Cover Zen: Super Conte Theme

Well, it’s yet more music on this blog but as it also includes a game angle I’ll use it as a segue…

Jack Conte is back with more Cover Zen madness – a version of the Super Mario Bros theme that I like a lot! He’s obviously a talented musician but I also have a lot of respect for his editing skills and sense of manic visual energy; this video jumps and blits about like the video game junkie the song speaks to.

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Cover Zen: Tyler Ward sings Katy Perry

Tyler Ward’s garnered a bit of a following by this stage (this video alone has over 2 million hits). I really like Katy Perry’s original version and I like Tyler’s take on this song too. As with all effective covers I think he wins a few more fans who wouldn’t normally give the original a second listen.

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I don’t know if this interview with Katy Perry about the meaning of the song (from her Official Youtube Channel) is real or not but if it’s a joke (maybe hubby Russell had something to do with it?) then it’s hilarious lol… If you thought the song was a metaphor for otherworldly love and being transported to another place and time by transcendent union then let Katy explain what it’s really about.

Cover Zen: Look at this cover now

I can’t resist a great cover. A few years back I sustained a(n almost) daily music blog for a brief time that consisted largely of well-realised cover songs. One of the most popular posts from that blog that still gets a regular chunk of hits can be found here: The 5 Best Covers of Britney Spears’ Toxic

@juilaroy tweeted this great cover the other day (my imperative post title overstates things a tad… the name of the song is “Look At Me Now” ok?) Amy, of acoustic-pop duo Karmin, has an engaging, sassy presence that oozes confidence and entices – not least because it really looks like she’s having fun with this performance. Here’s the original for comparison… Somma dese white chicks can RAP yo!

For more great covers click the “Cover Zen” tag below!

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Cover Zen: Dizzee does the Ting Tings

Dizzee’s Bonkers is off the chain so I was digging around in the interweb archives.

He does a great cover of the Ting Ting’s “That’s Not My Name” and his lyrical slant on the concept is mint xD.

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“Carrie-from-the-breakfast-show”‘s cover of Dizzee’s track Dance Wiv Me at the end is pretty doggone special too.

Cover Zen: Iron Maiden via Swedish Lounge Metal

Hellsongs are a “lounge metal” band from Sweden and their covers album “Hymns in the key of 666″ features a plethora of classic metal cuts of which this one, in particular, presently intrigues me. They may skirt the line somewhat when it comes to my “Rules for making great Cover Songs” (the musical link to the original songs can be tenuous at best) but someone in the band is clearly an old school metal fan and Hellsongs brings enough of their own charm to win me over xD.

The Iron Maiden original brings back memories of bad metal covers bands from a misspent youth and the entire album is full of ‘em! If this tickles your fancy be sure to check out the Black Sabbath, Megadeth and Slayer covers. There’s something quite wrong about the way lead singer Harriet Ohlsson sings “frozen eyes stare deep in your mind as you die” xD. Thanks fOo!

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Leave of Absence

Whoa! Sorry for the prolonged absence, friends. I came down with a severe case of Spore so I’ve been down for the count (and falling asleep at my desk during the day because of it ; ).

I’m back onboard now, though (not that anyone cares) and my NZ music post is back on the agenda xD. Here’s a great cover of “By This River” by Brian Eno (‘the father of ambient music’) from his album “Before and after Science”. (Brian is responsible for the procedural music in Will Wright’s “Spore”.) It’s nice to be reminded why a tune is beautiful after so long.

Oi! Brian Eno is responsible for the Windows 95 startup sound. Brian says: “The thing from the agency said, “We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah-blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional”, this whole list of adjectives, and then, at the bottom, it said: “and it must be 3¼ seconds long”. I thought this was so funny, and an amazing thought, to actually try to make a little piece of music. It’s like making a tiny little jewel. In fact, I made eighty-four pieces.”

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5 Great Covers of Old School Songs

These 5 cover songs – in their original versions – appeared between the 70s and 80s. I can’t say I was a great fan of all the songs in their original form at the time but they’re all classics and I certainly came to appreciate them eventually. Each of the artists in these cover versions brings their own flavour in some way and each cover fulfils my 3 Tenets of Cover Songs (which I’ve made up just now):

1 – Be Original: the Cover Artist must bring something fresh to the original song, whether it be supplanting the song into another genre or casting it in a different light through context, tempo, musical colour, etc.
2 – Have a Point: the Cover Artist has to have a reason to cover the song – and we need to see it, whether it’s simply a love for the original or an outright mock; the remake should make the artist’s intention clear and convince us that they really did have to make a whole new version of an old song.
3 – Respect the Original: “respect” doesn’t mean that the Cover Artist can’t make fun of a song – it just means that they have to know what worked musically and build off it or reference it in some way that makes it clear they’re not just slapping their own music on a more popular song to try and gain some fans. Usually, a Cover Artist is covering a song that’s well known and was once popular to some extent so they should have some degree of respect for the fact that the songwriter knew what they were doing.

I like ‘em all – I hope you like them too! (and thanks for the help fOo!)

