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Cover Versions vs Origional


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OK guys. Im just kinda curious and wanted to start a thread comparing songs to their cover versions.

 

for example:

Which is better...Faith By George Michael or Faith by Limp Bizkit

All along the watchtower - Jimmy or Bob?

The Scientist - Coldplay or Johnette Napolitano?

 

have fun

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It should be interesting to get the insights of songwriters on this...

 

Let's see if we can't make this even more relevant to the songwriting -- instead of just picking one, why not post your thinking behind your choice(s).

 

 

I'm only familiar with two of the tracks above -- happily both the same song. Although "Jimmy" threw me off for a sec -- I was thinking, Jimmy Page? Jimmy Jam?

 

But I do know the Jimi Hendrix version of "Watchtower" -- saw him do it live (never saw Dylan back in the day, unfortunately) and used to think a lot about the dichotomic aspects of those two versions. (Sorry about the use of "dichotomic" -- I just love dicking with the Firefox spellchecker. Hell, even the word "spellchecker" gets red-flagged! :D )

 

Anyhow... I like them both... I think Watchtower is one of Bob's slicker productions (of his good material, anyhow, obviously, later he started slathering production onto his tracks but by then the writing was often formulaic, even trite)...

 

... but Jimi's version has so much edge, even with some of his slickest production (on the album version) and drive and it seems so perfectly to capture that howling wind conjured up by Bob's (for once) appropriate harmonica playing. Really a special track in the wedding of cool songwriting and very cool playing and production.

 

I saw him in 1969, when his fascination with Dylan seemed to be at its height, and I was really hoping and wishing for an album of Dylan covers from Jimi...

 

Ah... the things that shall never be.

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As everything it depends on your tastes!

Some cover songs beg to be burned 'cause they're so bad.... but others excel.

Some covers lack any new elements and sounds the same, others are molded into different styles and sound even better. It all depends.

For example, an old goodie, Aha - Take on Me. I love the old version and the falsetto the guy pulls in the chorus but if you give me to choose this the original version or Reel Big Fish take on this song guess will one I will choose? ;)

 

But as I said, some songs are better left alone...

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OK...

 

I got one... this is good.

 

"Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles" (written by Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart)

 

orig: Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, Clear Spot. (1973)

 

cover: Joan Osborne (retitled as "His Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles"), from her 1993 EP, Blue Million Miles

 

 

First, Osborne at least gets props for knowing about the song to cover it (and this was in 1993, five years before its brief inclusion in the soundtrack of The Big Lebowski).

 

But her blustery, some would say heavy-handed (some would say ham-fisted), version, huge with 80's style rock production cliches, almost completely misses the undulating sensuality of the original. While Osborne gets points for rocking hard, she ultimately loses more for clumsily trampling a surprisingly sophisticated, sensuous and ultimately delicate outsider pop classic. Beefheart's Magic Band is arguably at its best on this Ted Templeman-produced (!) album.

 

The Magic Band arrangement is marked by an intricate interlock of sinuous marimbas and a gently syncopated rhythm section... it's only Beefheart's gruff vocals that probably kept this tune from getting noticed by pop radio. He'd had a highly unlikely regional top 40 hit with his mocking but still loving tribute to R&B, "Too Much Time" and that was surely how the mainstream-oriented Templeman (who was to go on to produce the biggest early hits by Van Halen, of all people) got involved.

 

 

 

_____________________________

 

I wasn't able to hear this one:

 

cover: Yat-Kha

 

I was definitely disasppointed to find that I couldn't hear Yat-Kha's cover of the tune on their Re-Covers album, especially after I read the write-up below:

 

(While one of their earlier efforts was on my subscription service, I drew the line at having to install the Rhapsody player [Rhapsody, of course, is the bastard step-child of RealNetworks, the RealPlayer people. RP is permanently banned from my machine.] I guess we'll have to wait for a Rhapsody subscriber or someone else who doesn't care what kind of intrusive software they install to check it out. ;) [if you install the Rhapsody player you get to listen to 25 songs a month free. Woo hoo. Meanwhile, who knows what the software is doing on your system. RN has areputation for prowling through your hard drive and compiling lists of your media. Just, you know, for corporate research.)

 

But this write up (from Rhapsody) did intrigue me...

