“Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” (Jim Croce Cover)

Originally posted 2008-10-19 22:19:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to your Sunday, Sunday, Sunday installment of the best acoustic cover song blog on the web today!  After a couple of nineties covers, I’ve decided to go back a bit further… to 1973 with Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.”  This is a song that I remember hearing for the first time when my father bought an audio tape (that’s a hint at how long ago it was…) and played it for me, along with “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim,” explaining that he always liked the story in the songs.  I instantly agreed, thinking that the way Croce described Leroy Brown and his lifestyle was really funny and catchy.

I just learned that Jim Croce’s life was sad, though, as he died the same year that this song (considered his biggest single) was released.  I found it really interesting to learn, according to Wikipedia, that he was the third singer/songwriter to score a posthumous #1 single (for “Time in a Bottle”), after Otis Redding and Janis Joplin.  What is even more sad, I think, is that he died in a plane crash.  I’ve got to be honest here — I don’t consider myself a superstitious person, but if I ever get a record contract and any degree of fame, I’m not setting foot on an airplane…

One of the best parts of doing so many Laptop Sessions this year is that I’ve had a chance to learn so much about great singer/songwriters and to remember so many great songs like this one.  Now, you may wonder how I learned this song if I haven’t heard it in so long.  Well, one of the best parts about having over 11,000 tracks available at my fingertips on my iPod is that I have access to a lot of songs that I have forgotten over the years.  In fact, one of my favorite things to do is to set my iPod to shuffle and just wait to see what great music will come up.  Unfortunately, there are just as many if not more not-so-great tracks that come up in search of the great ones…

But, as they say, it’s the journey and not the destination, right?

If you didn’t already, you should read Jim’s post from yesterday.  He pretty much summed up our day that led to an as-usual great performance by Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley, aka the band America.  Not only was the show great, but they are really nice guys.  After the show, they signed autographs and shook hands with the fans.  I got the chance to tell Dewey that, when teaching the Transcendentalism unit in my English class (Emerson and Thoreau, “Nature” and “Walden,” etc…), I used the Here & Now track “Walk in the Woods.”  He seemed interested, as Gerry smiled and said that he’d been thinking about playing that song in concert so they could do the whistling part!  We all laughed, and for a brief moment, it felt like Jim and I had broken the usually solid barrier between fan and artist.  Cool moment.

I have looked forward to their shows ever since the first time Jim took me to go see them several years ago, and I’ve regretted missing any opportunity to see them.  He had initially gotten into the band because of such songs as “Sister Golden Hair.”  As with many bands he’s gotten into, I felt like I was missing out on something and had no choice — I had to get into them too!  My only past experience with them had been their hit single “A Horse With No Name” that I first heard as a kid (where else?) on a seventies tape that my father had.

And so this session comes full circle!  I present to you an acoustic cover of a song my dad played for me as a kid, and not 24 hours after going to a concert by a band that I first heard in my father’s music collection.  I’ll see you again on Wednesday for one of my own songs, track two from my soon-to-be-recorded new album.

See you next session!

“I Need You” (America Cover)

Originally posted 2011-12-09 00:45:09. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

Welcome everyone to another edition of the Laptop Sessions with me, Jim Fusco!  It feels like these two-week spans between my acoustic cover song music videos fly-by each time.  It’s already the second week of December and Christmastime is going by like a shot.  This year, I’ll be bringing you one Christmas song music video that I recorded on piano.  But, that will have to wait until next time.

Tonight, I bring you the second in my two-part series of songs titled, “I Need You”. :-)  The first was the cover video I did two weeks ago, “I Need You” by the Beatles.  I’ve always loved that George Harrison song and it’s about time I got to make an acoustic video version of it here for the music blog.  As I mentioned on that post, I think the band America, and specifically Gerry Beckley- the writer of today’s song- were heavily influenced by the Beatles.  In fact, in each concert performance (and I’ve seen them about 15 times now) they play a Beatles song.  They say that it was the music that made them want to become rock musicians and songwriters.

