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The Covers: VIII – “Rusty Cage.”

April 26, 2020

Greetings once again, music lovers! Tonight’s offering will be the second of four posts featuring Johnny Cash.

The song “Rusty Cage” was originally recorded by one of my favorite bands, Soundgarden. This band was tremendously influential in the ’90’s, and one of the Big Four grunge bands from Seattle, the others being Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, and Nirvana.

“Rusty Cage” was written by one of the greatest rock singers ever, the late Chris Cornell, and was from the 1991 album “Badmotorfinger.”

A few things I want to write about regarding this song and video,  1. This is not even close to my favorite Soundgarden song, even though it is one of their classics. The fast tempo of most of the song is not something they did very often. They tended to have more riff-heavy slow songs. 2. I’ve learned not to try and make sense out of Soundgarden’s lyrics.. such as the lyrics in the slow part of the song. 3. If you suffer from epilepsy, I recommend not watching this video. I’m serious.

Ok.. You’ve been warned..

 

After hearing this song, you are probably wondering why one of the greatest music legends of the 20th century, Johnny Cash, decided to cover this..

Ok.. I will be as brief as I can..

Legendary music producer Rick Rubin (a sasquatch-wolfman looking dude with sunglasses he wears indoors) had previously talked with Cash about making an album. Cash made an album with Rubin called “American Recordings.” This was Cash’s.. wait for it.. 81st album!

Awhile later, Rubin and Cash made another album. This one was called “Unchained,” released in 1996 .. and no, the Van Halen song “Unchained” is not the one Johnny covered.. it’s a different “Unchained.”

This album featured some covers. That in itself, not an odd idea.. but.. Rubin thought “Rusty Cage” would be a good song for Johnny to cover. The 64-year-old Cash was surprised, but his backup band, mostly comprised of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, came up with an arrangement.. and it worked amazingly well. I like the Cash version a LOT more than Soundgarden’s original. You probably will too.

 

Alright.. a bit of bonus material.. a short video on how the album “Unchained” was made.

 

Next post, Johnny Cash with a cover of the heart-breaking song “Hurt,” originally recorded by Nine Inch Nails.

The Covers: VII – “Ring of Fire.”

April 19, 2020

The last two posts involved Dolly Parton. This and the next three after will be partially about Johnny Cash.

As with several other songs, the version I thought was an original by a famous performer turned out to be a cover.

That’s right. “Ring of Fire,” originally “(Love’s) Ring of Fire,” was written by Cash’s future wife, June Carter and her cowriter Merle Kilgore. It was recorded by June’s sister Anita in late 1962, and released in 1963.

Here is the original..

 

Wow.. so different from any other recording of this song! And it is rather good! I love how her voice goes up a few times before it fades.. Maybe this is an example of the “high lonesome sound” of old-timey and early country music.

Next is Johnny Cash’s version.. also released in 1963.. and I really can’t stand it. Why? The damn mariachi band. Some mariachi music I can sort of appreciate, but not in a Johnny Cash song!

 

You want to hear johnny’s version without the horns? Ok. Here he is, late in his career, performing part of the song live, without horns.. yeah this is better.

 

And now the version I am most familiar with.. the punk rock cover by Social Distortion, This version was released in 1990.

 

There are other covers besides these of course. I just wanted to post the two I’m most familiar with, as well as the original, which I just discovered this past week. I will be adding the original to my early country-old-timey-americana playlist on my various devices. I call that playlist “kinda folksy,” and it spans many decades.

Next post.. Johnny Cash and the mighty Soundgarden.

The Covers: VI – “Jolene.”

April 14, 2020

Last post, I wrote a bit about a song called “Making Believe.” I first thought it was an original by a Danish metal and punk band called Volbeat. Later, I heard Dolly Parton’s version and thought she’d written it. Nope. It was recorded in 1954 by a country singer named Jimmy Work. Not a Dolly original, like I’d thought.

The song for this post, “Jolene,” is a Dolly original, and one of her most famous tunes.

Here is Dolly explaining the origin of the song, and performing it:

 

And here is the version I first heard.. which will blow your head off..

The White Stripes.. Jack and Meg White.. Jack often claimed they were brother and sister. Not true. They were married for little while. Among many unconventional things Jack has done, he took Meg’s surname, instead of her taking his, when they married.

They were married from 1996-2000. They formed their radical, intense, two person band in 1997. They got divorced before they became massively popular. Must have been weird to tour together after the divorce, but Jack is a weird dude..

I don’t really need to write about the woman who wrote and originally recorded this song. She’s a legend.

