The delightful Mrs. Freak hasn’t been home much this week. She’s been rehearsing for a reunion performance by her high school choir. So this week seems like a good time to celebrate a capella music.
The Bobs “Unchain My Heart” (Ray Charles)
This is such a rockin’ song and a joyous vocal rendition. I just love the bass line that Richard Bob lays down.
Petra Haden “Mary Ann With The Shaky Hand” (The Who)
Over the course of three years Petra Haden recreated the entire album The Who Sell Out using only her voice. That’s amazingly ambitious and the results are pretty fantastic as well.
Anonymous A Capella Group “Gangsta’s Paradise” (Coolio)
When I got this song it was tagged as being by Rockapella. As it turns out it’s not by Rockapella. In fact if you go to Rockapella’s web site there’s a frequently asked questions section where they specifically mention that they have never recorded Gansta’s Paradise. If anybody knows who is singing this please let me know.
The Persuasions “My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama” (Frank Zappa)
This is from a wonderful album called Frankly A Capella wherein the Persuasions cover Frank Zappa’s music. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite song from that album, but I really love a song about a guitar being performed with no guitars.
Xtension Chords “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” (The Police)
I’m not a big fan of the Police or of this song in particular. But I really dig this lush vocal arrangement.
The political conventions are done and so we can look forward to the Presidential campaigns kicking into high gear for the next couple of months. The two parties will spend endless time and money attacking the other side, distorting the smallest and most insignificant gaffes to manufacture outrage. They’ll distort their opponent’s record. They’ll spout bromides while offering no specifics about what they plan to do if elected. The press won’t ask any hard questions to help clarify positions or help the voters make an informed decision. Here’s some music to help keep things in perspective.
Bobby Messano “Politician” (Cream)
There has been a lot said in this election about “Chicago style politics.” And having grown up in Chicago I know a thing or two about political greed and corruption. I also know enough to know that greed and corruption are not the exclusive domain of one political party or the other. Cream’s song makes that point quite well.
Nouvelle Vague “God Save The Queen” (Sex Pistols)
When this song came out it seemed like the inarticulate howling of a bunch of snotty punks, which when I think about it isn’t a bad description. But it’s also something more subtle. It’s not a rant against the Queen, it’s and indictment of the politicians who sell (and the voters who buy) a semi-mythical vision of colonial power and easy wealth in Britain while the youth sees “no future.”
The Genbaku Onanies “Elected” (Alice Cooper)
I had problems finding a decent cover of this song, so I had to settle for this revved-up version. I’ve always liked the line about being a Yankee Doodle Dandy in a gold Rolls Royce.
Richie Havens “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (The Who)
This song is pretty disillusioned with the whole concept of politics in general. Sadly it is too often the case that the new boss is the same as the old boss. But a determination to not get fooled again is vital when it comes time to cast your vote.
The Easy Star All-Stars “Electioneering” (Radiohead)
There’s nothing subtle about this one. I will stop at nothing, it’s just business, I trust I can rely on your vote.
I spent much of last week laid low by stomach flu. I thought I might not be able to post at all this week but I recovered with enough time to pull together this theme-free collection of random songs.
Ian Fisher “I Will Always Love You” (Dolly Parton)
The original version was a country song but the best-known version is probably Whitney Houston’s overwrought cover. I like the way Ian Fisher mines the deep vein of sadness in the song. This is from a wonderful compilation album called “Death To The 90s” that you can buy here.
Dick Haymes “Me And Bobby McGee” (Kris Kristofferson)
My friend John spends long hours rooting through stacks of vinyl in thrift stores. I admire his patience, especially when he turns up something like this astonishing live performance.
Town Hall “Always On Time” (Ja Rule)
I’ve had this song hanging round my hard drive for awhile now, trying to find a way to fit it into one theme or another, but now I can present it without having to worry about its context. I really like the way this version nails the Cover Freak aesthetic of doing something interesting and creative with another artist’s song. You can check out Town Hall here or here.
Hearts And Flowers “Reason To Believe” (Tim Hardin)
This is one of my favorite songs, particularly Tim Hardin’s incredibly sad and vulnerable original version. But I do find this sunny hippie-dippie take on it amusing. Proof once again that you really can’t mess up a great song.
