“Love Sick” (“Time Out of Mind” Cover)

By Chris Moore:

Hello again, and thanks for tuning in for another all-new Laptop Session! I have the honor of presenting the first video of February, on the first day of our exciting, newly-designed LaptopSessions.com website design theme. Thanks to Jim for really bringing the site to the next level!

I’ve been pretty sick the past couple days, and I’ve barely been making it back and forth between work and sleep. So, when it came time to record today, I couldn’t think of any better song to do than “Love Sick,” the first track off of Bob Dylan’s 1997 album Time Out of Mind. Not only does it have “sick” in the title, but Dylan’s voice is particularly gruff on the album, so my voice is in prime condition. 🙂

I’ll definitely be doing more from this album in the future. For now, you can look forward to another great song by Jeff tomorrow!

“All For You” (Sister Hazel Cover)

For Sister Hazel chords & lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to another week of brand new cover song music videos!  For me and Jeff, this week isn’t just another week, though.  I’ll be back in school on all but Wednesday this week, so it’s the beginning of the end of summer.

As with every summer in my life, this one wraps up with me having accomplished some tasks that I’m proud of, and yet falling short of doing all that I wanted to.  As Jeff pointed out in last week’s post, the summer certainly does fly by.  If you’re an ambitious person — like myself — and yet a person who puts value on relaxation during the summer — like myself — then you’re bound to feel like you’ve fallen short (watch it!) by the end of August.

On the plus side, I spent an incredible amount of time this summer playing guitar.  I have played my own songs as well as some of my favorite Laptop Sessions cover songs repeatedly until I can now comfortably pick up and play about twenty different songs without worrying about forgetting lyrics or chords.  Unfortunately for me, my mastery of a song — whether a cover version or an original — fades over time, so this practice was a process.  In the midst of all this playing, I’ve been bitten by the writing bug, and I have written ten songs over the past couple months.  Of the ten, five are complete and five have some more work to be done, namely lyrics here and middle eights there.  I’m really excited about this set of songs, and when I combine them with the best from my previous four years of songwriting — yup, it’s been a whole four years since Love Out of Fashion — I have a set of songs that I’m really proud of.

Now the only problem is what to do with them…

Jim offered his services as producer, drummer, and instrumentalist extraordinaire on my next album as a birthday present last year, and I gave him some demos a while back which we talked about a bit.  However, now that I’m not living with him, it presents a difficult situation in terms of really living with the songs and playing, recording, listening, mixing, and otherwise playing around with the tracks as the album is in progress.  At home, I have the facilities via my MacBook to record demo-quality tracks with layered vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, and harmonica, but I really should invest in a higher quality mic.  And, without drums, what’s the point at this, well, point?

So, for now at least, the songs remain as demos.  I’m itching to work with them, though, so it’ll only be a matter of time before I work out a plan for how to put these songs down in some enjoyable format.

Without further ado, I bring you my Laptop Session of the day, a cover of Sister Hazel’s “All For You” from their 1997 album …somewhere more familiar.  This band is most definitely what you would refer to as a one hit wonder, as “All For You” reached #11 on the Billboard Hot 100.  Unless you count #59 as a hit – which is the height reached by their 2000 single, “Change Your Mind,” the highest charting of any subsequent single in their career – then they are one hit wonders indeed.

Just last week, Sister Hazel released Release, and I decided to try it out.  At the same time I was in Newbury Comics, I came across a used and very cheap used copy of their aforementioned 1997 album, so I picked that up as well.  The older album is very ambitious with Lennon/McCartney-esque harmony duets on every song (a la “All For You”).  The instrumentation is very catchy and impressive, even if all the songs do start to sound the same after a while.

Regardless, I’ll be listening to the new album this week and I’ll get back to you.  For now, though, I ask you to direct your attention to the video below, and I kindly remind you not to close this tab until you’ve come back tomorrow for Jim Fusco Tuesday and then again for Jeff’s “Thumpin’ Thursday.”

See you next session!

Foo Fighters’ “The Colour and the Shape” (1997) – The Weekend Review

By Chris Moore:

RATING: 5 / 5 stars

Once in a band’s career — if they are that lucky — songwriting and performance coalesce on an album in such a way as to inspire both thought and emotion. When that bolt of metaphorical lightning strikes, the result is a collection of songs that breathe like living entities, some tracks crying, some tracks screaming, some tracks shining beautifully. Somehow, through a mixture of careful, intentional strategy and fortunate, indescribable chance, those songs come across as sincere, relatable, and entertaining. Sometimes, they even connect in such a way as to create an interesting statement as a whole.

