Re: Cask Strength Leonard Cohen

1

This is without question how you do Leonard Cohen right.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 8:33 PM
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"I recently subjected myself to the awful experience of hearing and seeing a frattish tool with an accordion cover "I'm Your Man".

Why on Earth? À propos, accordions remind me of that guy on my floor who dealt coke to everyone my sophomore year. Not only did he deal coke, his mom also made the most incredible baklava (he was Greek-American) which he always shared with everyone. He used to get coked up, gobble baklava, and stand in the hall and play his accordion. Oh, those were good times.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 8:58 PM
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This is without question how you do Dead Kennedys right. (Starts about 50 seconds in.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:00 PM
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The first Leonard Cohen song I loved.

Like most people who follow politics closely, I sometimes imagine myself running for president. Since the mid-90s I've imagined that this would be my campaign song.

It's coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin'
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:01 PM
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I'm partial to "Tower of Song," Leonard Cohen-wise.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:06 PM
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Even better Dead Kennedy's cover.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:09 PM
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I've always yearned for a campaign to choose "Repressed Hostility Blues", which can be heard here:
http://www.wfmu.org/365/2007/128.shtml

My mother would play this album when I was a young child at home. The experienc convinced me that early childhood environment has no effect.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:09 PM
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I've always yearned for a campaign to choose "Repressed Hostility Blues", which can be heard here:
http://www.wfmu.org/365/2007/128.shtml

My mother would play this album when I was a young child at home. The experienc convinced me that early childhood environment has no effect.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:10 PM
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I prefer the original. Where are the synthesizers and hand claps?


Posted by: JudasConstant | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:11 PM
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Aaaaagh 3 is making me crazy that I'm not going to the playa this year. Damn yooooouuuu!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:13 PM
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8 is outstanding:

"Oh there must be a chump
On whom I can dump
these repressed hostility blues!"


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:21 PM
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2: I didn't know it was going to happen like that.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:31 PM
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Ok, I'm drunk, maudlin, and have to go to be at midnight. What should I watch on youtube in the next 15 minutes?

I think this is pretty cool. In part because I spent a lot of time in the nightclub where it was shot. (The club still exists, but at a different location.) I can picture the perch above the stage that the videographer must have been sitting in vividly. There was this annoying post going right down the center of the club. generally the slamdancing pit was in front of it, and people who just wanted to see the show would stand behind it. Somehow, I always wound up directly behind it, so I couldn't see the band.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:43 PM
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(The club still exists, but at a different location.

Deep.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:48 PM
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For you, Rob! Especially 3-ish and 5-ish minutes in.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:50 PM
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15: Ah, thank you.

And so to bed.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:02 PM
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6 is the kind of a capella I could actually quite like.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:13 PM
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6 is the kind of a capella I could actually quite like.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:13 PM
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Actually I quite like double-posting.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:13 PM
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Aaaaagh 3 is making me crazy that I'm not going to the playa this year.

Apparently a lot of people are taking a pass this year. I'm bummed; I was looking forward to actually being able to find parking in the Mission.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:18 PM
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20: heh. Next year everybody'll be back, is what I hear.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:23 PM
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See, I'm not the only one!

(Sweet Jesus, that strip ran 11 years ago? Oy.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:24 PM
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My first year in SF, and my first year on the playa! You warm my heart, Josh.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:26 PM
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Maxx Klaxon has the best "First We Take Manhattan" cover.


Posted by: bzbb | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:26 PM
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23: I didn't know you were in I Tappa Keg...


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:29 PM
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25: am I so opaque?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:31 PM
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Rufus Wainwright's 'Everybody Knows' is about as bad as it gets, Cohen-cover-wise.

I have a friend in one of those terrible pub-bands you ignore to within an inch of your life, and he recently discovered Arcade Fire. He's incapable of singing without impersonating Johnny Cash, and his 'Revolution (lies)' would be a fucking YouTube PHENOMENON if I ever taped it.


Posted by: Rottin' in Denmark | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:13 PM
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Why "if"?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:16 PM
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Sorry, bzbb. I'm gonna have to remain loyal to Dead Raven Choir.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:19 PM
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I have a friend in one of those terrible pub-bands you ignore to within an inch of your life

Unless you're dating the bass player, I guess.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:20 PM
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30: That's true. It makes a difference. Plus the guy I dated (that's what they call it short of marriage these days?) for 7 years was in a series of pub bands, one of which was pretty good, though the singer, whom I was dating, had a tendency to sound like Geddy Lee at times. Honestly, all the players in that band were excellent musicians.