But I do feel I should mention an amazing, very entertaining, and even educational podcast series called Dolly Parton’s America, created and hosted by Jad Abumrad (pronounced ah-boom-rod), one of the two guys from one of NPR’s most well-loved shows, Radiolab. (NPR – National Public Radio, in the US. There are tons of NPR and related podcasts.. some of them really worth listening to, such as Radiolab). Abumrad met Dolly because his father was her doctor.

Abumrad and Parton got to talking, and Jad had an idea for a podcast.. not just about Dolly, but about the country music scene when Dolly was young, how America has changed over the decades, and many more subjects.

Not having grown up with country music or being much of a country fan now,  I’ve, until recently, paid little attention to Dolly Parton. When I was a kid, other boys told me about her boobs. That’s pretty much all I knew about her when I was young. Country singer with big boobs.

There’s a LOT more to know. I listened to the whole series. It was excellent. I’ll listen to it again someday.

Check it out here..

https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/dolly-partons-america

The next four posts will feature Johnny Cash!

 

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

 

The Covers: V – “Making Believe.”

April 11, 2020

5th in my cover tunes series..

I first heard this song as performed by Danish metal/punk/country band Volbeat, on their 2008 album, “Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood.”  Having never heard the tune before, I figured it was an original..

But then I heard a version by Dolly Parton, and thought that one was an original..

..Until I looked up the song on youtube and saw a comment stating that there was an earlier version by a woman called Kitty Wells, and that she had recorded the song in 1955..

That version was also a cover. A lot of people online don’t know this, apparently.. judging by various youtube comments.. This song has been covered by over 20 artists and bands!  I had no idea.

Sadly, this is a song that pretty much every human being on the planet can relate to. I think that’s partially why it has been covered so often.

The original was recorded by Jimmy Work, in 1955, according to Wikipedia, but in 1954, according to a website called secondhandsongs.

Ok then.. as far as I can tell, this is the original..

 

Here is the Kitty Wells version from the same year, or a year later..

 

Here is Dolly Parton’s cover, from 1963..

(If I get any of the dates, years wrong, etc. please let me know, and provide evidence, not opinion. Thanks).

 

I like some of Dolly Parton’s recordings, but for me, that was excruciating.

Those of you who like classic country, but who don’t like punk or metal will not care for my favorite version.. the one I first heard.. by Volbeat..

Alright, and yes, to be fair, even a punk version of this had previously been recorded, in 1992, by Social Distortion, so what Volbeat did.. making the song heavy.. wasn’t their idea.. ok whatever. I like Volbeat more than Social Distortion, so there..

 

That was fun.. amazing how far down the rabbit hole goes with some of these cover songs!

Next covers post.. a Dolly Parton original.. (it damn well better be).. covered by The White Stripes.

Steve Stevens: Flamenco Guitar Solo.

April 2, 2020

I’m going to make a brief diversion from my recently begun series on cover tunes.

In my previous post, I wrote a little about Steve Stevens, most well-known as Billy Idol’s guitarist (Stevens also co-wrote some or all of Idol’s songs).

I decided to check out more of Steven’s music, and was surprised to learn that not only is he an excellent rock guitarist, but a rather good flamenco player as well.

Here a live version of his flamenco music (4.5 million views so far!) :

 

 

 

The Covers: IV – “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.”

April 2, 2020

In the previous two posts were songs by The Who, one original, and one a cover.

For this post, I am featuring Roger Daltrey in a recording he did not make with The Who. Daltrey’s version was the first I heard. It was on an amazing soundtrack from an even more amazing (and intentionally silly, but very stylish) vampire film, called “The Lost Boys.” The movie and soundtrack were released in 1987. I’m not a big fan of horror movies, but damn this film was great.

One reason I liked the movie so much.. it was mostly filmed in the beautiful and rather creepy Northern California coastal city of Santa Cruz, and the Santa Cruz Mountains. During the early to mid ’90’s, I spent a lot of time in that city, and the neighboring, smaller city of Capitola (though very little time in the creepy parts) and lived up in those mountains for four summers.

I don’t know about vampires, but there is a lot of weird stuff that goes on in Santa Cruz County. If you visit, stick to the tourist areas. No joke. And don’t go wandering in the heavily forested mountains either. Friendly locals told me not to do that. “Deliverance”-type people up there and who knows who else.  There’s reasons this film was set in a fictionalized version of Santa Cruz County.

I will put the trailer for “The Lost Boys” at the bottom of this post.

First though, the original recording, by Elton John, from his “Caribou” album, which was released in 1974:

 

Sir Elton released a live version of this song with George Michael in 1991. The two had previously performed the song together in 1985, with Elton playing piano and George singing. This was for the massive Live Aid concert series.