Now, I’ve also hypothesized that Gerry Beckley made a nod to George Harrison’s “I Need You” in his song by the same title.  I can hear a similarity in the chord progression, especially at the end of the song when it goes to that minor chord.  It’s such an interesting change and both songs feature it (though Harrison’s goes to an F#m and Beckley’s goes to an Em7).  It would be such an honor if Gerry Beckley himself ever read this blog post and commented on my theory.

America’s “I Need You”, off of their first (self-titled) album, was one of the songs that got me into the group’s music.  Other Beckley songs like “To Each His Own” and “Only In Your Heart” are personal favorites, as well.  I always gravitated to Beckley’s songwriting, as I can tell the clear Beatles and Beach Boys influences.  After a show of theirs I attended, the band signed autographs.  I brought in my copy of Beckley, Lamm, and Wilson’s “Like A Brother” CD and Gerry was surprised that I had it.  I loved that album, especially because we got to hear some great Carl Wilson songs.  He told me that he spoke at Carl’s funeral and that he was a very, very close friend.  To me, that’s amazing- growing up and listening to your favorite group…and then becoming a musician and eventually friends with one of the members.  To me, this made sense, as Carl Wilson was the youngest Beach Boy, more Beckley’s age.

In the studio version of “I Need You”, you hear a great acoustic 12-string guitar over the piano.  For my Laptop Sessions cover version, I took a rare seat at the piano and stripped this song down to its basic elements.  And when you just sit back and listen to the words, you realize how great of a song it really is.  Beckley wrote this song right out of high school and you can tell- going away from all of your friends (like he talked about in “To Each His Own”) is really tough, and the emotions that you feel for people in high school feel like they’re SO important.  I remember feeling that I’d be alone forever if a relationship didn’t work out back in high school.  If only I could give myself some late-20s wisdom. :-)

I hope you enjoy tonight’s “I Need You” piano cover song music video.  I’ll be back with a Christmas song music video for you in a couple of weeks, so I hope you’ll stay tuned!  In the meantime, get that shopping done (without getting too stressed) and we’ll see you back here on the music blog!



The Weekend Review: July 2011 Report

Originally posted 2012-01-01 11:03:22. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

 

The Grand Theatre: Volume 2 (Old 97’s)

Producer: Salim Nourallah

Released: July 5, 2011

Rating: 3 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Manhattan (I’m Done)” & “Brown Haired Daughter”

Oddly enough, it is my pleasure to report on the rockin’ mediocrity of The Grand Theatre: Volume 2.  I do, though, need to revise a previous statement.  In my Weekend Review of Volume 1, I posited two questions: “Are the best songs being split between both records?  If so, then why not make some difficult decisions on the chopping block and release one album that will be the best possible Old 97′s record?  If not, then will Volume Two emerge as a sort of b-sides and unreleased tracks compilation that is destined to disappoint in the shadow of Volume One?”  In retrospect, I should have added a third question to account for another possibility: that Volume 2 would be an enjoyable record, but with an entirely different feel than Volume 1.  Unlike the Barenaked Ladies double-album Are Me/Are Men (which had a united feel throughout both records and the best recordings split between the volumes), the Old 97’s recorded this music during the same set of sessions yet clearly divvied up between two distinct categories: songs that are polished, more artistically rendered and songs that are fun, with a “live” sound.  For my personal preference, Volume 1 will always stand out, but Volume 2 is a solid record.  I, thus, go on the record as saying that this was the perfect release strategy for this body of music.

 

All of You (Colbie Caillat)

Producer: Greg Wells, Ken Caillat, Ryan Tedder, Toby Gad, Jason Reeves, & Rick Nowels

Released: July 11, 2011

Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Shadow” & “What If”

