“Walt Whitman’s Niece” (Billy Bragg & Wilco Cover)

Originally posted 2008-09-16 11:35:01. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

As promised, I’m back after my second Jack Johnson acoustic cover song (posted on Saturday) to bring you my first installment for “New Bands Week.”  Since I wanted to make sure that I’m pulling my weight around here (and considering that Jim is swiftly adding to a list of at least ten new artists he plans to cover!), I decided to bring not only one but two new bands in one day to the best cover song music blog in the universe!

Okay, so maybe I’m talking up my contribution here, since the song I chose — “Walt Whitman’s Niece” — was recorded as a collaboration between the two artists, songwriter Billy Bragg and alternative rock band Wilco.  But, still… in the spirit of “New Bands Week,” two new bands!

There’s a really interesting story to go along with this cover song.  This is the first track on Billy Bragg and Wilco’s Mermaid Avenue album, a collection of songs based on the lyrics of Woody Guthrie.  Guthrie essentially ended up writing countless songs over his years as a songwriter, many of which he never put to music.  He literally had boxes of them.  I read that Guthrie actually offered them to a young Bob Dylan when Dylan went to visit him in the hospital.  He even made the long trip out to Guthrie’s house, but there was only a babysitter at home and she did not want to let a stranger in.  (Little did she know he would soon be anything BUT a stranger!)  Then, decades later, Billy Bragg and Wilco got their hands on the lyrics, chose their favorites, and wrote music for the words.  The result is an amazing album that I first learned about through my Journalism II teacher, who was also a big Dylan fan.

They came out with a sequel a few years later, simply called Mermaid Avenue Volume II, but it really wasn’t as strong as the first time around.  This is simply one of those moments in rock music, in my opinion, that came down to initial inspiration.  That first album is such a strong, enjoyable, and interesting collection of music.  In fact, I initially wanted to record “Ingrid Bergman” (which I did and stored away for later), but then remembered about “Walt Whitman’s Niece.”  I figured it would be a much stronger choice, as it is the first track on the album, upbeat, and of course, highlighted by a crazy harmonica solo that I could never duplicate.  All in all, a really fun song to sing.  As Jim and I figured out, it was a lot of fun to improv lyrics to the tune!

As a final note, Jim and I saw the latest Woody Allen movie, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, tonight.  Although I’m always a big fan of seeing him in the movies, this was a really interesting film even if he didn’t play an acting role.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about the voiceovers initially, but I really got into the characters and especially the situation.  I think this is one of those movies that will cause viewers to think about their own ideas about love, trust, and what their lives will be like in several decades.  How do you find happiness?  I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll stop here.

This may be all for today’s post, but don’t forget to rush back tomorrow for another all-new band and another all-new cover song by Jeff Copperthite.  If you haven’t already, you should scroll down the home page and check out Jim and Jeff’s first picks of the New Bands Week.

See you next sesion!

Wilco Summer 2009 SET LIST – Wappingers Falls, NY: Saturday, 7/18/2009

Originally posted 2009-07-18 18:34:39. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The SET LIST is below…

For a detailed review, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

Well, it’s only been three days and here we are again, seated in a ballpark waiting for an event to begin. And it won’t be a baseball game…

Wednesday was a phenomenal Bob Dylan concert in New Britain, CT and today, Saturday, is the Wappinger’s Falls, NY stop on the Wilco summer 2009 tour.

As I type, there are a few last minute adjustments being made to the equipment onstage before the opener at 7pm – Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band. I have no idea what they’ll be like, so more to come about their performance soon…

I’ll be posting up-to-the-minute details of the Wilco set list as the songs are played, so check back soon for that. (I’ll do my best to report accurately, but they have quite the variety of covers that have slipped into their set lists in the past. Either way, it’ll be interesting!)

Conor Oberst and company just finished their set. Overall, they were an energetic and entertaining band, but I’m anxiously awaiting my first Wilco concert…

Jeff Tweedy and the boys of Wilco will be onstage any minute now, so stay tuned for the set list updates.

WILCO SET LIST:

1 ) “Wilco (the song)”
2 ) “I’m Always in Love”
3 ) “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”
4 ) “Shot in the Arm”
5 ) “Bull Black Nova”
6 ) “You Are My Face”
7 ) “One Wing”
8 ) “Side with the Seeds”
9 ) “War on War”
10 ) “Deeper Down”
11 ) “Impossible Germany”
12 ) “Far, Far Away”
13 ) “Too Far Apart”
14 ) “Handshake Drugs”
15 ) “Can’t Stand It”
16 ) “Jesus, etc.”
17 ) “Sonny Feeling”
18 ) “Theologians”
19 ) “Hate it Here”
20 ) “Walken”
21 ) “I’m the Man Who Loves You”
22 ) “Hummingbird”

ENCORE 1:

23 ) “Poor Places”
24 ) “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”

ENCORE 2:

25 ) “The Late Greats”
26 ) “You Never Know”
27 ) “Heavy Metal Drummer”
28 ) “Hoodoo Voodoo”
29 ) “I’m a Wheel”

The Best of the Bob Dylan Covers – Playlists on Parade

Originally posted 2010-11-20 12:40:07. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

With some sources placing Bob Dylan as the #2 most covered artist (behind the Beatles, of course), there are some excellent performances of his songs.