(/not defensive)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:44 PM
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To a first approximation, all covers of Leonard Cohen are ill-advised. If he was the kind of songwriter whose stuff was easily covered, he'd be called Neil Sedaka. Identifying the rare exceptions is a good parlour game, but for adults only, as care should be taken not to lead the innocent astray.

This applies equally to Tom Waits and, oddly enough, Jimi Hendrix.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 3:13 AM
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32:and, oddly enough, Jimi Hendrix.

Dylan did kind of an interesting thing with his relatively unknown take on "All Along the Watchtower".


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 5:55 AM
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27:Spanky & Our Gang's vaudevillian shouting of "Suzanne" has to be heard to be believed.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 6:08 AM
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33. This is a joke, right?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 6:10 AM
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33. Certainly did. Recording a song months before Hendrix' version was released and writing it himself too: Pretty interesting.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 6:20 AM
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I liked Roberta Flack's "That's no way to say goodbye".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 6:25 AM
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I saw the experience music project when I was up in Seattle (big Jimi + museum). There was one place where they had a few albums from Hendrix's personal collection mounted, including his copy of John Wesley Harding. Never has an instance of a mass produced commodity seemed so unique to me.


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:34 AM
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The story goes that Jimi heard Dylan singing and thought, "man, if that dude can make a living singing, then so can I."


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:53 AM
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33,35,36: When I saw Dylan a few years ago on what I think of has his "southern/western country/rock" tour (a lot of the gigs were at minor-league baseball stadiums, and the opening acts and the arrangements went in that direction) he encored with a version of "Watchtower" that included a lot of heavy (but very different) guitar. For a brief moment I had the thought, "He's trying to take the song back from Hendrix."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:58 AM
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Jennifer Warnes version of "Famous Blue Raincoat" (a song I generally think is uncoverable) is good. As it should be.

Teddy Thompson's cover of "The Future" is probably my favorite Cohen cover ever and is, arguably, better than the original.

Also off the "I'm Your Man" album I have a weird affection for Rufus Wainwrights' cover of "Chelsea Hotel No.2" -- it's just such an odd choice to cover.

Joni Mitchell is another artist that's very hard to cover. Two nights ago I listened to three different versions of "A Case of You" and the two covers were good, but when you heard the original it was so much more natural. There's so many little twists and turns of mood that unless you know exactly where they all are, it can be a bumpy ride.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 10:04 AM
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40: I had a similar thought, that he was acknowledging that the song was Hendrix's.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 10:37 AM
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I think Cohen covers pretty well. Most covers of "Hallelujah" are good, as are most covers of "Bird on a Wire". Concrete Blonde's "Everybody Knows" is good.

I usually like covers of Hendrix better than the original. (Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" is a rare exception.) I didn't appreciate what a good song "Bold as Love" was until I heard the Pretenders cover.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 10:40 AM
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I don't usually like Hendrix lyrics. I have an imaginary file of spacy stoner lyrics (including Hendrix, Stevie Nicks Fleetwood Mac, and Albert Lee's "Love"). Songs I actually like, but whose lyrics are unbearable.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 10:44 AM
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42: that he was acknowledging that the song was Hendrix's.

I didn't get to that thought myself, but I like it.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:34 AM
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For a brief moment I had the thought, "He's trying to take the song back from Hendrix."

I think it's interesting to listen to the original Kris Kristofferson version of "Me and Bobby McGee" and then his version at the Isle of Wight -- the later version is much closer to the Janis Joplin version.

I speculate that it's some combination of sincere tribute -- Janis Joplin found something in the song that he didn't originally see, and a sense that she so completely defined the song that the audience would be frustrated if he did it in his original style.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:41 AM
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Joni Mitchell is another artist that's very hard to cover.

I dunno, I thought Counting Crows did a good job.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:50 AM
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46: Yes, she gets credited with the "another name for nothing left to lose" line more than he does.

