Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" / Eddie Vedder (Beatles Cover) / I Am Sam

Back in 2001, there was a forgettable little film called I Am Sam in which Sean Penn went full retard. Though I never saw the movie or had any interest in it, the soundtrack was entirely Beatles covers; apparently the songs of The Beatles played a large part in the plot. Covering the Beatles is, of course, not a new concept, as they might be the most widely covered band in history, but to their credit they eschewed some of the more obvious choices for some of the deep cuts, and in this blogger's opinion, matched up the songs and artists well.

Some of the notable songs:
Ben Folds' "Golden Slumbers" (my favorite on the album)
Nick Cave's "Let it Be"
Granddaddy's "Revolution"
Paul Westerberg's "Nowhere Man"
Rufus Wainwright's "Across the Universe"

And, of course, we have Eddie Vedder doing one of my favorite Beatles tracks, "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away". The original was a Lennon track and appeared on the "Help" album in 1965. That time period was smack in the middle of the Beatles' transition from pop stars to "serious" artists, and you can tell from this tune that they were definitely headed in a different direction.

Unlike other Beatles songs, it's in a minor key, a slow, Dylan-esque comedown from the formulaic pop gems that they had produced up until that time. It must have thrown their fans for a loop at the time (whenever I hear it I think of a northern England sea shanty), and was definitely a portent for the experimental phase the band was about to experience.

Eddie Vedder plays this cover pretty straight, not changing much at all from the original. He has one of the most outstanding voices in rock music, a deep baritone with great range, so it was a natural song for him to cover. Without being blasphemous, I think his voice suits this song better than Lennon's does, actually.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Holidays

To all my reader(s)

Taking a Christmas break. Check back next week.

My Christmas present to you: NYC's PS 22 chorus singing the Cure's "Pictures of You". Awesome.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Strobelite Honey" / Black Sheep / A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Ahhh....what could have been.

The Black Sheep are one of the great misses in all of music. Back in 1992, they were a cinch lock to be rap music's next big thing, mostly on the strength of their badass debut single "The Choice is Yours" (which still has one of the greatest samples in rap music ever - the "Uh - come on" that makes up the beat throughout the song)

So, yeah, Drez and Mista Lawnge arrived on the scene with splash in 1992. They came in at what was ,at the time, hip hip's golden era. Black Sheep looked to inherit the same sphere that was occupied by De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde and The Jungle Brothers. And just check 'em out - do the round glasses, high top fade, acid washed jeans and buttoned-up shirt scream early 90's or what?

However, you know what seminal rap album was also released in 1992? Yeah, that's right:

The megastardom of former NWA member Dr. Dre and the subsequent dominance of gangsta rap put the death blow on groups such as the Black Sheep, either effectively killing them off or forcing them underground. It was a complete annihilation, much in the same way that Kurt Cobain and Nirvana decimated 80's metal (though one could argue that 80's metal had it coming, whereas conscious rap didn't. But I digress).

America's choice to allow gansta to dominate rap music can't be overstated, in this fan's opinion. Not only was rap music as a genre affected, but one could also argue that it changed African American culture for years to come. The irony of it all is that on this album, Black Sheep satirized gansta rap, which most causal fans were unaware of at the time, with a track "U Mean I'm Not", in which Dres beats his sister for using his toothbrush and shoots his Mom for breaking his egg yolk at breakfast.

Well, anyway, back to the song selection, "Strobelite Honey" is just a joke song, a narrative about a dude who goes into a club, spots what he thinks is a hot chick, goes to speak to her, and is obviously taken aback by her up close, fooled by the strobe light. Thinking quickly to get out of the situation, he tries an old trick, ("I thought you were someone else"), a flat out lie ("My phone number? 765-4321") and finally, just turns and runs, giving us the "I gotta go" chorus.

Though this song is no great shakes topically, you can see what made these guys popular for a hot minute: good production and sample choices (how about that funk guitar in the chorus?), clever turns of phrase, and nice flow (check out the verse that starts at 1:31). It's a shame that they never fulfilled their commercial potential, but Black Sheep are still fondly remembered by rap fans of my generation.