Predominantly, though, there are hundreds and hundreds of inferior versions of his work, ranging from mediocre all the way down to openly offensive.

As a Dylan fan now for over a decade, I have accumulated quite a number of covers.  Folk?  I have it.  Bluesgrass?  Regrettably, yes.  Gospel?  You betcha!  Reggae?  For reals.

Suffice it to say, there’s some utter crap.

I’ve been thinking for weeks now about putting together a playlist of my favorite Dylan covers.  Finally, after coming across a Jimi Hendrix recording of “Tears of Rage” on iTunes today, I sorted through the archives and pieced together eighteen of my favorite recordings.  For those who don’t know me, you should understand that I’m often the guy who will remind you that, “This song was actually written by…” or ask you, “Have you ever heard the original?”  So, for me to say I love these songs means that they’ve truly made the cut for me.

And I hope you’ll enjoy them as well!

The artists are as wide ranging as George Harrison and Beck.  They go back as far as the sixties, with a sampling of classics by the original masters of the Dylan cover the Byrds, and are as recent as the Dead Weather, that super-ish-group co-fronted by Jack White.  In the case of the former, I love the Dylan versions about as much as Roger McGuinn and company’s, but in the case of the latter, a forgettable Street Legal track was revived and successfully reimagined.

There are some that you absolutely must listen to the originals – “Simple Twist of Fate” for one, and “Born in Time” for another (that is, if you find the Bootleg Series version).  There are some that are, frankly, better as covers – I’m thinking of “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” here.

So, go explore.  Visit Amazon and iTunes.  Expand your Dylan horizons.  And, most of all, remember why Bob Dylan was, is, and forever shall be the freakin’ man.

1)  “Mr. Tambourine Man” – The Byrds

2)  “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” – Beck

3)  “All Along the Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix

4)  “If Not for You” – George Harrison

5)  “Mama You’ve Been on My Mind / A Fraction of Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie” – Jack Johnson

6)  “Masters of War” – Pearl Jam

7)  “New Pony” – The Dead Weather

8)  “Simple Twist of Fate” – Jeff Tweedy

9)  “My Back Pages” – The Byrds

10)  “Absolutely Sweet Marie” – George Harrison

11)  “Tears of Rage” – Jimi Hendrix

12)  “I Shall Be Released” – The Band

13)  “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” – Eric Clapton

14)  “Mississippi” – Sheryl Crow

15)  “John Wesley Harding” – Wilco

16)  “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” – The Byrds

17)  “Born in Time” – Eric Clapton

18)  “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” – Warren Zevon

Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” (2002) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2009-12-27 23:57:53. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

** This is the fourth in a five part series of music reviews, counting down from the #5 to the #1 albums of the decade, 2000-2009. On January 2nd, 2010, the #1 album will be revealed, along with the complete Weekend Review picks for the Top Thirty Albums of the Decade. **

By Chris Moore:

RATING: 5/5 stars

There are those albums that are easily inserted into categories, labeled by genre.  Then, there are those albums which do not, those veritable square pegs hovering above round holes.

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot belongs to the latter.

Being that this is one of the most written-about albums of the decade, there have been just as many genre classifications as there have been reviewers.  Regardless of the fact that much of Wilco was formed from ex-Uncle Tupelo members, it is certainly not alt-country, although the trademark rough edges are present in all the right places.  It is not the country-tinged folk rock of Wilco’s debut release, A.M., although Tweedy’s leads sometimes attain that same wonderful raw quality that was so prominent on their first album.  It is not the acoustic rock of Being There, though the acoustic guitars are still quite prominent in the mixes.

Indeed, Summerteeth, their third album, can now be viewed as the proving grounds and a stepping stone to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot — in a sense, as the Today! to their Pet Sounds, the Highway 61 Revisited to their Blonde on Blonde.

It is the clarity of overall vision and focus, as well as the variety of sounds and styles on this record that makes Yankee Hotel Foxtrot one of the best rock albums of the decade.  In many ways, Wilco’s previous recordings were all leading up to this masterpiece, an album that yielded a slew of alternate takes, arrangements, outtakes, and additional mixes.  They poured all they knew about songwriting, performing, and recording into this album, and that is what is most apparent in the tight, finely crafted tunes, every bit as much as it is evident across the sprawling, chaotic landscapes of songs like the opening track.

It has become somewhat difficult to separate the music of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot from the controversy that surrounded it at the time of its release.  Certainly, when they set out to record their fourth studio album, they couldn’t have predicted the poor reception of the record label that would lead to them being dropped from their contract.  They couldn’t have envisioned breaking ground on the now-standard practice of streaming their album in full before its official release.  They couldn’t have known that the story around the album would sell so many copies and overnight transform their band’s image from a fairly obscure alt-country band to the folk/alternative rock trendsetters that they are known as today.  And yet, all the same, these things came to pass, filmed every step of the way by Sam Jones for the documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco.

