Hello and welcome to another week of new material from the best acoustic cover song music video blog in the universe! We’re glad you’ve chosen to stop by and we hope you’ll read the posts, watch our music videos, and leave us some comments and requests.
Let me begin my post tonight by explaining the new background. Although I think I will eventually establish the living room as my backdrop — better lighting, better acoustics — I wanted Laptop Sessions regulars to see that my “wall 0′ CD’s” has been rebuilt in the condo. I just recorded this video, so there wasn’t any natural light to speak of. Thus, the image is a bit yellowed. Additionally, I spent the weekend working on installing surge protectors, organizing my bookshelf, maximizing space in the closet, etc., so there aren’t any posters. The walls look pretty plain, but I promise there will be a more complete backdrop soon. I have a cool Beatles poster that came free if you bought two or more Beatles remasters at Newbury Comics, and I’ve been itching to put that up. And, of course, there are the Bob Dylan posters that have been with me since I lived with my parents, so it will be nice to get those up soon, as well.
Until then, let’s just focus on the music…
I’ve wanted to record this song since I heard it in the closing credits of Up in the Air a month ago. I had planned to record it right away, but Spoon’s new album, an Elvis Costello phase, and the aborted Locksley new release all intervened. I had considered milking the Who publicity for a session and I was looking for a fitting Jimi Hendrix song for today, but I just couldn’t put this one off any longer.
If you haven’t heard of Kevin Renick, well, that’s kind of the point. Apparently, he wrote “Up in the Air” a couple years before he heard that director Jason Reitman was working on a film adaptation of the book. The version you hear in the film is the original recording Renick handed to Reitman after he heard Reitman speak. The cassette recording begins, “Hi, Jason. My name is Kevin Renick, and I’ve written a song called ‘Up in the Air.’ I wanted you to hear it. It goes like this…”
What follows is a home recording that is simple and wonderfully suited for the film. Of course, it was literally no work to translate this into a Laptop Session as, for all intents and purposes, it already is. When I read more about Renick tonight, I became even more excited about posting this session. He is not signed to a record label. He has never released an album before. Being unemployed himself, he sings his song with conviction, and it was relaxing to learn, play, and record.
The lyrics, like the song, are deceptively simple. There are some great lines here — “When people ask me what I’m doing with my life, I say, ‘It’s up in the air'” and “I’m hearing from friends; it’s that tired, old advice again: ‘You just cannot keep floating all around; oh, you got to get your feet back on the ground.'”
I can’t understate how well this song encapsulated the feel of the film and of the other excellent music chosen for the soundtrack. The Up in the Air soundtrack includes one of my favorite Elliott Smith songs, “Angel in the Snow” (from the New Moon posthumous release), a couple of cool Graham Nash songs (one with Crosby and Stills, one solo demo), and Dan Auerbach’s “Goin’ Home” (from Keep It Hid, my pick for the #10 best rock album of 2009).
So, that’s the story behind “Up in the Air.” Once I’ve finished posting this session, I’m off to grade some senior papers before dinner, and then I have two things I’m looking very much forward to. The first is watching — and yes, your nerd-o-meters are about to go crazy — Star Trek: Voyager with Nicole. I haven’t watched Voyager for YEARS, not since I watched from the sixth season or so on with my mother. Every week, we’d meet and watch that show until it went off the air. And I loved it! But I never thought to go back, so that’s been my recent television indulgence.
In music-related “news,” the second activity I’m looking forward to tonight is finally being able to relax and read the booklet to the posthumous Jimi Hendrix collection First Rays of the New Rising Sun. I unfortunately had to return a Christmas present, and although I put it off for weeks, I finally exchanged it last Friday for this Hendrix CD. I’ve been mildly interested in it for a few years, but I wasn’t sure what it would be like. I’m generally of the opinion that the overall consistency and quality of Hendrix’s albums started at near-perfection with Are You Experienced? (1967) and declined from there, particularly on Electric Ladyland (1968). That’s not to say that he didn’t make some tremendous, outstanding music after his debut album — “Wait Until Tomorrow,” “Castles Made of Sand,” “Bold as Love,” “Crosstown Traffic,” and his cover of “All Along the Watchtower” — but the second and third albums themselves just weren’t as tight or compelling as the first.
Let me tell you: it’s a SHAME that Hendrix never finished First Rays of the New Rising Sun. Even as a 17 track collection compiled “under the direct supervision of the Hendrix family,” this disc is easily the best, most dynamic work he released after Are You Experienced? Given the time, Hendrix may very well have topped even that. Anyone who owns the greatest hits collection Experience Hendrix already knows the rocking “Freedom,” the jaw-droppingly beautiful “Angel,” and “Dolly Dagger.” If you like those tracks, you should check this out as well, especially for great work like “Night Bird Flying,” “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun),” and “In From the Storm.” Great stuff indeed.
Well, that about does it for me this week. Of course, you should hurry back every day of this week for fun new material — you can bank on another full Laptop Session, a three-part “Yes, No, Maybe So, Retro” series, a Guest Session of a great Buddy Holly song, and an all-new Weekend Review. Don’t miss any of these great music-related posts — you’re only going to find them here…
Well, in the world of Moody Blues songs, it doesn’t get much more popular than “Nights in White Satin”, written by the great Justin Hayward.
I wanted to do this classic song for the Laptop Sessions music video blog because I thought it would translate well to a solo acoustic performance. I hope you like my whistling flute solo! I wasn’t gonna do it, but Chris and Becky egged me on, and I think I nailed it!!
I love the vocal exercise this song presents and I’ve always thought that Justin Hayward has one of the best singing voices ever. He’s also one of the greatest songwriters ever and can play an amazing guitar. As with most of my favorite musicians and songwriters, Justin Hayward doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his incredible talents. His acoustic guitar work on songs like “Question” haven’t been reproduced since. And his electric guitar work gets almost no attention, even though it’s amazing. Have you heard the guitar on “Story in Your Eyes”? It’s face-meltingly awesome! The tone he gets and his style of playing belie the calm and proper British personality he portrays. Well, even if Justin Hayward (or the Moody Blues as a band, for that matter) doesn’t get the credit he/they deserves, I’m still glad I can share some of his greatness with you, my loyal Laptop Sessions acoustic cover song watchers.
So, this is a high bar to rise above, but I’m such a big Moody Blues fan that I know the song backwards and forwards. It would be great to record a version of this someday, but honestly, how can I improve upon perfection? I think I’ll stick to classic songs like this on solo acoustic guitar for my posts here on the music blog.
Enjoy today’s Session and make sure to come back for a Super Saturday appearance from Chris!
Welcome, everyone, to the first installment of the Open Mic Sessions, where I’ll bring you my performances of my original songs from various open mic nights. The video will be a bit choppy, the sound won’t be perfect, and there usually aren’t too many people in the crowd, but it’s been a lot of fun for me to do these, so I wanted to share my original song performances with the world!
Today’s video is of my song, “Choose Your Words (Carefully)” from my 2012 album, “Those Around Us”. I think I’ve received a great response to this song every time I play it live. People either relate to the words…or just find the chorus catchy. Either way, it’s been one of my favorites to play and is always the standby song for when someone says, “Play one more!”
This video was taken by my brother Mike at Sam Ash music store in New Haven, CT on April 3rd, 2013. As you can probably tell, there wasn’t much of a crowd…but the staff sure seemed to like it! Sometimes, even if there isn’t a big audience, it’s still cool to hear your original song amplified like that. There’s something empowering about that.
I hope you enjoy tonight’s video and stay tuned each week for more videos from the Open Mic Sessions!