Mini-Rumination: More Cover Songs

Back in February, The Curmudgeon sang the praises of a well-done cover song:  a song generally associated with one person, frequently its writer, that is performed – performed well – by others.  Some songs are uncoverable – the Beatles “Strawberry Fields Forever” comes to mind, or pretty much anything by Pink Floyd.  Some can work well almost no matter who sings them:  a good example is the Bachrach/David tune “The Look of Love.”

The Curmudgeon started out to make a mixed CD or two of his favorite cover songs.  Those intentions, it turns out, were too modest:  when the smoke cleared he had seven hour-long CDs of some of his favorite cover songs.  Previously, he shared the contents of his “Cover Me, Volume 1” collection.  Here are volumes two and three.

Cover Me, Volume 2

1.                  Crazy – Willie Nelson

2.                  Crazy – Patsy Cline

3.                  Crazy – Norah Jones

4.                  In My Life – The Beatles

5.                  In My Life – Judy Collins

6.                  In My Life – Richie Havens

7.                  In My Life – Bette Midler

8.                  In My Life – Crosby, Stills & Nash

9.                  In My Life – Johnny Cash

10.                  In My Life – Rod Stewart

11.                  Alison – Elvis Costello

12.                  Alison – Linda Ronstadt

13.                  Send in the Clowns – Judy Collins

14.                  Send in the Clowns – Bing Crosby

15.                  Send in the Clowns  – Frank Sinatra

16.                  Send in the Clowns – Barbra Streisand

Most people associate “Crazy” with Patsy Cline, but Willie Nelson wrote the song back when no one outside of the country music world had any idea who he is.  Cline does it better.  “In My Life” has always been a great song, but because the Beatles had so many great songs, it often gets overlooked.  Here, The Curmudgeon tries to put it in the spotlight.  If you’ve never heard Crosby, Stills & Nash sing it, it deserves three minutes of your time.  The Curmudgeon has always liked “Send in the Clowns” but also suspects that the definitive version still hasn’t been recorded; someone needs to sing this song without the melodrama and just let the lyrics speak for themselves.  When you stop laughing, try the Bing Crosby version.  For those of us of a certain age who only know Crosby from his Minute Maid orange juice commercials, he’s a real revelation – and there’s noooooooo doubt about it.

Cover Me, Volume 3

1.                  The Look of Love – Dusty Springfield

2.                  The Look of Love  – Nina Simone

3.                  The Look of Love  – Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66

4.                  The Look of Love – Diana Krall

5.                  Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen

6.                  Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley

7.                  Hallelujah  – Willie Nelson

8.                  Hallelujah – K.D. Lang

9.                  Hallelujah  – Neil Diamond

10.                  Hallelujah – Rufus Wainwright

11.                  We’re All Alone – Boz  Scaggs

12.                  We’re All Alone – Rita Coolidge

13.                  We’re All Alone – Frankie Valli

The Curmudgeon thought the first time he heard “Hallelujah” was on an episode of The West Wing.  He was totally taken with the song – at first he thought it was sung by the late Freddie Mercury – but when he did some research, he learned that the singer was Jeff Buckley but the song was written by Leonard Cohen.  Further, The Curmudgeon had owned a Leonard Cohen recording of “Hallelujah” for many years.  Any resemblance between the two versions is purely coincidental.  Leonard Cohen is a pretty good songwriter but a pretty awful singer – one of the worst The Curmudgeon has ever heard – and he does no justice to this spectacular tune.  Buckley’s version is the best, but Rufus Wainwright does a pretty good job on it, too; his version was in the movie Shrek.

Another example of a writer who doesn’t do his own song justice is Boz Scaggs, who doesn’t put very much into “We’re All Alone.”  Rita Coolidge does a very good version, although it may come across as a little plastic and overproduced, but it’s Frankie Valli, of all people, who really hits the ball out of the park on the Scaggs song.  It was hard to find the Frankie Valli version and The Curmudgeon hadn’t heard it for years, but it was well worth both the effort and the wait.

Enjoy – and feel free to offer your own favorite cover songs.

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  • charleneoldham  On May 22, 2012 at 6:48 am

    What do you think of Willie Nelson’s new cover of the Pearl Jam song ” Just Breathe?”

  • foureyedcurmudgeon  On May 22, 2012 at 7:40 am

    I haven’t heard it yet; I just read about Willie’s cover album this weekend and will have to put it on my list of music to check out. By the way, I enjoyed your site and particularly your piece about being a neo-Luddite. To show how times have changes, years ago you were considered a Luddite because you didn’t own a Palm. Now, I’m considered a Luddite – because I still do.

    Thanks for reading and saying hello.

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