“Cowgirl in the Sand” (Neil Young & the Byrds Cover)

Originally posted 2008-04-15 14:26:57. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

Thanks for stopping by for your Tuesday edition of the Laptop Sessions acoustic cover songs music video blog!

Today, I bring you a song written by Neil Young, “Cowgirl in the Sand”. Not only is this song one of his most famous, but it’s also generally well-known among country-rock music fans.

The version I’m doing is derivative of the version the Byrds did on their reunion album from 1975. That album isn’t wonderful by any means, but Gene Clark’s contributions are, of course, superb. He sings a great lead on this song, too.  Gene Clark just had a great timbre to his voice.  He could sing rock’n’roll music and country/western music with the best of them.  Of course, Gene Clark was a great songwriter, too, both with the Byrds and on his own solo recordings.  While searching around here on the music blog, be sure to click on Gene Clark’s category to see the other cover songs I’ve done written by him.  If you’re not a fan now (or haven’t heard of him), I guarantee his original songs will get your attention.

This is one song that I never planned on doing, but came into my head one night, so I just sat down and did it! I think some people were a bit surprised that I busted this one out at our first live show as a trio the other day.  My favorite aspect of the Byrds’ version of “Cowgirl In The Sand” is the harmonies on the chorus.  I really hope that we can get those harmonies right in future performances, as I think that’s the flare the Byrds added to make the version their own.

Considering how the Byrds first started, it’s a bit surprising that they gravitated over to country rock like they did.  They were initially marketed as a folk group, electrifying Bob Dylan songs like “Chimes of Freedom” and “Mr. Tambourine Man”.  But, the band members of the Byrds, especially Chris Hillman, started out loving folk music in a different way- the classic, down-home country style.  Chris Hillman is actually an accomplished mandolin player, and there is no better country guitarist than Roger McGuinn.  Basically, they just threw an electric bass in Hillman’s hands and a 12-string electric Rickenbacker guitar in McGuinn’s hands, and they had a big hit band.  In later albums, the band members of the Byrds would write original songs that had a country flare to them, including Chris Hillman’s “The Girl With No Name”, which I’ve also done a cover song music video of here on the music blog.

You may also notice the “incredible fluctuating hairdo” of myself- I recorded this song before getting a haircut, as you saw in the “Aware” cover video (of an original song) from last week.

I hope to do more Neil Young songs in the future and I hope this cover song video attracts some new viewers and music lovers to the Laptop Sessions live acoustic music video series!

“When Love Comes to Town” (U2 & B.B. King Cover)

Originally posted 2009-03-02 21:36:54. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

For U2 chords and lyrics, CLICK HERE!   /   For B.B. King chords and lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to a brand new week.  Thanks for spending a little bit of it here on the Laptop Sessions music video blog with the latest edition of “Chris Moore Monday.”  No one understands the pressure I’m under!  I mean, there’s a lot riding on this video — if I’m good, I’m helping your week get off on the right foot.  If I’m not so good, then…  Well, let’s not even consider that option.

For tonight’s selection, I’m doing something that I’ve only done once before…

…make an enjoyable recording!  No, I’m just kidding.  (Not about the “enjoyable” part, I hope…)

This is only the second time that I’ve recorded a song by not only one but two artists whose work I’ve never played before.  Tonight’s subjects?  U2 and B.B. King.  (Jeff has already recorded U2, but B.B. King is a new addition to the blog.)  Why, you may ask?  Well, the big “New Music Tuesday” release of tomorrow, March 3rd, is No Line on the Horizon, U2’s first new studio album in five years.  It’s already making waves, having received a five-star rating from Rolling Stone magazine.  Now, I’m not often one to agree with Rolling Stone, but I am very curious about this album.  After all, Rolling Stone has never given U2 the five star salute.  Bono and company have come close, earning 4.5 stars for 1991’s Achtung, Baby, but this is the first time they’ve received 5 stars for an original studio release.

To be fair, this isn’t their first 5 out of 5 star experience — the band’s re-release of The Joshua Tree was granted 5 stars.  I just listened to that album last night for the first time, and although I wouldn’t give it five stars, I very much enjoyed it.  The first three tracks are a veritable U2 greatest hits, and there are several deep cuts that are great songs.

So, tomorrow is a new music Tuesday to look forward to.  To hold you over, I’ve gone back into the U2 catalog and hauled out an oldie but goodie.  “When Love Comes to Town” was originally released in 1988 on Rattle and Hum (a title that is taken from lyrics in the song “Bullet the Blue Sky,” from The Joshua Tree).  This is a song I have always loved — there’s such an energy between Bono and King’s vocals and the addition of King’s guitar to the instrumental mix.  I have always felt that the song had a timeless feel, and I would have loved to hear someone like Johnny Cash record a version of it.  So, for my cover song music video version tonight, I’ve slowed it down a bit and taken it down an octave (which is convenient, since my vocal chords are no match for Bono’s typical soaring range!).