Wakey Wakey “Walking On Sunshine” (Katrina And The Waves)
The original MTV staple was all cheerful enthusiasm but Wakey Wakey lets a little bit of doubt creep in. After all, the singer is waiting for a letter saying that the object of her affection is coming around. This comes from a free downloadable album that Wakey Wakey put out for Record Store Day 2012.
During a recent family dinner at Casa De Freak the conversation turned to foods that aren’t what they seem to be. The most obvious example is margarine which isn’t really butter, but then we started talking about other marvels of modern food science. Which of course made me think about music that deals with the same topic.
Artists In Resonance “Would I Lie To You?” (Eurythmics)
The purveyors of faux food don’t lie about what it is, but only because the government forces them to be relatively truthful. After all they wouldn’t call it “lemonade flavored drink” if they could get away with calling it lemonade, would they?
Pine Valley Cosmonauts “What Is Truth?” (Johnny Cash)
The contortions that companies go through when they describe their food products can be absurd. I remember a comedy routine from years ago about “cheese food,” where the comedian pointed out that it’s not cheese, it’s what they feed to cheese before they feed the cheese to you. Such distinctions can indeed make one wonder about the nature of truth.
Mathias “Substitute” (The Who)
Often times the foods I’m talking about are substitutes for other foods. And there’s often good reasons for that. Margarine has less cholesterol and saturated fat than butter. Artificial vanilla flavoring is less expensive than vanilla extract. Sometimes the substitution works and sometimes it doesn’t. Margarine on toast can be adequate, but margarine just doesn’t work as well for baking as butter.
Noel The Coward “Artificial Flowers” (Bobby Darin)
The problem with stuff like chocolately-flavored syrup is that the manufacturers create those flavors using various substances that nobody but chemists recognize. Artificial flavors may or may not be better for you than the real thing.
Bop Skizzum “Brass In Pocket” (The Pretenders)
In the end we’re talking about foods that pretend to be other foods. And just like a movie or a book, the key to pretending is the suspension of disbelief. All these pretend foods taste better (or at least more believable) if you just don’t think too much about what they really are.
This weekend they’ve been having the annual Air And Water Show along the lakefront here in Chicago. It’s not really my cup of tea but it’s quite popular. Between my friends posting pictures from it on Facebook and my iPod coughing up songs about people on boats it seems I have little choice but to pay tribute to the spectacle.
While the name of the event is the Air And Water Show, there’s not a lot of water involved these days. It’s mostly airplanes flying around, many of them military jets. So I’m going to do my best to put the Water back into the show with this post.
Dan Zanes “Drunken Sailor” (Traditional)
Dan Zanes is a pretty popular children’s musician. He’s all over the Disney Channel. Amazingly enough his music stands up well on its own and is way better than most children’s music. Hell, he does a duet with Lou Reed on one of Freakette’s CDs. The only other kids music that doesn’t make me cringe is the stuff that They Might Be Giants does.
The Winechuggers “Six Months In A Leaky Boat” (Split Enz)
This is the song that started me thinking about this week’s theme. I still find it weird that it was banned in England because the BBC thought it was written to protest the Falklands War. There really isn’t a lot of metaphor here, it’s clearly about sailing to New Zealand. I guess you could get confused if you don’t know what Aotearoa is. Or if you think that “shipwreck love” is some sort of slam on the Royal Navy.
The Virginia Gentlemen “Ship Of Fools” (Robert Plant)
I suppose there are many reasons that there aren’t many ships at the Air And Water Show these days. I’m sure the airplanes are big crowd pleasers and are more visible to more people. With ships you’d have to look over the people in front of you to see if you’re on the lakefront, with airplanes you just look up. And people have always been interested in watching things fly. But I bet a real live ship of fools would go over big. And we seem to have no shortage of fools these days to put on such a ship.
Michael Manning “Somebody To Love” (Jefferson Airplane)
There are civilian planes flying around the show but it’s largely military jets. And some of those pilots can be obnoxious. I was at a Cubs game a few years ago during the Air And Water Show. I was sitting in the back of the upper deck and some jerk in a jet decided to buzz Wrigley Field. It scared the hell out of me because he came from behind me and I couldn’t see or hear him until he was pretty much literally on top of me. Others in the crowd cheered the plane. I did not.
Parthenon Huxley “Mister Blue Sky” (Electric Light Orchestra)
The weather this weekend has been absolutely perfect for the event. Cool temperatures and cloudless blue skies. This is the best version of this song I’ve ever heard, way better than the original.