Wednesday, 29 May 2013

10 Original Versions of Popular Songs

19 Days later and i'm back. Apologies all around for the lengthy divide. I think i'll do a bigger list in the near future as a reward for your patience. Covers! I've spoken of them before on here, but there is another side to cover songs. Some small bands get one of their songs covered by a popular artist and their new version is astronomically more popular than the lowly original. Some bands are cool with it, others not so much. So here's a look at the other side and a salute to the little(r) guy. 10 Original Versions of Popular Songs.

1. "Torn" - Ednaswap

"Torn" was originally written by an American duo back in 1993, two founding members of the LA group Ednapswap to be exact. A Danish artist named Lis Sorensen did a version of the song in her native language called "Braendt", but it was in 1997 when aussie Natalie Imbruglia was handed this song to kick start her singing career that "Torn" became a worldwide hit. Ednaswap did record a version in 1995, but it went unnoticed.

2. "Indian Summer" - Beat Happening

Beat Happening were a group from Olympia, WA formed in the 80's. They gained slight notoreity when Kurt Cobain named their album Jamboree as one of his favourites. "Indian Summer" is arguably the group's best known song, perhaps because it was covered by Luna one of Dream Pop Records' better known acts and again by Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie fame for the soundtrack for the Cobain doc About A Son.

3. "Hard Sun" - Indio

Indio was Gordon Peterson a Canadian musician from Toronto who's debut album was the 1989 release Big Harvest. He had high hopes for the record as did his record company as they sent him down to LA and even brought in some big names like Joni Mitchell to appear on the album. It wasn't as successful as they hoped however and Peterson has become kind of a recluse since. Until 2008 when Eddie Vedder released a version of the song "Hard Sun" for the soundtrack to Into The Wild. Indio wasn't too pleased and filed a lawsuit against the singer.

4. "Valerie" - The Zutons

It's hard to understand why this group didn't reach higher heights especially with a name like The Zutons. Seriously though, I actually like their song "Valerie" which was later covered by Amy Winehouse and became a global hit.

5. "Heart It Races" - Architecture In Helsinki

Architecture In Helsinki are an Australian band formed in 2000 who have been enjoying moderate success in their native land for the past decade. In recent history one of their songs "Heart It Races" has been picking up steam in the North America traveling/indie/jam scene after Pennsylvania group Dr. Dog released a version of the song.

6. "When I'm Up I Can't Get Down" - Oysterband

Great Big Sea have a knack of releasing covers of popular songs with a dash of their own East coast Celtic twist added in ("Run Runaway" and "It's The End Of The World As We Know It"). They didn't have to stretch very far though when they released a version of Oysterband's "When I'm Up" as the lead off single to the1997 album Play. Most listeners i'm sure didn't even know it was a cover.

7. "Into Your Arms" - Love Positions

Originally written by Robyn St. Clare of the Hummingbirds she didn't released her first incarnation of the song until 1990 as a part of Love Positions. The song is short, sweet and shy. Clearly begging for more, but afraid to show it's true colours to the world. The Lemonheads took care of it in 1993 when their version of the song soared to #1 on Billboard's Modern Rock Chart and stayed there for 9 weeks.

8. "Am I Evil?" - Diamond Head

Coming out of the British Heavy Metal scene of the 70's it was bands like Diamond Head's influence over young musicians that helped kick start the Heavy Metal scene in America in the 80's. Members of Metallica in particular were very adamant about their love for the group and enjoyed covering their songs in early shows because no one knew the songs. As far as the crowd could tell they were originals. Covers would be a large part of Metallica's existence and they have even released a few albums with nothing but covers. Multiple songs by Diamond Head appear.

9. "The Ghost Of Tom Joad" - Bruce Springsteen

Though Bruce Springsteen is by no means an unknown, with a catalog of music as big as his, it's easy for modern bands to dip into it and pull out a lesser known track to put their spin on to. Rage Against The Machine weren't the only group to cover a track from the Boss. Manfred Mann's Earth Band had a massive hit with "Blinded By The Light" where Bruce's version barely saw the midday's sun.

