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Well, after all the fun we had last time, the boys of The Laptop Sessions acoustic cover songs music video blog are back for another Triple Tuesday Special on LaptopSessions.com. Jeff, the innovator for this event, called me up this weekend and I couldn’t resist!
Here’s my version of a great Byrds tune, “Set You Free This Time.” It’s from their 1965 album Turn! Turn! Turn! and it’s another Gene Clark original. He’s such an underrated songwriter, and I like him more and more every time I listen to his material. And “Set You Free This Time” is such a great song, it deserves to have all three of us give it a shot. The song is very introspective- I wonder if he was writing it about a specific someone, or if it’s just a feeling he had (or was thinking about). For 1965, it was pretty innovative- pop music really didn’t take that turn (turn, turn) until a little while later. Gene Clark always struck me as the same kind of guy that played the lead songwriter (Jimmy) in “That Thing You Do”. He wrote these sad, introspective songs. Then, they were turned into pop hits. But some were just meant to be slow and sad. I’m sure Gene Clark fought with his producers, as well. This song was featured on the second and last Byrds album Gene would appear on (in the 60s, at least).
Jim and Jeff posted their versions below mine so you’ll be able to take your pick…or, hopefully, listen to all three!
As a side note, I would like to thank everyone who frequents my videos. Just yesterday, I accepted my 50th subscriber on YouTube (who, of course, received a coupon, as promised by Jim), and today I’m up to 55. I really appreciate your watching and especially commenting both here and on YouTube!
I hope you’ll continue to check out LaptopSessions.com as we update the site with new videos every day in 2008!
Simply put, Hurley is Weezer’s return to high energy rock music.
And it’s good.
Okay, so I’ll admit that it is difficult to take an album like Hurley seriously, given the ostensibly random title and accompanying cover photo that is apropos of nothing contained within. And yet, you should endeavor to get past the cover, the pathetic excuse for CD packaging, and the bad press the album has received from those who, on the heels of Raditude, understandably won’t give it a chance, including — perhaps most notably — one James Burns, a man currently engaged in a campaign to raise $10 million as incentive for Weezer to break up.
I would suggest that he give this album a chance, but it turns out he not only is not but also has never been a fan of the band.
This is such a pity, as Hurley is an album so true to classic Weezer that it makes more sense to compare it to The Green Album (2001) than any of the four subsequent releases. Aside from the echoes of Raditude on “Smart Girls,” the rock sensibility of Hurley extends past the experimental aura of The Red Album, doesn’t quite match the tone of Make Believe, and is certainly not cut out of the same carefully orchestrated hard rock fabric that defined Maladroit.
Musically, the track listing conjures those early albums: a total running time that barely cracks the half hour mark across ten songs with concise titles, all upbeat rock tracks with distorted guitars that play like a mix between garage rock and clean studio sounds.
As for the cover, I have never understood the criticism lobbed at The Red Album and Raditude. Because a man who looks like a doll reading a newspaper wasn’t weird. Neither, apparently, was several depressed looking cartoons wearing the traditional garb of the Orient wandering aimlessly around a snowy mountainside. And four guys standing in front of a bright blue screen looking like they’d forgotten it was picture day wasn’t odd; that was somehow classic.
Hurley (Weezer, 2010)
Weezer has always been quirky, and that has always been a large part of their appeal. In a manner that should be palatable to the average rock fan, they have assembled Hurley as a return to that form, with a couple worthwhile variations thrown in for good measure.
The opening track and lead single “Memories” is honest, in-your-face rock music that begins with reminiscences that would have fit in comfortably on The Red Album, but quickly transitions to a catchy chorus and a middle stirred to perfection with a shredded vocal delivery by Rivers Cuomo.
He loosens the reigns vocally on several other occasions, not the least of which is that pinnacle of quirkiness “Where’s My Sex?,” the shtick here being that the word “sex” replaces the word “socks” throughout the song. The result is a rocking, if somewhat ridiculous, track.
“Unspoken” is an acoustic gem, but even this song can’t help but rock out in the latter half, just as “Time Flies” wants to be the pensive closer, yet is so steady in beat as to evade the classification as a “slow song.”
Although many of the strongest tracks are placed early on the record — “Trainwrecks” being one, if not the, standout song — even the potentially mediocre numbers, like “Smart Girls” and “Brave New World,” achieve cohesion and momentum. “Ruling Me,” “Run Away,” and “Hang On” are similarly impressive in their focus and balance between simplicity and interesting vocal and instrumental hooks.
This isn’t the new Weezer classic. It shouldn’t be interpreted as the new Green Album, nor should it be compared to the heights of their career, in 1994 and 2002. And yet, as much as Make Believe was underrated (and sadly oversimplified as “the one with ‘Beverly Hills’ on it”) and as much as The Red Album grew on me and quickly became a favorite of mine in 2008, Hurley is arguably the best rock album Weezer has produced in eight years.
If nothing else, it provides proof positive that this band has not gone off the deep end (band-led hootenannies and Rivers Cuomo’s train conductor’s uniform notwithstanding). Hurley can be read as a nod to fans of their rock mentality, and the message is clear: this is a band that can still rock…. when they want to.
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)
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.