The Gershwin Brian Wilson Reimagined – Playlists on Parade

Originally posted 2010-09-18 12:24:49. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

When Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin (2010) was released, I instantly enjoyed the former Beach Boy’s interpretations of what I have read about as being classic tunes.  However, I had no way to really judge them, as I had never heard any of the originals, save for the bonus track “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.”

The more I listened to these cover versions, and despite how much I enjoy Brian Wilson’s current sound with his formidable bandmates, the more I became curious about the original versions.  Thus, I embarked on a full afternoon of internet research and listening to samples via the iTunes store.  My mission: to compile a playlist of the best original versions of these songs that Wilson chose to cover.

And that is exactly what follows below.

In each case, I determined which version is considered the earliest, best recording of the song.  Of course, as I soon discovered, the Gershwin brothers didn’t record the songs themselves.  In the custom of the time, they were the songwriters and there were others, performers, that would translate their writing to record.

Most of the performers below are people I have heard of, legendary performers in their time.  However, I didn’t have music from any of them on my iPod.  So, I downloaded these tracks from iTunes and have been listening to them as I prepare to write my review of Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin.

After all, it is difficult to comment on the reimagined cover versions when you haven’t heard the original imaginings of such musical greats as Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Etta James.

So, for those who are interested, these are the songs that I would recommend you pick up if you’d like some insight into the mind of Brian Wilson.  These are, most likely, some of the many versions that Wilson had heard before he added his touch to them.  So, enjoy them, and tune in soon for my review of the covers, to be posted appropriately here on the best acoustic cover song music video blog in the universe.

1)  “Summertime” – Billy Stewart (1989)

2)  “I Loves You, Porgy” – Billie Holiday (1967)

3)  “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’” – Frank Sinatra (1957)

4)  “It Ain’t Necessarily So” – Bobby Darin (1959)

5)  “‘S Wonderful” – Gene Kelly (1951)

6)  “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” – Fred Astaire (1937)

7)  “Love Is Here to Stay” – Gene Kelly (1951)

8)  “I’ve Got a Crush on You” – Ella Fitzgerald (1950)

9)  “I Got Rhythm” – The Happenings (1969)

10) “Someone to Watch Over Me” – Etta James (1962)

11) “Rhapsody in Blue” – George Gershwin

“Here Comes Santa Claus” (Gene Autry Cover)

Originally posted 2009-12-21 12:00:07. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

For Gene Autry chords & lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to the final Monday edition of the Laptop Sessions before Christmas Day!  There’s been a lot of Christmas music being posted this month, and it’s hard to believe that this season is almost coming to a close.

Regardless, it’s an honor to kick off Christmas week here at the best cover song music video blog in the universe.

(And the most modest, too…)

“Here Comes Santa Claus” is a track from MoU’s expanded Christmas chord book.  It fits all the criteria for an enjoyable live song — easy to play, upbeat, instantly recognizable, and just plain fun.  There have been so many versions of this song recorded since Gene Autry’s original.  He himself re-recorded it not once, but twice.  In addition, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, and Bob Dylan have all recorded their own versions over the years.

In fact, in my favorite music/TV crossover this year, Dylan’s version was used as the opening song in the first few minutes of a Bones episode a couple weeks ago.  Of course, it faded out just as a bank robbery and a bombing were about to occur, but somehow I think Dylan must have enjoyed this macabre twist on the season for peace on earth and good will toward men.

That is, if he watches television.  I’m not entirely convinced he’s moved on from the radio…

It’s not only difficult to believe that Christmas will be this Friday, but that the new year is also just around the corner.  You should know that you have a special Guest Session to look forward to this Friday, with new sessions regular Jeremy Hammond bringing yet another all-new artist’s material to the blog.  It’ll be one of those “how have we not included a song from this guy” moments, I promise.  Being that it’s the end of the decade as well, there’s a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks.  To celebrate the decade’s best albums, The Weekend Review is in the middle of a Top Five Albums of the Decade, 2000-2009 countdown, with number 3 having been revealed yesterday in Ben Folds’ 2001 release Rockin’ the Suburbs.

On a side note, yesterday’s review brings me within one review of my twenty-six review commitment for the year, as suggested by Jim back in February of this year.  I hope he’ll be happy to hear that, in the spirit of continual progress, I’ll be committing to one review a week this year for a grand total of fifty-two!  Because I’ll be reviewing albums on a very regular basis, I’ll be able to really vary the type of reviews that I do.  For instance, I tend to review the albums I like most because I’ve always figured, why waste my time on the music I’m not crazy about?

Well, no more.