I’m not selecting that one as the cover for this post, even though I like both Elton John and the late George Michael. Besides, with Elton performing on it, it is not a cover.

As with previous and future posts, my goal with this one is to provide a cover version that sounds somewhat different from the original. And sounds at least as good, or in this case, even better, in my opinion, than the original.

Here is Roger Daltrey’s version:

Quite different, indeed! Epic.

A strange thing about this version.. the ending guitar riff sounds very similar to the bridge in Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without A Face,” only slowed down. Did Steve Stevens, Billy idol’s guitarist and co-songwriter, play on the song you just heard? I looked up Stevens on Wikipedia, and did not see a credit for him listed under soundtracks, and also googled around awhile trying unsuccessfully to find a list of performers on Roger Daltrey’s track.. so my guess is no. But the guitar tone and the riff sure sound similar to what I hear in “Eyes Without A Face.”

In the next two posts, I will focus on Dolly Parton songs, one of them an original, and one a cover. I just realized it was a cover a few minutes ago while researching the song. I will be posting the original of that song, Dolly’s cover, and then a radically different cover.

As promised.. here is the trailer for “The Lost Boys.” One of the best horror movies ever.

 

 

The Covers: III – “Summertime Blues.”

March 31, 2020

Alright, for this one, the original, and two covers! Admittedly, the two covers are somewhat similar, but I’m going to post them both anyway.

Last blog post was “Bargain,” a song originally recorded by The Who, and covered by Rez.

This time, one of the covers is by The Who..

But first..

The original.

Before I get to it though, I just want to write that this series I’ve recently embarked on is a learning experience. For example, I have found some songs I thought were originals were actually covers. Also, I’ve been looking up the release dates of the songs, and learning more about recording artists.

Ok then.. I was watching a music documentary a little while ago – wish I could remember which one, but I watch a lot of music content online – and learned that “Summertime Blues” was originally recorded in 1958 by Eddie Cochran..

According to Wikipedia, Cochran was an American-born studio pioneer and multi-instrumentalist. Died less than 24 hours after a being in a single car accident in England, right after playing a gig. Reckless cab driver was at the wheel. Cochran was the only person in the car to die from the accident. He passed away on Easter Sunday, 1960. He was 21.

Here is Cochran’s “Summertime Blues.”

 

This song has been covered A LOT.

I’m picking the other two versions I’ve already heard of this one.

First cover for this post is probably the heaviest of all versions,  (besides the last one in this post) ..  and was featured on the first album by Blue Cheer, a band from San Francisco. Their album had a fake-Latin title called “Vincebus Eruptem,” and was recorded in 1967. The record was released in early 1968.

Here is Blue Cheer:

 

And now for the version I heard first.. this one, by The Who.

Which band first performed “Summertime Blues?” I don’t know! The Who was playing it as early as 1967.. same year Blue Cheer recorded this song..

Here is The Who, from the Monterey Pop Festival in California, 1967. Same concert where Jimi Hendrix set his guitar on fire..  I wonder who first started destroying instruments on stage, Hendrix or The Who?

Anyway… a phenomenal performance.. of course..

 

Those guys sure had fun!

Next post.. Roger Daltrey.. a surprise solo recording that sounds pretty much nothing like The Who..

Bonus video..

Want more of Monterey Pop?

Here ya go!

 

The Covers: II – “Bargain.”

March 31, 2020

Welcome to my second post in a series focusing on cover tunes!

In the future, I will be including covers performed by The White Stripes, Volbeat, Duran Duran, Stone Temple Pilots, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Heart, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and a cover that is not exactly a cover, with guest vocalist Johnny Cash.. After that.. not sure.. I’ve got lots of ideas!

The song I selected for the first post was “Presence of the Lord,” written by Eric Clapton (but not sung by him), performed by a band he was in called Blind Faith, and covered by a band called Rez. I am featuring Rez again in this post. That band did only a few covers, and did them well.

Rez, originally called Resurrection Band, was a Christian hard rock and blues band that was brilliant, and very heavy, sometimes even brutal, even to the point of being difficult to listen to, both sonically and lyrically. Unlike some other Christian rock bands, such as Petra or Stryper, Rez never gained huge following. But they were amazing. Sometimes quite disturbing, but amazing.

The song.. I first heard the version by Rez, then later found out it was a cover, and listened to the version by The Who. The Who is one of my favorite classic rock bands, and I like pretty much all their hits, including this one.

“Bargain” – original recording by The Who, from their 1971 album, “Who’s Next?”

 

And the Rez version, from their album “Innocent Blood,” released in 1989:

 

Both are heavy. The Who sounds a bit more psychedelic. Also, it sounds to me like Pete Townshend sang the bridge.. but I could be wrong.

