Covers Week: Dolly Parton/Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You

When it comes to the “theme” of this blog, this choice seems quite a controversial  choice seeing that it is the epitome of pop – both versions. But that is not why this is a controversial choice. This is because both of these songs are unbelievably good versions and picking a better version is actually very difficult. The Dolly Parton version is so good that only Whitney could pull off what she did.

Dolly’s song hit #1 on the Country chart twice in 1974 and in 1982! She wrote the song during the professional parting of ways between her and Porter Wagoner. There’s so much heart and emotion poured into the song. Coupled with her huge voice, this song is beautiful. I really do HATE country music but I make an exception for this version.

Whitney is just Whitney and delivers one of the greatest soul ballads of all time. This song stayed on top of the US Billboard Charts for 14 weeks. No matter what genre of music you are partial too, the talent that Whitney has and portrays through this song makes your spine tingle while making you truly believe in the power of music. I love how the songs starts all unassuming with an a cappella verse then builds to that enormous climax. I remember being bombarded by this tune in 1992 as it was played EVERY WEEK on Pick a Tune on Fridays at 20:00. I don’t think I particularly loved the song back then. It’s very different now when you listen to it critically. You really are left breathless after it – it really is that good. It was a great loss to the world of music when she passed away earlier this year.

CSNY, Folk

Covers Week: Joni Mitchell/Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Woodstock

The one song that epitomised Woodstock was just inspired by the festival and was not based on a first hand account. Back in those days, they didn’t even have cell phones so it wasn’t even possible for Graham Nash, then boyfriend of Joni Mitchell, to call her and scream “Yaaaaaaaaa! Woodstock!” and then send her a video of Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of “Star Spangled Banner” which would actually be a video of a guy videoing Jimi with his iPad. Yes, festivals were different in those days…

The story goes that Joni’s manager thought that appearing on the The Dick Cavett Show  on 19 August 1969 (a day after Woodstock) would be better for her career than to perform at the festival. Oddly enough, David Crosby and Stephen Stills came straight from the festival to the show for the recording. Her manager did have a bit of a point as Jimi Hendrix  was scheduled to appear on the show but couldn’t due to the delay of his set. Anyway, because of some major FOMO, she penned the song based on the images broadcast on TV and descriptions retold by Graham Nash presumably whilst they were lying in bed after he had five showers to get rid of the stench. Speaking of which, many of the audience members on the show came straight from Woodstock. Man, that set must have had a rather pungent odour!

Maybe its just my imagination or bias but in this acoustic rendition (which is how she first envisaged the song) you can hear that she really hated that she missed the concert. How beautiful is her voice? Seriously?

On 31 October 1970, the song hit #1 in the UK and stayed there for three weeks until Jimi Hendrix “Voodoo Child” kicked it off. But this time it was done by the band Matthews Southern Comfort. This was their only real big hit. It does sound like a stoner hippy song. The video is a pretty cool vignette of shots from Woodstock. Think of this as a bonus video for the day.

Anyway, Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young) took the song and made it into the modern classic that we all know and love. Starting with the heroic guitar riff of Stephen Stills into the melodic intertwining that they excelled at. Its a song that makes you feel you went to Woodstock. You feel the peace and love. It’s all so beautiful. I personally think its one of the greatest songs ever sung.

Female Vocal, Folk, Pop

Covers Week: Fleetwood Mac/The Corrs – Dreams

I really like Fleetwood Mac. They’re not the most palatable classic band with many equating them to pop groups that existed with them but there is just something extraordinary about them. Their album Rumours is hauntingly beautiful. The album was written and recorded during breakups (even within the group itself.) A few months ago, I was lucky enough to come across the album in a second hand vinyl store. The album was unopened. I don’t think you understand how excited I was at that moment in time. Their recorded version  of :”Dreams” is amazing. Heartfelt, honest and filled to the brim with their musical genius.

The Corrs are one of my favourite bands (to watch on TV!) I remember coming across them when the UK were going gaga over them. So much so that there was a point when the album Talk on Corners  charted at #1 while their older album, Forgiven not Forgotten was at #2.

This success started with this video, I mean this song. The band was invited by Fleetwood Mac to cover “Dreams” for a tribute album to the band. In 1998, the song and video came to prominence and charted at #6. The song is a total rework with the soothing violins, Andrea’s extraordinary voice and an understanding by The Corrs that they were taking ownership of the song.  The Todd Terry remix added that subtle electronic vibe which propelled the song into something just amazing. I remember being completely in love with this song from the first time I heard it. It never did heavy rotation on MTV but it was played a lot on VH1 especially during the Album Chart Show (seeing that Talk on Corners stayed on it FOREVER!) As much as I love Fleetwood Mac, I really believe The Corrs do a better version.

As much as The Corrs will be remembered as a pop band (after all, can you really call “Breathless” a great piece of music? If you say yes, I will judge you severely) but Talk on Corners was really a milestone album. If you feel like broadening your discerning music taste, take a listen to it with an open mind and see what you think. Even though their later albums are forgetable, I am really glad they released this album – the world is a better place because of it.

The imagery in the video is stunning and really worth watching. However, you are going to watch the video because they are SO hot! You shouldn’t lie to yourself that you’re watching it for any other reason.

Female Vocal, Folk, The Beatles

Covers Week: The Beatles/Sarah McLachlan – Blackbird

So a few weeks ago, I heard a song butchered. That’s actually a bad way to put it. I have been to a butcher and I know with what precision he cuts the meat so that you deem it palatable. Rather, its like you gave a three year old a cleaver and a block of meat. Disturbing.

The song in question was Mumford and Sons “The Boxer” which leaves out the iconic “dssssh” part and sounds bad, just bad. The inner hipster in me (which supposed to tell me to love it) still hates this song. I almost cried when I first heard it. It really was so bad. You probably think differently. You’re wrong.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been on a quest to find songs that are BETTER than the original. I did put in some clauses such as the song had to be recorded and included on a normal album (not a greatest hits) and live versions don’t really count.

That being said, I probably broke this rule already for this cover. As it is Monday, it is Beatles Day so I set myself the task of finding a song that was covered and sounds better than the Beatles. A few years ago, this would be quite easy seeing as though I never truly understood the beauty of the Beatles singing. Their songs lack the slick production of modern music but once you understand it, you cannot get anything better.

Enter the 2001 movie I am Sam starring Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer. Remember how hot she was in the 90s? The movie features a host of songs by The Beatles with the idea that the original recordings would be included. Getting rights to these are a bit of a pain so instead, he recruited some amazing singers to cover these songs. Seeing as the movie was developed using The Beatles songs, the timing and tempo of these songs had to follow the original. Which is a great thing. If you listen to the soundtrack, you can pick out how great some singers are. Even though they were constrained by how they could interpret the song, some of them excelled and still made the song their own.

McCartney does the song beautifully (obviously) n this deep, thoughtful way. The simple acoustic nature heightens the message and makes the song so stunning.

Sarah does the same except she does more. You feel the raw emotion that the song is alluding to. It feels so right. It feels like a down-tempo protest song meant to give people hope after they’ve suffered continuous defeat from their oppressors. Hope still remains. It’s SO hard to admit this but I do believe she may have done a better job with this song…