Otis Redding on Aretha's version of "Respect":

he was quoted playfully describing "Respect" as the song "that little girl done stole from me."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:54 AM
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I just read the lyrics to "First We Take Manhattan" and I had forgotten that it has the line.

Remember me, I brought your groceries in
Which reminds me of "Leonard Cohen's never gonna bring my groceries in." (scroll down).
Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:30 PM
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This is without question how you do Leonard Cohen right.

I finally listened to the cover and . . . no.

It is good, but to argue that it's worth is based on it's success as an interpretation of leonard cohen seems like a stretch.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 4:37 PM
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I can't possibly take 50 seriously, what with all those apostrophes.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 4:42 PM
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Embarrassing.

I'm sure the Dead Raven Choir wouldn't misuse an apostrophe.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 4:47 PM
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Thinking about that reaction a little more, it isn't just that it's done in a different spirit than the original; my objection is that it doesn't seem responsive to the original (not that it's one of Leonard Cohen's more substantive songs).

I think that the Devo cover of "Satisfaction" is one of the best covers of a frequently covered song, but it is responsive to the original.

This makes me conclude that they should do a version of "The Morning of Our Lives" -- I would be interested in hearing that.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 4:49 PM
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Why should it be responsive to the original? Doing something clever w/r/t the original treatment is a good thing in a cover, but it's hardly a necessary component of a good cover.

I think that John Cale's cover of "Heartbreak Hotel", Laibach's of "One Vision" (as "Geburt einer Nation"), and Richard Thompson's of "Oops! I Did It Again", but I'm not sure I'd say that any is responsive to the original. (That's a sincere lack of surety, though I suppose a case can most easily by made that the Laibach is.) Certainly they're all quite different arrangements of the material.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 4:56 PM
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Why should it be responsive to the original? . . . it's hardly a necessary component of a good cover.

Here's my thinking:

Why do a cover? Why not write an original song?

In my mind, the answers to that question are (1) lack of inspiration, (2) desire to sing a song that has a history (3) finding the original interesting in some way.

If the motivation is (1), that seems like a strike against the cover in some way. If the motivation is (2), than clearly doing something that responds to prior versions is important (and, I would argue, that Richard Thompson cover of "Oops! I Did it Again" falls into this category, and is responsive to the original). If the motivation is (3) it gets trickier.

I have a prejudice that, if you find the original interesting it's a more successful tribute to perform a version that demonstrates familiarity with the strengths of the original. I'm not sure that I can defend that beyond the level of personal aesthetic preference. There's certainly something to be said for responding to a piece of art with something else that bears no direct resemblance to the original -- but I'm not sure that works with a cover.

As I write this, I realize that I don't know how this analysis relates to professional songwriters, and songs in which the original performer did not write the song, and the original writer did not perform the song.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 5:21 PM
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I would add that I think one of the common ways in which a cover can suffer is from either clearly missing what's interesting about the original, or from a lack of artistic ambition.

I think that there are times when a cover feels like the performer thinks that doing a familiar song in a different style is sufficient justification for the song -- without figuring out whether that song has any particular meaning in the style in which they're performing it.

For example, for as much fun as the Shirley Bassey cover of "Get The Party Started" was, her version of "I Will Survive" is terrible. She doesn't do anything with it except give the "Dame Shirley Bassey treatment."

I think that is also good reason to have an initial prejudice against covers that don't respond to the original.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 5:33 PM
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What do you mean by responding to the original? Let's make it specific: how does RT respond to Spears?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 5:39 PM
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44 is mistaken about Love

Oh, the snot has caked against my pants
It has turned into crystal
There's a bluebird sitting on a branch
I guess I'll take my pistol


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 5:40 PM
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On the topic of Leonard Cohen covers, I'm partial to the Flying Lizards' cover of Suzanne.


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 5:40 PM
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Teddy Thompson's cover of George Jones's "She Thinks I Still Care" is pretty great.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 5:49 PM
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Perhaps "responsive" is too specific a word. I think a cover needs a raison d'être. I love the Otis Redding cover of "Day Tripper", but I don't it think it's strength is it's interpretation of the Beatles.

I think part of the fun, in that case, is the bravado of covering such a well known song in a different style with the implicit message of "you can put me next to the Beatles, and I'm not scared of that comparison."

On preview: Let's make it specific: how does RT respond to Spears?