In All of You, we find yet another case of Wings syndrome, a condition found predominantly in singer/songwriters who are exceedingly happy in their personal lives.  These artists seem to have lost the link to the real world, floating into the blissful ether of cheesy lines and upbeat music untempered by frustration, disappointment, or any other clues to suggest the music is being written by a human being.  I have nothing against a good happy song, but for any album to be nothing but pleasant  — and simply so – can be oddly grating.  It leads an average person to wonder about the writer vaguely burying trouble in “Think Good Thoughts” and optimistically addressing existence in “Dream Life, Life.”  What boundaries are there to the dream life?  Without some fleshing out of those details, the overall effect falls short.  After being introduced to outstanding previous Caillat work, notably “Fallin’ For You,” I was disappointed in the quality of All of You.  The trick to beautiful, happy music has always seemed to lie in the subtle artistry.  The best, happiest Jack Johnson music, for instance, has always suggested a wink around the corner, a clever grin waiting to happen, sometimes even a regret or an irritation.  In much of Caillat’s previous work, there has been a sense of beautiful possibilities on the verge of coming true; on All of You, it seems the fairy tale has taken over.  (Though, to be fair, the closing track “Make It Rain” serves as a reminder of her emotional range.)

 

Sky Full of Holes (Fountains of Wayne)

Released: July 20, 2011

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Someone’s Gonna Break Your Heart” & “Acela”

For the first time in eight years, since 2003’s Welcome Interstate Managers, I can honestly return to Fountains of Wayne without shaking my head.  It is a testament to the backsliding inherent in Traffic & Weather (2007) that I haven’t been excited about anything from Fountains of Wayne since I heard it.  When I have returned to Welcome Interstate Managers, I’ve been instantly drawn back into its dynamic magnetism.  That being said, I’ve all but ignored their back catalog, haven’t even heard Traffic & Weather all the way through, and was not excited about this year’s Sky Full of Holes in the least.  For some reason, though, I did buy it.  (I’ll go on record here, though, as saying I don’t and have never owned a copy of Traffic.)  So strong was this distaste for their previous record that I’ve only recently grown to fully appreciate Sky Full of Holes: the folksy charm, the range apparent in the instrumentation and even the lyricism.  The same characteristic Fountains of Wayne wit and voice are maintained throughout, yet there is a sense of returning to roots and to rock here in the best sense: embracing the acoustic guitar, lacing the best tracks with guitar solos and lush vocals.  In short, Sky Full of Holes isn’t so much a return to form as it is a step forward in their career.  Does it match the peaks of their 2003 masterpiece?  Not quite.  But it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

 

Rabbits on the Run (Vanessa Carlton)

Producer: Steve Osborne

Released: July 26, 2011

Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “I Don’t Want to Be a Bride” & “Dear California”

Though she can probably best be described, from the public view at least, as a one-hit wonder, Vanessa Carlton continues to labor artistically, successfully in relative obscurity.  To be certain, there are echoes of her previous work here on Rabbits on the Run, but there is also a vitality, an authenticity to her delivery that was probably lacking on her early work.  As the cover would suggest, her new album is simple effort: ten tracks that rely most heavily on the gorgeous triad of vocals, piano (and other real instruments), and lyrics.  Guitars are used to great effect throughout, particularly on a standout like “Dear California,” a track that cleverly employs the “Surfin’” lineup of guitar, bass, and simple drums, with some Carlton-tinged piano thrown in to color the recording to fit her work, immediately flowing back into her characteristic cross between upbeat and murky, soaring and haunting, in “Tall Tales for Spring.”  The pinnacle, though, comes early in “I Don’t Want to Be a Bride,” a sparsely arranged statement of standing apart from societal and family expectations in confidence of one’s self and one’s relationship, expressing an independence from institutions and documents in favor of the abstract concepts purportedly expressed in the aforementioned conventions.

 

Back Pages (America)

Released: July 26, 2011

Rating: 2 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Caroline No” & “A Road Song”

Nothing smells quite so stale as an album of covers billed as a “new studio album,” released over four and a half years after the previous studio album.  In America’s case, Back Pages is hardly a quality follow-up to the heights of 2007’s excellent, modern-feeling Here & Now or their album before that, 1998’s Human Nature.  I suppose, considering their previous two releases, it should come as no surprise that any album would have a difficult time living up to recent memory.  But a covers album?  Back Pages didn’t stand a chance.  For the true fan, there are obvious high points: particularly on their sweet, sublime rendition of Pet Sounds alum “Caroline No” and in the obligatory “America” cover, which was truly a nice touch.  Probably the best track on the album is “A Road Song,” in the sense that it sounds vital, new… probably because it is: America released this Fountains of Wayne cover a matter of days before they released their recording.  That is what is perhaps most disappointing about Back Pages: it only serves as a reminder of the uniquely excellent work that has come before and the promise of what might be yet to come.  If I wanted to hear an excellent New Radicals cover, I would’ve turned to Hall and Oates.  However, I expect more from an America release.