The man behind Yat-Kha, Albert Kuvezin, was a founding member of Tuvan throat singing sensations Huun-Huur-Tu, but Kuvezin felt hemmed in by the group's very traditional approach and founded Yat-Kha as an outlet for his interest in rock 'n' roll. If the band's 1999 release
Dalai Beldiri
straddled some previously unknown line between indie rock and Tuvan throat singing, 2006's
Re-Covers
completely undid classic rock warhorses with Kuvezin's treatment, which ranges from gravelly-voiced to downright sub-sonic. (Tom Waits could learn a thing or two from the album.) This man hails from a little-known former Soviet republic, but he deserves to be the next indie rock darling.

 

- Sarah Bardeen

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First, Osborne at least gets props for knowing about the song to cover it

 

 

There's a connection here: her guitar player was Gary Lucas, an ex-Magic Band member. (Haven't heard her version of this...)

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Taken on its own -- her version is not bad. But I think we can tell that this is pretty much sacred turf for me... I'm not saying remaking "Blue Million" is like remaking Citizen Kane. Well, not exactly...

 

Anyhow, about Gary Lucas being in her band... I did not know that.

 

Nor did I realize he'd gone on to play with a bunch of pop stars. (Or that he had a degree in English from Yale, though, the more I wallow in that overlap of memory and imagination, I almost think I remember Beef introducing him the first time I saw that MB incarnation in such a way.) Or, for that matter, that he'd co-written a song with Osborne that got nommed for a Grammy.

 

Anyhow, I remember him well in the last Magic Band. He was a fine player. I remember him looking really young... though he's only a year younger than I am. Well... that was a quarter century ago.

 

 

Anyhow, I just finished listening to "Sodom i Gomora" by Yat-Kha and, hoo boy, I'm almost tempted to invite the devil itself (in the form of RealNetwork's Rhapsody player) onto my machine just to hear their covers album... these guys are not your typical pop rockers. By about a blue million miles...

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In my opinion, a remake is a failure if it is not better than the original. Who wants to hear a song sung with less passion, or performed with less skill?

 

Dylan is known mostly for his songwriting abilities, and while I like his singing style, it is certainly not for everybody, so maybe that explains why his songs are so frequently targets for being remade.

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In my opinion, a remake is a failure if it is not better than the original. Who wants to hear a song sung with less passion, or performed with less skill?


Dylan is known mostly for his songwriting abilities, and while I like his singing style, it is certainly not for everybody, so maybe that explains why his songs are so frequently targets for being remade.

 

I think jumping sideways with it can give you some cover.

 

No one would think to judge Devo's "Workin' in a Coal Mine" because the singing wasn't as good as Sam Cooke's... they might judge it for other reasons, I suppose. ;) [Mind you, though I saw them in '77 or '78 the first time, my fascination with Devo didn't outlast their inclusion of a lyric sheet with their first record. :D ]

 

Or, say, to take an even more extreme case, Flying Lizard's cover of "Money." Now there's a song that might be argued is superior to the original in many ways...

 

Well, maybe that shows my rather tweaked perspective. :D [uPDATE: come to think of it, I was refering to the Beatles' version and it occured to me almost as soon as I hit the SAVE button that it was a cover. Having some trouble remembering or looking up who cut it first, though... it is a Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, Jackson, Lane song so I'm thinking that's a Philly record, probably Thom Bell production... maybe on Atlantic, Chess, or one of the smaller labels.]

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oh man, my favorite cover of all time:

 

Lacuna Coil's cover of Enjoy The Silence by Depeche Mode.

 

That is an absolutely amazing song, and the cover just took it to a new level entirely. If you haven't heard it I strongly suggest checking it out it's really awesome. I don't really know much about the other songs being discussed here so I can't really input on that, but I do agree that if you're going to record a cover of a song, it has to take the original and do something with it. I hate covers that sound too similar to the originals.

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The secret to a great cover is interpretation. Do you have a connection with the lyrical intent? Are you inspired to make it your own?

 

 

 

I'm sorry I didn't comment on that earlier because I think that's crucial to making a cover "yours."

 

FOr me that's really the point of covers... to connect up with a song that means something to you.

 

 

We've been mostly talking about studio covers, I think, here. But I have to say I think doing covers live can be a whole different thing... I don't think the same standards of having to surpass or reinvent the original apply as much when you're up on a stage.

 

For one thing, real bands don't tend to sound like their own records. (At least, not in the same way as highly packaged, preprogrammed, or lipsynched bands -- and it seems like there are more and more as the "musicians" become more just stage models voguing with instruments in their hands.)