10. "Hanging On The Telephone" - The Nerves

The Nerves were a 70's group from Los Angeles and were a part of a very tightly-knit and very underground power punk scene at the time. They garnered small attention from opening for The Ramones, but never became commercially mainstream. They did attract plenty of critical success and influenced many bands like The Knack, The Beat and Blondie. Blondie would take their song "Hanging On The Telephone" and make it a smash hit in the UK. Their version has even been covered several times by bands whom i'm sure hadn't heard the original.

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Friday, 10 May 2013

10 Career Killing Moments In Music

Everybody loves when the mighty come tumbling down. Even when the kind of mediocre fail we get that sense of self satisfaction. That inner desire to crane our necks at the car wreck. This list is all car wreck. Pretty straight forward. 10 Career Killing Moments in Music.

1. Fiona Apple

With such a sultry voice and immediate impact with the groovy first single "Criminal" Fiona Apple had what appeared to be a bundle of promise in 1997. She always had a knack of rubbing people the wrong way in the public eye though and her on stage meltdown in 1999 should have been expected. She released her second album the same year with a title that is typically shortened to When The Pawn..., mainly because the actual title is over 80 words long(!) to mixed reviews and it was in support of this album that the concert in question took place. She reportedly stormed off a stage in New York due to technical problems and both threatened and apologized to the audience and critics whom might have been in attendance when she came back to salvage the set. After that she slinked away from the spotlight and only released songs sporadically in the years following. Though she considered retiring from music, she's one of the only inclusions on this list who is making a successful comeback. Her 2012 album (which thankfully only has a 23 word long title) was praised by critics and fans alike.

2. Sinead O'Connor

This could be one of the most public and befuddling career suicides in music history. Religion and popular music have rarely got along, but for the most part they leave each other alone. Sinead O'Connor was having a great start to the 90's. Her song "Nothing Compares 2 U" was a number one hit in multiple countries and the album it was off of earned her several Grammy nominations and she even clinched one award (though she boycotted the show). In October of 1992 she was invited to be the musical act on Saturday Night Live, her first song of the night went off without a hitch, but during the second song there was shall we say, an incident. She covered Bob Marley's "War" in a solo a capella style. The song is an anti-racism protest song, but she changed some of the lyrics to bend it to a sexual abuse protest song and even tore up a picture of then Pope Jean Paul II and said "Fight the real enemy" into the camera. I remember watching at the time and even though I was a little too young to get the message I could tell by the deafening silence that she would have some explaining to do. Now I actually applaud her for standing up for something she believes in, but maybe her platform was ill chosen...I guess it reached an audience bigger than she felt she could gain elsewhere who knows. Unsurprisingly the next day and following weeks, the American media and public unleashed unholy hell on Sinead. Celebrities and media authorities alike openly criticized her actions. During a show at Madison Square Gardens 2 weeks later she was booed off stage, and SNL mogul Lorne Michaels vowed to never let that footage air in syndication. Though O'Connor continued to make music and release albums she all but faded from the public stage. In an interesting twist she has since become an ordained priest.

3. Milli Vanilli

Milli Vanilli were the brunt of many jokes in the late 80's. Many, many jokes. Perhaps they were deserving but who's to say? It's an often told light hearted tale, that not many know ends in tragedy. Milli Vanilli were Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan, at least they were the faces of the group. Rob and Fab were actually models and dancers recruited to be the marketable image of the real voices of several studio musicians. The man behind the group was Frank Farian who offered Rob and Fab a chance at stardom. Realizing this was a good as shot as they were gonna get they jumped at the offer, though not fully realizing what they were getting into. They lip synched. Plain and simple. Dance around in videos and on stage to someone else's voice. They got the fame, money, women...whatever they wanted. They even won a Grammy, 1990's Best New Artist Award. Some within the music scene were suspicious that these 2 kids had such meteoric success with little to no musical backgrounds. Their suspicions were confirmed when an incident that happened in 1989 where the backing tape skipped during a live performance became globally known (hey, information didn't travel as fast back then) and one of the actual singers of the group came forward. Rob and Fab were crucified. They gave back their Grammy award, they were dropped from their record label and were even hit with several lawsuits by parties that bought the album and attended their concerts. In a last ditch effort Rob and Fab actually released an album with them singing on it, but it was a colossal failure, selling a depressing 2,000 copies. Fabrice Morvan has since become a session musician and radio DJ and has also released a few solo albums to moderate success. Rob Pilatus didn't take the whole fallout quite as well and after spending time in prison for drug abuse, robbery and assault was found dead in a hotel room of an apparent drug overdose in 1998.