This will be a year of exercising my critical abilities as I review new 2010 releases, revisit the classic hits and infamous misses of the past, as well as continue my Deep Racks Report series (for which I already have five albums lined up — I’ve featured albums that begin with A, B, and C, so you maybe you can imagine where I’m going with this…). And I’ll be continuing the five star rating system I introduced a couple of weeks ago. While I’m still hesitant to comfortably box an album into a fraction like that, I really like the feel of the five star rating system.

In other end-of-the-year highlights, the Laptop Sessions will be featuring some great lists, including the Weekend Review’s take on the following:

“The Top Thirty Rock Albums of the Decade”

“The Top Ten Rock Albums of 2009”

“Yes, No, or Maybe So: One Sentence Reviews of 2009 Albums”

“The Top Ten Rock Songs of 2009”

“The Best Packaging of the Year”

“The Best Deluxe Edition Features of the Year”

As a final note, I would like to call on Jim and Jeff to share their thoughts for the best music of the decade.  We all have our overlapping areas of mutual appreciation, but we certainly have room for debate.  Considerable room, at times.

I know what my picks are for the best albums and songs of the decade, but I would love to be reminded or learn of Jim and Jeff’s picks.

With that, I’m done for tonight.  As I sign off, I wish a merry Christmas to all those out there eagerly awaiting a Christmas Eve service or the pitter-patter of eight tiny reindeer overhead.  As for me, I’m going back to the MoU 2006 Christmas Concert CD for a stroll down memory — and also Santa Claus — lane.

See you next session!

Music Review: Wilco’s “Wilco (the album)”

Originally posted 2009-07-06 23:55:58. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

RATING:  4 / 5 stars

By Chris Moore

For an album that is thematically based in the mysteries of human nature and love, the opening track is remarkably straightforward.  “Are you under the impression / This isn’t your life? / Do you dabble in depression?” Jeff Tweedy inquires in “Wilco (the song)” before declaring that “Wilco will love you baby.”

But don’t let the unabashed directness — even Tweedy admits it may appear cheesy at first  — of this opening track deter you from taking the album seriously.

Immediately after “Wilco (the song)” fades out, the heartbeat of “Deeper Down” steadily fades in with the crash of a cymbal.  This song is more subtle and serves as a reminder that the band has not lost its flair for more experimental fare, even after its flirtation with the more straightforward songwriting and jam band mentalities present on 2007’s Sky Blue Sky.  Aside from the standard acoustic and electric guitars, bass, and drums, this track also incorporates lap steel (which is becoming a standard Wilco instrument, particularly since the arrival of Nels Cline), loops, harpsichord, Mellotron cello and vibraphone, bowed piano (go ahead: look up “bowed piano” — it’s wild…), synthesizer, and cimbalom.  Based on the list of instrumental credits alone, it is apparent Wilco is not through with the sonic experiments that have earned them fame throughout their career, ever since the opening moments of “Misunderstood” on 1996’s Being There.

“Deeper Down” also begins to tackle the core subjects covered by the album, namely the uncertainties in both our relationships and personal lives.  As Tweedy sings, “Out beyond the telescope’s pry / Up above the tallest Dutch dope high / He realized / This mystery is his.”  The unknown elements that the singer is concerned with here are not the ones that can be analyzed by using scientific equipment or engaging in a study.  Rather, personal demons and mysteries are on display for examination throughout the song and the album.

As the next verse begins to employ the metaphor of the ocean floor for the depths of the human mind, a creaking sound invokes the image of a deep sea vehicle moving farther and farther down into the watery depths.

This is the one track on the album that is not written solely by Tweedy.  A collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone, “Deeper Down” is the perfect bookend to the album proper.

“One Wing” returns to the lighthearted lyricism of the opening song, the title metaphor of this third track comparing a full relationship to a bird (“We once belonged to a bird”) and the aftermath of a breakup to the separation of those all-important feathery appendages (“One wing will never ever fly, dear / Neither yours nor mine, I fear / We can only wave goodbye”).  Again, this type of songwriting may seem worthy of a dismissal at first, but it works in context here.

The fourth track is anything but lighthearted.  Told from the manic perspective of one who has just committed murder (online sources suggest the victim was the narrator’s girlfriend), “Bull Black Nova” is the sonic standout here, being easily the most experimental track on the album.  Spin‘s review of the album suggests that this song is out of place in what is largely a body of traditionally arranged songs, but this is not the case.  After all, what will drive a person to killing another — particularly a loved one — is perhaps the greatest human mystery of all.

Driven by a steady beat and arrangement of electric guitars, this track fittingly evokes the mental hysteria of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.”  Indeed, the mystery dealt with in this song is perhaps best described as how one might handle the aftermath of having committed such a heinous crime.