Moreso than ever, this is an album that now needs to be taken, at least initially, on its own merits.  Nine years after it was recorded and eight years after the controversy and hype have subsided, we are left with the task of locating Yankee Hotel Foxtrot among the greatest albums of the decade, and perhaps of all-time.

Thankfully, it has stood the test of time.

Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" (2002)

The Weekend Review's pick for the #2 album of the decade, 2000-2009, is Wilco's 2002 release, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot."

Listening to this album is an entertaining, sobering, and all-around interesting experience from the fade in on track one to the fade out on track eleven.  “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” is, of course, the flagship song of the record, establishing both the tone and the mood for the other ten tracks to come.  On the one hand, it is a song with such a simple chord progression and melody that it could be — and has been — easily translated to a solo acoustic performance.  Still, something is lost without, on the other hand, the reluctant bass lines, synthesized sounds, and haphazard yet steady drums.  The sum total of the instruments and vocals introduces a narrator who sounds decidedly detached, inviting us into a realm where we imagine and remember our saddest moments, the conflicts that have defined our romantic lives.

After the final burst of distortion, the second song, “Kamera,” wastes no time in laying out a much more polished folk-rock sound, describing uncertainty as to “which lies I have been hiding, and which echoes belong.”  Tweedy continues, “I’ve counted out days to see how far I’ve driven in the dark with echoes in my heart.”  It is a pretty song; it is a catchy song.  My only reservation here is lyrically — for instance, why spell the title with a “K” rather than a “C”?  As Robert Christgau seemed to point out in his own review of the album, any major concerns about the album’s quality will most likely be focused around the lyrical quality.  While I think he is, as per usual, deaf to the quality of this excellent album, I will admit that I vacillate as to the meaningfulness of some of the lyrics.

Overall, the album speaks to me, and yet, some of the songs may be found shaky on an individual inspection.

But this should be for you to decide as you listen.

“Radio Cure” is next, bringing the pace down to a crawl, expounding on the effects of distance on love.  It is followed by “War on War,” a protest song of sorts that seems to attack simple-mindedness with simplicity.  If nothing else, Tweedy cries the universal truth that, “You have to learn how to die if you wanna be alive…”  One can suppose that this is not necessarily meant as a commentary on physical violence, but moreso in the context of the romantic relationship in shambles that is described throughout the album.

In “Jesus Etc.” and “Ashes of American Flags,” the lyrics rely on allusions to Christianity and the American dream, respectively.  In the former, the singer attempts to reassure a Christ-like lover who is set on leaving, “last cigarettes” being all she can get before she sets about “turning your orbit around.”  The mournful quality of the latter is unsurpassed, particularly as Tweedy repeats the chorus: “All my lies are only wishes; I know I would die if I could come back new.”  Again, there is the Christian — or perhaps Buddhist — metaphor of a death leading to a rebirth.  We can assume that this relationship being referred to is dying or already dead, and the question, of course, remains: what will be reborn in its place?  The song ends with the singer “saluting” the ashes of American flags, “and all the fallen leaves filling up shopping bags.”

Anyone who has gone through a breakup after a meaningful relationship has undoubtedly undergone this phase of the healing process.

The seventh and eighth tracks sidestep a bit, the first — “Heavy Metal Drummer” — taking a nostalgic and upbeat flashback to memories of past summers filled with rock concerts and parties and the second — “I’m the Man Who Loves You” — coming across as a manic return to the present, the singer declaring, “If I could, you know I would just hold your hand and you’d understand: I’m the man who loves you!”

Subsequently, we learn that the singer’s declaration of love has not had the desired effect.  Indeed, “Pot Kettle Black” is an important transition point on the record as Tweedy sings of coming to terms with the realities of the relationship that exists between these two people.  Its abstract lyrics are no attempt to dodge specificity; rather, this is a great case study for how the mind perceives the breakdown of something so dear.

The final two tracks provide another excellent couplet in this eleven line album.  “Poor Places” establishes itself as an anthem for isolation, with the singer ultimately decreeing, “It’s hot in the poor places tonight; I’m not going outside.”  This is not an entirely unexpected turn of events.  After all, the album has covered a lot of melancholy ground, including what can arguably be construed as failed attempts at jump-starting a broken relationship.

When the final track arrives, it is somewhat of an enigma.  “Reservations” is one of the simplest, saddest, and most sincere love songs in the Wilco catalog.  The refrain, “I’ve got reservations about so many things, but not about you,” can be interpreted in several different ways — as a final attempt at reconciliation, as a statement after having reunited with the person (although there is less evidence for this), or perhaps most directly as parting words.  Judging from the ominous silence that follows, complete with sounds that can only be compared to a violent wind, the final interpretation seems the most likely.

From beginning to end, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is one of those rare albums that connects on both mental and emotional levels, calling on the listener to think in order to deconstruct meaning from the songs and utilizing all the right sounds to convey all the right feelings.  This was the album that singlehandedly led me into a breakup, nursed me through the depression that followed, and brought me back to the love of my life. (“What was I thinking when I let go of you?…”)

As the disclaimers read in those lovely commercials about diet pills, my results may not be typical, but my life is better for having experienced this album.  I hope — and have faith — that this album will have even half the effect on you that it did on me.