4. Billy Squier

Billy Squier was a rock musician in the 70's and 80's best known for his high energy, arena-rock style of songs. "The Stroke" and "Lonely Is The Night" were two of his biggest hits and the anticipation was amped up for the release of his next album Signs Of Life in 1984. The album was well received but it was released at a time where the music video was just as important as the release of the first single. It could make or break an Squier's case it broke his career. Though not overly offensive or disturbing in any manner his video for "Rock Me Tonite" was confusing. Rock stars at the time (hell, even now) are known to be sex symbols...pillars of cool and swelling with attitude. Maybe I should just let the video speak for itself. The blame for it's inception and execution was an ongoing debate between Squier, his manager and the director of the video for many years to follow, and though Billy continued making music, his career never reached the same level of popularity since "Rock Me Tonite" was first played on MTV in 1984.

5. Ashlee Simpson

Ok, I may stretching the "career" aspect of the list with this one, but it combines two subjects we already touched on. Saturday Night Live and Lip synching. It was 2004 and Ashlee was begging her manager daddy to make her a star like her sister Jessica, so she was booked as the musical guest on SNL. Her first song when off as normal, but during her second performance the song she sang the first time started playing over the speakers while her band was obviously not playing along. Everyone kind of looked at each other stupidly and then Ashlee did an awkward dance off the stage as the show faded to commercial. In the following days the excuses piled up...she had laryngitis, her band played the wrong song or she had acid reflux. It didn't matter, the incident gave her naysayers an opening and she was mercilessly mocked in the media and she was even booed loudly when she performed at the Orange Bowl in 2005. In an interview her father claimed he didn't understand why there was such backlash "It was just a little lip synching, it's not like she hurt anybody, it's not that big of a sin" Well Mr. Simpson it is in the eyes of a musician. For such a chance like performing on SNL, an opportunity that any struggling musician or artist would kill for to have, to see that shot be given to someone who clearly wasn't ready for it is a sin. Thankfully, she paid dearly for it.

6. Ashley MacIsaac

Another Ashley featured on the list and another on-stage meltdown! MacIsaac was a bright, shining star for Canadians in the 90's. A truly unique talent brought East Coast fiddle music to the contemporary music scene with his album Hi, How Are You Today? His follow-up to that, though not a pop success (it wasn't intended as one) was critically acclaimed for it's classical music roots. Then the cracks started to show. He had been apparently struggling with a cocaine addiction in the late 90's and at a Y2K New Years rave he shouted obscenities during his show for what some have reported as a duration of 20 minutes. The performance began a downward spiral leading to further tour-date cancellations, a split with his record company and filing for bankruptcy. In a bizarre moment MacIsaac once called in the request show on Much Music and requested his single "I'm Movin' On" from his new album Helter's Celtic in an attempt to boost sales. In my opinion it is one of the worst songs ever released....Last time I saw Ashley he performed during the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

7. Dixie Chicks

Winners of countless Grammy Awards, Country Music Awards, American Music Awards, Billboard Awards and earning the respect of critics and fans of all genres around the world, here we have The Dixie Chicks.
Who were once America's Sweethearts. That all changed one night in 2003 at a concert in London, lead singer Natalie Maines publicly decried the US' War on Terror and famously said "we're ashamed that [George W. Bush] is from Texas". Again, i'm all for standing up for what you believe in and actually applaud her courage to speak out against war. Sadly many Americans don't share my views on the matter, especially those who are from Texas and support military action to the death. The backlash was instant and devastating. Although her bandmates stood beside her, and she would apologize for the comment, the damage was done. Fans boycotted their music, fellow Country Music artists blasted them in the public and their next album which featured the timely named song "Not Ready To Make Nice" was largely ignored. The band has since been on a hiatus and most of the drama following the incident can be seen in the 2007 documentary Shut Up and Sing which is actually quite an enjoyable watch whether you're a fan or not.