I think RT is specifically trying to claim that the song is more interesting than Spears showed. He's trying to demonstrate that the song can stand by itself, and doesn't need to be sold by a stunt. I don't think he's completely convincing in that -- It feels more like a reclamation project than a song that anyone would consider one of the best songs of the last 1000 years.

But the fact that it is recognizably a reclamation project is a response to the original.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 5:49 PM
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it think it's strength is it's

Arrrgggghhh.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 5:51 PM
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Who doesn't love the William Shatner cover of the Beatles classic "Lucy in the Sky, with Diamonds"
http://www.artistdirect.com/nad/window/media/page/0,,199584-1886088,00.html


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 5:53 PM
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In fact, this has to be the best cover band, ever.
http://www.dictionaraoke.org/


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 6:02 PM
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I think RT is specifically trying to claim that the song is more interesting than Spears showed.

Eh, that's a kind of weak "response" to the original version. Maybe he just thought it was a good song.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 6:28 PM
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One other thought: I haven't heard the rest of the Dead Raven Choir album, but if they decided, "we should include one song on the album that will be more accessible and introduce people to our sound. How about a Leonard Cohen cover." I would have no complaint with that. It can work for that.

I'm not sure that should qualify, however, for an exemplary cover of Leonard Cohen. It seems to me that, in that case, the song is doing a service for the DRC, rather than them doing a service for the song.

Eh, that's a kind of weak "response" to the original version. Maybe he just thought it was a good song.

That seems unlikely. I think that's true of the Bowling for Soup song that he covers on the copy I have, but you would have to work to convince me that he thought "Ooops! I did it again" was the most interesting song to do, on its merits.

I note his comment, "Taken out of context, this is a pretty nice song" is hardly effusive.

I believe that he intends the audience to be aware of the original, and to interpret his version in light of that. I may be doing a poor job of explaining that relationship, but I think it is different than a song like "Orange-Colored Sky" in which there is no assumption of familiarity.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 6:50 PM
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In fact, this has to be the best cover band, ever.

The "cover" of "Walk on the Wild Side" is great.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 6:50 PM
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a song like "Orange-Colored Sky" in which there is no assumption of familiarity

No assumption of familiarity? Hmph. Kids these days. Screamin' Jay Hawkins' cover rules.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 7:00 PM
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It's from an ep with a bunch of (only?) covers, including what seem to be two by Townes van Zandt (though I know it from the compilation Cask Strength Black Metal—DRC also have a Jewelled Antler Collective half, more folky stuff), and come on, who would be introduced to a band that sounds like that via a Leonard Cohen cover who wouldn't like the band's normal material anyway?

It's a good cover in part because it's so unlike what you expect from Leonard Cohen or, for that matter, LC covers. The end of the chorus: "then we take Berliiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnn", sung in that black metal throat-destroying way. It's a kind of jokey-grim song made actually grim.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 7:03 PM
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I believe that he intends the audience to be aware of the original

I don't know how you intend something like that; anyway, it's not as if it's up to him.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 7:04 PM
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Orange-Colored Sky is a different case: I don't know if it counts as a standard, exactly, but it's in that neighborhood.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 7:05 PM
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It's a kind of jokey-grim song made actually grim.

That's a good argument.

On first listen I found it melodramatic (though well done), rather than actually grim, but I would listen again with that in mind.

Coincidentally, the quoted description would also describe what I like about the Teddy Thompson version of "The Future."


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 7:09 PM
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Orange-Colored Sky is a different case: I don't know if it counts as a standard, exactly, but it's in that neighborhood.

<shrug> Perhaps I should have picked a different song. It's less of a standard than "Cry Me a River."


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 7:16 PM
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You know what's a crappy cover? Leonard Cohen's "Marianne". Seemingly his producer wanted to pop it up.

Interview with actual Marianne.

Cohen is frequently romantically linked, even at his age. He also got scammed out of most of his money, despite being Jewish.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 7:22 PM
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The fado version of "My Sharona" is a fascinating artifact, if not an especially good cover.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:42 PM
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What Marianne thought of Leonard:

He in fact reminded me very much of grandma. Her energy, her enormous presence. You could really trust in him.

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:57 PM
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It's a kind of jokey-grim song made actually grim into a speaker test.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 10:32 PM
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Oh you.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 10:42 PM
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