original, or face angry crowds throwing beer bottles at them. When I do covers live, which is rare, I do them very differently and people don't complain. Then again, they tend to be more concert situations rather than "house band" environments


       

      The jazz crowd would think this to be a total nonissue.  For that crowd, the point is to NOT do it exactly the same way twice, ever, in jazz. Which points to the fact that, from the musician's point of view, there's no rule here.  But as Craig says, the audiences can get all exercised over this issue.  So the answer is pretty context-driven.

       

      Now in spite of my "no rules here" claim, my guts (ignoring my philosophical brain entirely) still react negatively to the appropriateness of some covers.  Like the coverage of old black gospel tunes by opera singers or turtle-necked jazzie/folkie combos - all the depth and poignancy of the originals sucked out while the cover artists invariably use the tunes as a chance to show off...cringe material if there ever was...

       

      So I guess I don't like covers that commence to tart up the original which seems to imply that the original was rather boring to begin with.  This is not the same as simply outdoing the original - where the cover brings out more of the original material than the original performance.  The difference between these two instances can get rather fuzzy no doubt. 

       

       

      I'd say this - covering a tune implies a certain respect for the original.  So you have to not violate that feeling of respect in your own mind or, more importantly, in the mind of the audience.  I felt a bit annoyed at McCartney in the Tribute To George concert where he led off Something jauntily on the ukelele and dinked around with the rhythm of the tune a bit - was that the old McCartney still showing a bit of flippancy towards George's songs??  Maybe it was all in my imagination, but I had this immediate reaction...

       

      nat whilk ii

       

      Comment


      • #6

        Anderton wrote:

        This is a spin-off thread from Ras's thread about covering a 60s tune.


        I'm with those who don't mind changes in cover versions. I often substitute chords (like an Am for a Cmaj), do the tune in a different key, mess with the melody lines, add harmonies, etc. Certainly, I get creative with arrangements, in some cases because I can't play the instruments used in the original


        I tend to think trying to sound like the original isn't a good strategy, because you'll always not be what people remember and love.


        Also, some songs work in several different ways, so it's fun to put on a "different set of clothes" on the song and see it from a different perspective. For example, I'm doing a cover version of "Magie Noire," which to me is sort of the perfect mid-80s French pop electronic dance music. No way I could do it better. But, I'm doing a more guitar-centric treatment, and giving the vocals less urgency...in the original, the singer resisted trying to be brought into the girl's spell, in my version I'm more resigned to it as "the way it is." So it's the same song...different treatment, and instead of people comparing it to the original (e.g., "that sucks"), they'll hopefully see the song in a different way, and appreciate it all the more.


        But live...I dunno. I think a lot of cover bands sort of have to sound like the original, or face angry crowds throwing beer bottles at them. When I do covers live, which is rare, I do them very differently and people don't complain. Then again, they tend to be more concert situations rather than "house band" environments




        That all makes sense to me.


        I always thought Flying Lizards was a lot more interesting outfit than, say, Sha Na Na.


        I'm not suggesting the artist has to subvert or reinvent every cover -- particularly if they are, you know, the kind of fabulous interpreter whose very act of singing brings something previously unattainable to a song, a Billie Holiday, say  -- but how often is that? Not as often as some artists think, that's for sure.  wink.gif 

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        The chorus seems a little weak... I think it needs more lasers.

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