8. As I Lay Dying

As I Lay Dying are a hardcore, metal band from San Diego, California who claim to be guided by Christian morals and therefore fall under the Christian rock moniker. That's why it was sort of a surprise when lead singer Tim Lambesis was arrested on May 7, 2013 for allegedly trying to hire an undercover police officer to kill his ex wife. Now I know the jury is still out on this one and perhaps it's too soon that their career is over...nah i'm calling it...though you might never of heard of the's likely you won't hear from them again.

9. Garth Brooks

Remember Garth Brooks? Perhaps the biggest name in Country Music in the 90's. Winner of dozens of awards, selling out venues all over the world and seemingly able to capture lightning in a bottle time and time again. That is until Chris Gaines came around. Oh right....THAT. Sometime in the late 90's Garth was to star in a movie about a dejected rock musician named Chris Gaines and he thought it would be a good idea to act out the moniker in interviews and performances before the movie was even in production. He even released an album as Chris Gaines which promptly bombed and was featured in a VH1 Behind The Music episode. Huh? Audiences were confused. The songs were mediocre at best and everyone kind of wondered if Brooks had gone off the deep end taking this Chris Gaines things too seriously.  The movie was never made, the songs were forgettable and in the end Garth decided to call it quits from music all together. Unless your name is David Bowie these alter-ego concept albums never work. Stick to what you know and what you're good at.

10. Axel Rose

Okay ending on a big one and though this isn't really one moment pin pointed on a map, this career died a long, slow, drawn out death...fading in and out of consciousness and eventually that last thread of life support trickled away.  Guns N' Roses ruled the rock world in the 80's and early 90's Appetite For Destruction and Use Your Illusion 1 & 2 were textbook albums that showcased their raw energy and genuine talent. The first cracks began to show during the Use Your Illusion world tour. Axl's tempermental behaviour on and off stage caused tension within the group.  During a show in St. Louis in 1991 he attacked a fan for filming the concert then stormed off stage. When the crowd realized the show was cut short they rioted. It almost happened again in Germany later that year which caused guitarist Izzy Stradlin to quit mid-tour. Another riot took place in Montreal when Guns N Roses played a show with Metallica. After Metallica front man James Hetfield was burned on stage by pyrotechnics, Axl cut the Guns N Roses set short after claiming his throat was sore (though he was frustrated by the poor sound monitoring). The tour ended in 1993 and it would be the last time the popular line up of Axl, Slash, Duff, Mat and Gilby or Izzy would be together. Sadly, it doesn't end there. The following year Axl would release the confusing album known as The Spaghetti Incident? which fans bought up as a new GnR record, however it was simply a collection of glam and punk covers which included a song written by Charles Manson. After taking a break through most of the late 90's Guns N Roses appeared again in 1999 with a song on the End Of Days soundtrack and Axl would announce his plans for a new album entitled Chinese Democracy. It would be ten long years before the album would be officially released. The recording/producing sessions would be described as a nightmare by many of the musicians who contributed and were at one point a part of the revolving door known as Guns N Roses. Some of those artists were Dave Navarro, Buckethead, Sebastian Bach, Josh Freese and many others. So much time had elapsed with Axl continuously promising the album "this year" that it became a joke. The Offspring announced that their next album would be called Chinese Democrazy (You Snooze You Lose) and Dr Pepper held a promotion in 2008 that they would provide a free drink to everyone in America if the album was released that year (it was, and Dr Pepper upheld it's offer...sort of). After all that when the album was finally released no one really cared. It just kind of arrived and went away....the thing wasn't terrible. It's a good album, not great, but good. It would just never live up to the hype and expectation...Axl should've just left it on the shelf. Making it an ideal....a legend. Which Axl himself has kind of become, but not in a good way. People don't want to work with him, fans have given up on the band. Who knows if Guns N Roses will pop up again in the future...but I feel whatever the circumstances are, the destruction has already been done.

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Monday, 6 May 2013

10 Great Songs With Vocals That Start at 0:00

Some songs can say quite a bit without the use of vocals and lyrics. Instruments themselves can be used to create a language and covey emotion, it's an ability many artists and groups excel at. On the other end of the arc some songs jam so many lyrics and vocals into themselves that there is no build up. No musical introduction to the tune, just immediate singing. Here's ten great ones

1. "The Memory Remain" - Metallica

1997's Reload saw Metallica revisit the formula they introduced with the previous year's Load. Slower, more grunge and blues-infused rock songs were on the tracklist instead of 7-8 minute long metal power anthems. "The Memory Remains" also saw the first time a guest artist appeared and was credited on a Metallica song. Marianne Faithful plays the song's subject as an aging starlet who's relevance is nearing the end.