In the Foo Fighters catalog, The Colour and the Shape is that album.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should make it very clear that I am not a big Foo Fighters fan. Aside from a brief phase of hurriedly listening to all their other albums, I have neither before nor since found their work extraordinary. I do have a great respect for Dave Grohl’s concepts, such as his half-electric, half-acoustic In Your Honor. Until 2007’s Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace, however, I was unable to find an album that came close to the heights achieved on their 1997 sophomore effort.

Perhaps the greatest strength of The Colour and the Shape is the balance between pure electric energy and calmer, more soothing tones. This is no middle-of-the-road album; in fact, it has some of the loudest screaming — as well as some of the lightest tones and harmonies — of any album I have ever heard. To be sure, it is one of the very few albums that I have found such extremes on and still found it enjoyable. Too much on the soft side can be boring, and too much on the hard side can be, well, too much.

That is certainly one of Dave Grohl’s fortes — he is shredding his vocal chords in one breath and crooning at the next. Because I tend toward liking the latter more than the former, I always find it a sweet relief to hear some simple double tracking or harmonies following an all-out electric track.

Foo Fighters'

Foo Fighters'

The first time I heard the album, the opening track made me shake my head and double check that I had put the correct CD in the drive. “Doll” is a light, bittersweet song with slightly muted vocals that set the tone for the album. This is a collection of songs about a relationship that is falling apart for a number of reasons — the narrator is willing to admit his own shortcomings (“Doll me up in my bad luck…”), but he isn’t shy about calling the other person on hers.

“Monkey Wrench” and “Hey, Johnny Park!” add up to one of the best one-two punches in rock album history. Each song introduces one killer guitar riff layered upon another, stacked with energetic vocals, and boneheaded metaphors not withstanding, the lyrics are fun. Even though it felt a bit out of my range, I ran my vocal chords ragged back in June 2008 to commit a cover song version of “Hey, Johnny Park!” to video for the Laptop Sessions (CLICK HERE to have a listen!).

These are followed by two more songs that vacillate between power chord-fueled electric rage and Grohl’s calmer, clearer tones. It doesn’t get any more blunt than these lyrics (“This is a blackout; don’t let it go to waste. This is a blackout; I wanna detonate…”), but they work on these tracks.

“Up in Arms” borders on tender (and sad), but certainly isn’t lacking in the backbone department. Then, “My Hero” unfolds a tribute to the “ordinary” hero — fans have speculated that it’s an ode to Grohl’s former Nirvana bandmate Kurt Cobain, but Grohl himself says it’s directed at the average workingman.

I suppose it’s up to you to decide what you believe…

Then comes one of my favorites on the album, a song so unlike the others and yet so wonderfully intertwined thematically. “See You” lends more straightforward acoustic rock sensibilities than you’ll find anywhere else on the album, although they are hinted at in several other tracks.

The rest passes in a blur, starting with the anger and brevity of “Enough Space.” I found this track tough to swallow at first, but my tastes in music have progressed over the years, and I like this song very much now, if for no other reason than it is not what the album as a whole sounds like — Grohl and company seemed to take care to balance such elements.

Although the final four songs are each over four minutes, they pass quickly. “February Stars” boasts a Goo Goo Dolls sound on the outro, and frankly, Grohl does a better job making that sound interesting than John Rzeznik himself. “Everlong” is, of course, a classic. If you listen carefully to the lyrics, it is an emotional, brutal song, and you can almost hear it in the performance — Grohl, Nate Mendel, and Pat Smear must realize what a gem they are recording.

The final two songs work well as a pair, “Walking After You” representing the phase in a breakup where one party clings desperately to the remnants of the relationship even as the other is walking away and “New Way Home” embodying that deep breath and next step for the lonely one left behind. If you’ve been in this situation before and been heartbroken by someone who has lost interest in you, then you’ll appreciate the closing tracks on this album.

In closing, The Colour and the Shape is a standout effort from the Foo Fighters. It is not only the first (and only) album I would recommend to others — with the possible exception of Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace — but it is also one of the great rock albums of all time, in my opinion, an effort that is stronger as a whole than the individual tracks could ever be.

On a more emotional level, it is an album I continually find myself returning to when I’m contemplating relationship problems, and I would highly recommend it as one of the Weekend Review’s picks for albums to keep on hand for those aforementioned sad and/or angry moments!