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"Shipbuilding"

 

This is a weird case. It was written by Elvis Costello apparently intended for Robert Wyatt. Wyatt recorded the first version of it. Costello later did his own version. I guess we ought to call Wyatt's the 'original version'.

 

I came at this ass-backwards as I heard Costello's version first and have not listened to Wyatt's as much...partially because I was at one time a bit of a Costello freak.

 

I feel that both versions are not quite right. One lacks what the other has. Wyatt's is a bit too quiet and spare for me, especially coming from Costello's version. It could use just a little more 'oomph'. Costello's has the wonderful trumpet of Chet Baker. But Costello's is an overblown, overdramatic blimp of a song. I prefer Wyatt's plaintive voice - Costello was right to have him do the song. (I am no longer a Costello freak and mostly find his vocalizing to be overwrought and irritating now, especially in his post 1980s material.)

 

This is one case where imo a definitive version is somewhere in between the two.

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Yeah... I was a huge Costello fan after seeing him on a lark at the Whisky at his first LA show (I knew when I saw all the industry types that it was either gonna be really noteworthy or really awful. Obviously, it was really noteworthy. In fact, it was a truly great show.)

 

But I'd been a Wyatt fan before that, coming out of Soft Machine/Matching Mole...

 

My favorite here is Wyatt's version. It's painfully spare, of course, but really haunting and evocative, for me. As you say, El throws in the kitchen sink and I'm not sure the song needed it. In fact, I'm sure it didn't.

 

It's a pretty great song, though.

 

Still... for sheer evocativeness and story telling from my generation about our parents' WWII generation, I have to put my money solidly on Richard Thompson's really haunting "Al Bowly's in Heaven."

 

Damn. Now there's a song...

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In my opinion, a remake is a failure if it is not better than the original.

 

 

 

i almost agree ... i would say if it doesn't in some way transcend the original ... find something new in it ... discover something that wasn't there before

 

case in point is Cash's cover of NIN's "Hurt"

 

i actually love the Cake version of "I Will Survive" for the same reason, though totally different songs

 

Cobain's version of Bowie's "Man Who Sold the World" is also a great example

 

and my all-time favorite is the Ben Folds Five's cover of the the Flaming Lips "She Don't Use Jelly"

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i cant say much about the other two but i think that depending on the type of person you are, being more into rock or more into folk, then one version of the All along the watchtower will be better.

 

I think that both versions are very good and I cant chose between the two.

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I've got one: "I Shot The Sheriff."

 

I like Eric Clapton's version better than Bob Marley's. For one, I think he sings the chorus with a better melody. The way it hangs on the last syllable "sheriiiifffff....." sounds much more pleasing to me than Bob's more blunt "III shot the SHERiff." I also prefer the verses on Clapton's version because of the pronounced keyboards. And of course, he's playing those tasty licks in the background all the while ;).

 

Another cover that I prefer to the original is "Lake of Fire" by The Meat Puppets, as covered by Nirvana. The original is a lot more "hard rockin'," which is fine, but I don't really dig hard rockin' stuff as much as I used to. Cobain's version has a much nicer feel to it, and he also sings it with a way better melody. That is to say, his version actually has a melody; the original version is pretty monotone through most of the verses. I also prefer Cobain's solo for much the same reason as I prefer the overall song. The original solo is a rocking minor-pentatonic deal that sounds like the same kind of solo you've heard a million times. But Cobain's has character.

 

I have to admit, though, that generally I prefer the originals to cover versions. Rarely do I feel that the covers live up to the original.

 

One final thought on why Bob Dylan is covered so much. Most of his songs are so stripped down... they're amazing, but many of them sound more like a demo tape of an amazing song. They're begging to be fleshed out. His voice is probably also another big factor, but any Bob Dylan fan can attest that it really grows on you :D.

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No one would think to judge Devo's "Workin' in a Coal Mine" because the singing wasn't as good as Sam Cooke's...

 

 

Ahem... Lee Dorsey...

 

I find that I'm usually listen to the SONGS more than the RECORDING, so a lot of times I don't get the point of the remake. "Watchtower" is an obvious counterexample, for me--the Hendrix version sounds a bit like what a pre-bike accident Dylan would have made it sound like, which is probably the way it should have been in the first place.

 

If we're talking Devo, "Satisfaction" is another song that may have been better re-interpreted, if only because the Stones never seemed that unsatisfied.

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