The Rez version.. heavier and crunchier guitars, more raw feel, raspier vocal style,  no vocalist change.. great cover!

Next post will feature The Who again, only this time playing a cover, and the post after that, Roger Daltrey in a solo recording, performing a cover of an Elton John song, and sounding better than Sir Elton, I think.

I plan on doing several posts each week. Keep checking back!

Thanks!

 

The Covers: I – “Presence of the Lord.”

March 29, 2020

This is the first in a series of posts that will feature some of my favorite covers. I’ve got at least a dozen picked out so far, if I remember correctly. I will be adding some intermittently in the near future, along with my usual random posts about music and.. whatever..

There are LOTS of recorded cover songs out there. I’ve chosen ones that sound a little different (or much different) from the originals, and sound as good, if not better.

I’m starting my covers series with this song because I am learning it on acoustic guitar – just the basic chords. This song is in my head. A lot.

I first heard “Presence of the Lord” without realizing it was a cover. I heard it performed by a powerful and unique Christian hard rock and blues band called Rez – formerly called Resurrection Band (I wish they’d stuck with their original name) – on their 1988 album “Silence Screams.” I was later told this was an Eric Clapton song.

Clapton wrote the song, and Steve Winwood sang it. They were both members of a super-group called Blind Faith. The song was originally released in 1969.

Here’s the original:

 

The Rez version is somewhat different, as you will hear. It is heavier, and the voice of the vocalist, Glenn Kaiser, one of my all-time favorite singers, is very intense.

Alright!

Pretty damn good cover, I think.

Next one in my covers series..

Another Rez cover, this time of a song by The Who.

Thanks for listening!

Synthwave: A Genre I Discovered by Accident.

February 14, 2020

How did I accidentally discover synthwave? Here’s the story..

Even though I stopped practicing Christianity back in the ’90’s, there are some Christian bands and music from the ’80’s and ’90’s that I still like, or, at least, still remember.

One of them is an extremely heavy industrial group called Under Midnight. I never got into this group much, or industrial music in general, except for a couple tracks by Nine Inch Nails and KMFDM, but still decided to look up this band. I wanted to listen to them for a bit because I was thinking of getting back into creating experimental music on my computer, and wanted some inspiration.

Here is a track by Under Midnight. If you want to damage your brain, give it a listen.  This is NOT synthwave.

 

Yeah.. well, I never really did get into that band a whole lot, but anyway..

When I went looking for this band on youtube, I found another called The Midnight. And I had a Eureka moment.

Why?

I really really liked the retro synth music in the second season of “Stranger Things.” I don’t remember who composed and recorded that music, but The Midnight captured a similar sound and mood. I looked up the band on wikipedia, and that was where I came across the term “synthwave.” Sort of an ’80’s new wave revival, but more ethereal than a lot of ’80’s synth pop. It’s really beautiful music, I think. Best for late night listening.

I’m going to include a few bands in this post. I shall start with two by The Midnight. There is a genius of a film editor, called Naani, who makes fan videos of this group’s songs, using clips from various films.

Here is my favorite, with images from “Bladerunner 2049.” I’ve having some trouble with youtube, so you might have to click on the link to see and hear the video. I don’t know what is going here..

Here’s another.. the film clips are not from a sci-fi film, which is too bad, but the song is great, and the video is good enough. Scenes from a comedy called “Career Opportunities,” which was released in 1991. Jennifer Connelly was one of the most attractive women on the planet back then..

This video was made by the same person who made the first one.

 

The singer of The Midnight, Tyler Lyle, has recorded some music as a solo artist. It is not synthwave, but good. This is my favorite of his, so far.. (Audio only).

 

Ok.. back to the synthwave music..

Before I go any further with more videos, I want to point out that synthwave bands tend to use almost the exact same beats as each other, and the same keyboard sounds in a lot of their music. Some synthwave music I have even found to be boring. But there are definitely some gems.. if this is what you are in the mood for.

Next is a band called Gunship..

(Audio only)..

Here’s one more from Gunship:

 

There’s one more band I want to include in this post. It doesn’t have the best name, but that is alright..

Timecop 1983.. This song sounds more ’80’s than any other synthwave  I’ve heard.

One more from Timecop 1983. This one is from a youtube channel I just discovered called NewRetroWave. I will put a link to the channel near the bottom of the post.

And here is the last tune for this post..

That ought to get you started on your journey into synthwave, a genre you might not have known existed.  I hope you enjoyed this introduction. If you want more..

https://www.youtube.com/user/NewRetroWave

I have many more music posts planned. Stop by again sometime…