The first of two acoustic masterpieces, “You and I” prominently features the first duet to be included on a Wilco album.  Accompanied by Leslie Feist, Tweedy presents this moving track with a fittingly subdued instrumental performance by the other members of the band.  Moreover, this song advances the motif of the album.  As Tweedy and Feist sing, “Oh, I don’t need to know / Everything about you / Oh, I don’t want to know / And you don’t need to know / That much about me.”  This song considers the reality that two people may still be strangers, regardless of how close they become.  While that may sound negative, it is turned around in the song as a positive and natural element of any relationship.

Tweedy later goes it alone on “Solitaire,” the eighth track.  This is another acoustic gem highlighted by Tweedy’s understated but heartfelt double-tracked vocals.  Lyrically, this is the perfect example of a simple but powerfully written song.  (Click here to see the Laptop Session this song inspired.)

“You Never Know” is the first single; it comes halfway through the album, proving that Wilco was only warming up.  This song nicely features all of the elements that make this an excellent band: Tweedy’s vocals, Cline’s lead guitar, Sansone’s piano,  Jorgensen’s organ, and the typically strong bass and drums of Stirratt and Kotche, respectively.  What stands out about this track is that it is clearly Wilco in sound and style, yet, as several other reviews have noted, the stylistic touches are strongly reminiscent of one of the best songwriter/guitarists of all time: George Harrison.  It is nearly impossible to listen to “You Never Know” and not hear Harrison’s characteristic flourishes in the mix.  In a recent interview, Tweedy suggested that the similarities were not planned, but that he was pleased to offer an homage.

No other journalist has pointed out that the Hammond organ stylings on “You and I” sound like a reference to Bob Dylan’s “I Believe In You,” so I’ll just throw that one out there, too…

The second half of the album is equally as strong as the first.  “I’ll Fight” (a standout track) and “Sonny Feeling” (highlighted by Cline’s lap steel guitar licks) are a powerful combination, occupying the ninth and tenth slots on the album.  The former is a statement of purpose, evoking Biblical references to drive the point home.  The latter evades an entirely concrete interpretation, but it is clear that the song centers around a pivotal experience in a high school student’s life.  The middle is perhaps the strongest section of this song, as Tweedy sings, “You know it’s true / The other shoe / It waits for you / What can you do? / Remember to show gratitude / The darkest night is nothing new.”

In addition to the aforementioned “Solitaire,” the true highlights of the second half are certainly the two acoustic-based songs “Country Disappeared” and “Everlasting Everything.”  “Country Disappeared” is just about as political as you’ll hear Wilco (in song at least), but it is still best described as poetic and personal.  If “Deeper Down” is a fitting thematic bookend at the opening of the album, then “Everlasting Everything” is the ideal closer.  As Tweedy sings, “Oh I know this might sound sad / But everything goes, both the good and the bad / So it all adds up, and you should be glad / Everlasting love is all you had.”  This is apparently what is to be found after digging “deeper down,” namely the realization that a life driven by love is worthwhile.  With this, Wilco (the album) turns out to be perhaps the most positive release in the Wilco catalog.

As “Everlasting Everything” fades out and “Wilco (the song)” thunders in, listeners will find it difficult to pop the CD out of the player or change the selection on the iPod.  And this is just as a great album should be.  Is Wilco (the album) the perfect record, or even a masterpiece?  The answer is undoubtedly in the negative.  And yet there is something compelling, soothing, passionate, and masterful about it.

This is the story of a band putting out a strong seventh release, continuing to impress after an already impressive career.

“Back to California” (Wallflowers Cover)

Originally posted 2008-04-25 05:32:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Seeing as how the Wallflowers are coming to town tonight, I thought it only appropriate to play one of my favorite tunes off their most recent album, Rebel, Sweetheart. If you are hearing “Back to California” here for the first time, please find and listen to the album version. The real version is one of the most rocking songs I’ve ever heard from Jakob Dylan and the boys.

I recorded more takes of this cover song music video than I should have, in my desire to recreate it acoustically and yet maintain the same spirit of the studio recording. Just like “Everything I Need,” this was certainly a vocal workout–this time, not because of the range but due to the emotion/inflection I tried to achieve while my allergies are in full swing…

Well, I’m really excited about going to see the Wallflowers show at Foxwoods tonight with Jim and Mike. This is one of my all-time favorite bands, and because they tour so infrequently these days, I was afraid I would never get to see them.

We’ll definitely report back on the Wallflowers show. For now, I hope you enjoy the acoustic cover song music video — I hope you’ll rate it and/or leave a comment.

See you next session!

P.S. I can’t wait to hear more new tracks from Jakob Dylan’s upcoming solo album, Seeing Things! Maybe they’ll translate into some new acoustic covers for the Laptop Sessions music video blog soon… 🙂