“You Can Do Magic” (America Cover) – The Traveling Acai Berries

Originally posted 2009-10-07 00:58:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

I was so disappointed to find that Monday’s video wasn’t a Beatles song- myself and my fellow Acai Berries had an all-new Beatles video ready to go to keep the streak alive, but now I guess I’ll save it until next week.  It’s a cool one, too, so be sure to check back!

Onto tonight’s video:

“You Can Do Magic” is one of those songs that I didn’t need to convince Becky to like.  This was a Top 5 Billboard hit for America in the mid eighties and was their last big hit to date.  Of course, they didn’t write this song and, if my memory serves me from reading the America Box Set liner notes like seven years ago, they didn’t play any of the instruments on it, either.  The writer of the song basically wrote it for the members of America (namely Gerry Beckley, whose “unique” voice actually works pretty great on this song) to sing and had the whole thing ready.  All Beckley and Bunnell had to do was overdub some vocals.  The guitar solo part in the beginning does sound like Beckley’s style, so maybe it’s him on that part…

That first guitar part was something I tinkered with before going to our recording session last week.  But then Steve came in and said, “Hey Jim, how about this over the beginning chords,” and busted out a great part on the 12-string Gibson that blew me away.  So, out went my dinky solo on regular acoustic and in came Steve’s jangly solo on the 12-string.  You can even hear Chris C. playing in the background (he’s actually on camera during next week’s video) if you turn it up, as he was picking the bass parts (an octave higher) on his mandolin.

Let me take this opportunity to say that I’ll finally admit that a Martin guitar is probably worth the extra money.  Every time I pick up Steve’s guitar, I’m just in awe of how clean and clear it sounds.  The low strings are especially crisp and it stays in near-perfect tune, too.  They make a new all-wood version for around $999 (the company cited the recession as a reason to make an “affordable” guitar), but it’s probably going to be quite some time before I can justify purchasing that.  Could be a nice Christmas present from Becky…for the next ten years…

And how about Steve’s vocals?  He did a great job backing me up on this song- again, it’s like singing with my father or my brother.  They already know the parts and just sometimes ask for me to clarify something.  It’s not like I have to teach them the part- it just sorta comes naturally.  What a breath of fresh air.  It’s one of the big reasons (besides his ability to pick up chord changes by ear) why we can bust-out two videos during a recording session.  And Chris C. can sight-read.  One take and he’s ready to go.  My vocals, even though I don’t like to point these things out, were a bit weak, as this take was done after two solid hours of playing and singing.  Earlier takes (done in the first half-hour) were much stronger on my part- my voice was just tired at this point.

And, we get a rare glimpse of Steve on camera this week!!  Don’t get used to it- you don’t see him at all in next week’s video! :-)

I hope you enjoy this classic America tune.  Of course, I’ll be back next week with another Traveling Acai Berries video, so come on back.  But, while you’re at it, remember that we post every Monday and Thursday, as well!  I, for one, love to keep up with the posts and I’ve read every single one.  It’s great to check your email (remember to subscribe to the blog- click the links on the sidebar to the left) and get a fresh new post/video three times a week!  Plus, check out our past videos, as they’re just as good as the new ones (I sound like one of those annoying AT&T Rollover Minutes commercials) and even if you started today, you’d have well over a year of quality entertainment at your fingertips.

On the personal front, this has been a good week of getting stuff done- painting over the weekend and securing a renter for our place (!!!!) was followed by delivering the lighting to our new house, which we got a mini tour of today.  It looks amazing (we have trim around the windows, which is a novelty that we didn’t have in the condo) and it’s really coming together.  I can’t believe it’s about three weeks away…

Until next week, enjoy tonight’s video and enjoy Jeff’s video on Thursday!  It’s sure to please- talk to you then!