The result?

Just like I thought, this song has such a classic feel to it that it lends itself to a stripped-down acoustic arrangement.  Still, my version is no match for the energy, emotion, and rocking presence of the studio version!  (And I can’t quite figure out what “catch that flame” means…  I sing “catch that plane,” which is what I’ve always thought he said, but the official U2 lyrics page says “flame.”  Oh, well…)

I hope you enjoy this U2 cover, and I hope it tides you over until tomorrow’s release of No Line on the Horizon.  Until then and until an all-new Jim Fusco Tuesday…

See you next session!

Music Review: R.E.M.’s “Live at the Olympia in Dublin: 39 Songs”

Originally posted 2009-10-30 17:25:25. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

RATING:  4.5 / 5 stars

By Chris Moore:

Sometimes, the big publications just get it all wrong.

In his Rolling Stone review of R.E.M.’s Live at the Olympia in Dublin, Will Hermes writes, “This two-CD/one-DVD document captures intimate, occasionally great performances.”  He goes on to add, “If Michael Stipe sometimes sounds like he’s reading lyrics off his computer, it’s because, well, he actually was.”

If I have to read one more cleverly phrased review bestowing a mediocre rating upon a release I love, I swear I’ll lose it.

Live at the Olympia in Dublin spills over with positive energy, the kind of energy that leaves fans breathless and voiceless after a night of singing, screaming, and giddily laughing.  Stipe’s voice is hardly robotic, as Hermes might have you understand.  His vocals alternate between smooth and clear deliveries at some points, alternately cracking in all the right places at others.

And the computer is hardly a crutch.  It’s more a means of on-stage schtick for Stipe and the band.  It is apparent that he is getting a kick out of reading others’ interpretations of his eighties-era, admittedly very mumbled lyrics.  (He has since come over to the good side, including lyrics in all R.E.M. booklets since Up.)

And it’s genuinely funny to hear him reading them, reflecting on them, and moving on to the present day, namely his evolved sensibilities and more recent material.

What really gets me is that Hermes refers to the tracks I had most looked forward to — the Accelerate outtakes — as “solid.”  This is an overstatement.  I was far from impressed with the outtakes, and although I had so hoped to tout them as the forgotten gems of their 2008 sessions, I simply had to admit to myself, Well, I suppose these guys knew what they were doing when they assembled Accelerate.

And that is precisely what has renewed my interest in R.E.M.  I’ve always liked Stipe’s attitude, and I’m continually drawn to R.E.M.’s unique, raw-but-refined instrumental sound.  And yet I’ve been hard-pressed to find any albums that stand out to me, certainly not enough to stand up to some of the great albums of all time.

Then, along came Accelerate.

R.E.M.'s "Live at the Olympia in Dublin" (2009)

R.E.M.'s "Live at the Olympia in Dublin" (2009)

Their 2008 studio album — their fourteenth at that — is a tremendous record.  There are catchy electric hooks, acoustic underpinnings, great lyrics, and Michael Stipe’s perfectly ragged vocals seasoning and binding it all together.  What truly distinguishes this record is the energy that simply oozes from the seams.  And this doesn’t come across as some aging group of rock and rollers embarking on a pitiful attempt to recapture past heights — after all, R.E.M. never was known for being all that rocking a band.

Watch the music video for “Living Well is the Best Revenge,” and you’ll immediately observe the youthful, creative force of a group of men who love what they do.  The song is performed while driving around in a car, acoustic guitars squeezed into the small vehicle, the steering wheel converted — while driving, mind you — into the percussion instrument of choice.  It looks like they’re having a lot of fun, and that comes through more than anything else on the record.

Rolling Stone reviewer Hermes apparently longs for the days when “Stipe’s vibrato-seizure vocals and Rorschach-blot ‘lyrics’ clung to songs exploding at the seams.”  He comments that, instead, “The stitching is tighter now, and drummer Bill Rieflin often holds things together too neatly.”

Say what you will about Rieflin’s drumming — and it’s not groundbreaking or award winning, but it gets the job done.  I draw the line at his allusion-dropping, not-so-subtle riff on Stipe’s vocals, as if to imply that something has been lost.

If that’s true, then something has been lost on me.

R.E.M., as Live at the Olympia in Dublin continues to suggest, is more alive and well than they have been in a good long time.  If living well is truly the best revenge, then Stipe, Mills, and Buck are bound to have the last laugh.  Their on-stage personas, musical chemistry, and ability to dig deeply into their catalog to populate their shifting set lists — never mind their willingness to exercise their unfinished work during live, recorded performances — continue to breathe new life and vibrancy into all their work, both past and present.

If you’re ready to live in the moment, then you should really give these guys a listen.