Hungry Like The Wolf

by Incubus

As always, when live, Incubus prove that they’re a cut above many of their rock peers as far as musicianship and performance quality. They take a while to get into the song but it’s worth the wait – this cover is one of my favourites; the live instruments and rock sensibility gives the song a needed edge and Brandon’s voice is a great fit for this synthy pop classic.

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Heart Of Glass

by Lily Allen

Some people hate this version but I think Lily’s cover is great (sorry about the picture slideshow – it was the only video I could find with halfway decent audio). The music changes the feel from the original disco almost back to its original reggae roots – albeit an uptempo, hybrid pop version.

Oi! Blondie originally recorded the song in 1975 as a much slower blues / reggae version before Producer Mike Chapman suggested the disco angle for the 1979 release. After its release the band were lambasted by their peers for supposedly “selling out”.

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by A Perfect Circle

Maynard James Keenan (also of Tool) brings his anguished vocal to this Lennon classic – as well as the judgemental, cynical outlook that contributed to “Vicarious” and other Tool staples. In this cover, however, Maynard’s skewed cynicism doesn’t manifest in lyrical poetics – it is present in the dark chord choice and melody, a stylistic decision that adds a twisted air of disillusionment to Lennon’s anthem of hope.

Oi! When the Liverpool airport was named after Lennon, a phrase from the song, “above us only sky”, was painted on the ceiling of the terminal. When commenting on this, the panel of Have I Got News for You joked that the baggage handlers’ motto was taken from the same song: “Imagine no possessions”. – [Wikipedia]

The video ably supplements the gray mood with a barrage of images that throw a stark light on the optimism of the lyrics. Ultimately, I’m not sure whether Maynard is laughing at Lennon’s premise (the baby dolls, ice cream cones and the rugby ball look faintly ridiculous) or calling our attention to the need for it now, more than ever.

Warning: some reasonably graphic images of war from various news programs / documentaries contained herein.

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Send Me An Angel

by Deadstar Assembly

Gotta love the bizarre cartoon video for this pop-metal / goth cover of Real Life‘s 80s hit. Love that anime hair! xD The best video for this song has to be the clip from 80s BMX movie RAD, though. And is that a young Lori Loughlin (of Full House fame) performing figure skating type dance moves on a BMX? Why yes, it is.

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by Strawpeople

And finally, a cover by our very own Strawpeople – NZ’s pop electronica duo (plus vocalist Bic Runga) (the video’s not available on Youtube but it’s not that great a loss as it featured cheap CG ants DJing in a club, from memory… O_o). Strawpeople featured various guest vocalists from NZ’s talent pool – at one time Fiona McDonald (also of the Headless Chickens) sang for them.

This is probably a good time to mention my forthcoming post dedicated to NZ music – it’ll be a good chance to catch up on some great music from our little country for those of you who haven’t heard much of it!

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Honourable Mention

Mullet Inc. cover Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” and change up the verse lyrics to confess their love for the 80s… (You can watch the full mockumentary of Mullet Inc. here.)

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Ronny Jordan acidizes Miles Davis

I’ve been engaging in some Miles Davis reminiscence thanks to an excellent blog post from mental_floss “explaining” the genius of the godfather of modern jazz. Check it out for an insightful read and a great reminder of the power of Miles Davis via a collection of compelling clips from throughout his career.

Ronny Jordan’s cover of Miles Davis’ “So What” was my intro to the wonder of Davis. Yes, my jazz education was sorely lacking in my youth – in fact, I hated it… Acid Jazz changed my mind with its hip hop sensibilities and generally more pop oriented structures (instead of 45 chord changes a minute, acid jazz often comprised little more than a strong verse and chorus hook).

US3′s “Cantaloop” had a supermagnet hook but was a bit simplistic to hold the attention for very long – Ronny Jordan’s “urban” style embraced the importance of the pop song structure and the elusive hook, yet exemplified the complexity of jazz in Jordan’s free form guitar playing and sophisticated chord choice. 1992′s “The Antidote” had me hooked and introduced me eventually to a range of artists from the Brand New Heavies to Guru and Gang Starr and – certainly not least of all: Miles Davis.

So here’s Jordan’s cover of “So What” – a great take on the Miles Davis original. Jordan makes the guitar a fluid, dynamic instrument and whilst he may not capture the “cool” of Davis completely, he makes a fine tip of the hat to one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.

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Calexico Alone Again… or…

I was looking for a way to blog about Calexico – indie rock, mexican style (their new album’s due out in September) – when I came across this great little cover of 1967′s Alone Again Or, originally by psychedelic folk-rock proto-punk band Love (phew… thanks to Wikipedia for that description xD). The original made it onto Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time: “The essence of the song is the contrast between the positivity of the tune and the bleakness of the lyrics, with the chorus “And I will be alone again tonight, my dear.” – [Wikipedia].

Oi! Co-producer and Band Leader of Love – Arthur Lee – added the ‘mysterious’ “Or” to the title of the song which was originally called Alone Again (by writer Bryan MacLean). Lee and co-producer Bruce Botnick also remixed the track to bring Lee’s harmony vocal to the forefront… Was a certain someone trying to shoehorn in on someone else’s work…? ^_o

Calexico kicks off with a great little spanish acoustic guitar intro and rocks into the classic mexican-style riff. Gotta love those mariachi trumpets!

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