“Exit Music (For A Film)” (Radiohead Cover)

For Radiohead chords & lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to another week of new music and material, brought to you by the best acoustic cover song music video this side of the Alpha Quadrant!  (That’s a little Star Trek: Voyager reference for those of you nerds out there…)

For my song tonight, I’ve chosen my first Radiohead cover.  How did I get to this song?  Well, I’ve been listening non-stop to A Singer Must Die,  Steven Page’s collaboration with the Art of Time Ensemble.  The final track on that album is a cover of Radiohead’s song “Paranoid Android.”  That song is from their 1997 album OK Computer.  Listening to that album today, I came across “Exit Music (For A Film),” a great little track that has a strong acoustic foundation.

And, after all, I realized that Jeff is the only contributor to the blog who has recorded a Radiohead track, and all four of his selections are from their album The Bends.  Now, I’ve never heard The Bends, but of the albums I’ve heard, my favorite has always been OK Computer.

What better reason to pull out a track from that release for tonight’s video?

The other story behind tonight’s session is that I had originally planned to cover a song in honor of the final edition of the Johnny Cash “American” series, American VI:  Ain’t No Grave, which comes out tomorrow.  I would have loved to record Sheryl Crow’s “Redemption Day,” but I couldn’t work out an arrangment I was happy with.  The only other song I was halfway interested in taking on was Kris Kristofferson’s “For the Good Times.”  I had learned, practiced, and planned to record it until I got home and realized I was too bored by it.  It would have been an extremely simple song to record — easy chords, basic country structure, etc. 

But what fun would that be?

So, I kept coming back to Radiohead and the fact that we’ve never recorded a cover from the classic OK Computer.  Figuring out the chords for “Exit Music” was more difficult than “For the Good Times.”  I found a couple different versions online, and what confused me most was how both sets that I found began with the same couple chords but then varied wildly.  In some cases, the first was accurate.  In others, the second was accurate.  In others, neither were accurate.  In the end, that was half the fun of this session: I feel like I got acquainted with the song through having to figure it out, so I felt a lot more passionately about recording it.

I suppose I’ll just have to wait for Johnny Cash’s versions of “Redemption Day” and “For the Good Times”…

Going back to the reason I started listening to Radiohead today in the first place, I wanted to repeat that I have been enjoying Steven Page’s A Singer Must Die much more than I initially thought I would.  When I first learned of this release, the prospect of an album of covers performed with an ensemble did not appeal to me in the slightest.  As time went on, I became more and more interested to hear what it sounded like.  Although I couldn’t bring myself to pay for the shipping that it would have taken to get a physical, autographed copy, I had assumed that Newbury Comics would be stocking it.  Then, last Tuesday, I was shocked to learn that it wasn’t available at any retailer in the U.S., nor was it available on iTunes.  I thought I would have to wait…

…that is, until Steven Page tweeted the link to his online store that had just added the digital version of the album.  As you can read in my review (CLICK HERE!), I found the choice of songs, the performances, and the arrangment of tracks to be outstanding.  To be fair, it’s not an album I’ll be cranking up in my car, but it is certainly an album that has and will continue to get a lot of air time at home.  The most exciting part about this week’s edition of the Weekend Review is the endorsement it was given.  After I wrote and posted the review yesterday, I also posted a tweet with a link so that people who follow me could read it.  Then, Mike retweeted my post and added Steven Page (@stevenpage).  Finally — and this is the exciting part — Steven Page actually retweeted Mike’s post!  So, in summary, Mike and I both managed to be retweeted by, as I wrote in my text to Mike, STEVEN FRICKIN’ PAGE!!!  In all seriousness, I was thrilled that he took the review seriously enough to retweet it, and I was happy to see the increased traffic on the page for yesterday and today.

As a final, non-music related note, I spent my first hour and a half after school today camped out in the living room with snacks and season five episodes of The Office.  The reason?  Not just because I’m lazy, although that was probably a contributing factor.  No, it had to do with the stench coming from my dishwasher.  There’s some kind of issue with the pipes or the dishwasher itself, and nothing I did seemed to help the smell.  So, after retreating for a while and feeling a bit depressed about the whole situation, I got excited about this session, which revived me.  Then, Nicole came home from her class with some advice from her father.  Fifteen minutes later, problem solved!  At least for now, as this will only work permanently if it’s an issue with the pipes.  If it’s the actual dishwasher, then I’ll probably return home today (or, at the latest, when I run the dishwasher next weekend) to a not so pleasant odor.

I’m not sure why I felt the need to share that, other than the fact that it is a great example of the power of the Laptop Sessions — they have the power to ruin a night (computer issues, multiple takes, etc.), or to revive your day.

And, with that, I hope you have a great week, keep checking back for new material this week, and I’ll see you next session!