2. "Shimmer" - Fuel

Tennessee rockers Fuel first gained widespread notoreity in 1998 with their album Sunburn. It spawned the catchy single "Shimmer". It peaked at #2 in the US and was later overshadowed by other and in my opinion less interesting singles like "Bad Day" and "Falls On Me". "Shimmer" has a great energy and  lyrics by Brett Scallions that hit too close to the mark to be fiction.

3. "These Arms Of Mine" - Otis Redding

I still maintain that Otis Redding was one of the greatest vocalists of all time. The range and passion in his voice is remarkable. He almost conjures a tear from the eye in this song before the music even kicks in.
Sometimes I still find it impossible to believe that he was 24 when he died.

4. "Hoofprints In The Sand" - Sage Francis

The more I hear from Rhode Island's Sage Francis the bigger a fan I become. His songs and wordplay leave me dazzled, I pick up something new each time I listen. I like that he seems to have something meaningful to say, at least you can tell he feels it's meaningful with the energy he spits. My current favourite lyric in this song is "There's been so much murder and not enough Martyr; Why is it no one else wants to impress Jodie Foster?"

5. "Elderly Lady Behind The Counter In A Small Town" - Pearl Jam

The pressure was on for Pearl Jam to release a huge album after their perfect debut Ten in 1991. Whether they felt the pressure or not (or gave 3 shits) 1993's Vs. was an instant classic. I feel it was a more accessible album than Ten, less guitar solos and a more relaxed and raw vibe in general. "Daughter", "Dissident" and "Elderly Lady" became immediate fan favourites and are likely responsible for creating the majority of Pearl Jam fans that year.

6. "Jane" - The Loved Ones

Punk is widely known to feature songs that begin with vocals and continue the lyrical onslaught until song's end. The Loved Ones' "Jane" fits the criteria perfectly. Don't confuse these yanks with the Australian band named The Loved Ones either...they existed nearly 40 years apart.

7. "Cassie" - Flyleaf

Flyleaf are a Christian hard rock group from Texas. The origins of this song stem from a story that came out of the Columbine massacre in 1999. It was widely reported that during the shootings one student (Cassie Bernall) was asked at gunpoint if she believed in God, upon her confirming that she did she was shot dead. While the story has been adopted by Christians as a form of solidarity through a confirmation of faith, it's validity has been doubted. Though several survivors claim the story is true the identity of the victim has changed several times.

8. "That Sound" - Michael Moog

Perhaps one of dance music's biggest one hit wonders, Michael Moog (Phillip Damien) is known really for just this song...that's it. No full length albums or EPs. Ok, he has done a few other songs and guested on a track here or there, but not much. I guess since this song was a hit he felt he didn't need to release much else and focus on producing. By the way...can I tell you how much I hate trying to find dance/techno songs online? There are so many goddamn remixes and demixes and friggin mashup-mixes that I can't find the version of the song i'm used to. So don't think i'm a dick who doesn't know what he's talking about if the version I post here doesn't start with vocals. It's not my fault

9. "Sink Florida, Sink" - Against Me!

I've written so much about how I love Against Me! and their music that there is almost nothing left to say about them. The album this song is off As The Eternal Cowboy is absolutely phenomenal and is on my desert island list. "Sink Florida, Sink" is a simple, short, sing along acoustic song. Enjoy!

10. "One Week" - Barenaked Ladies

I chose to end on this one because it's one of the most popular songs that starts with lyrics and crams as many words as it can in it's little 2 minute time frame. It's also the song that sky rocketed BNL to the world stage. Sure us Canadians were enjoying our little home grown gem through albums like Gordon, Maybe You Should Drive and Born On A Pirate Ship, but in 1998 Stunt was released and exploded in the United States largely thanks to "One Week". It hit #1 in the US and spent a week there making it the first song written by a Canadian to hit #1 in the US since "American Woman" by The Guess Who.

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