To my great surprise, as I was looking through my posts I realised that it was nearly two months since I’ve last done an Under The Covers one – Under The Covers Old And New on 10 April – so it seems about time for another. So here we go again…
I’m giving you six cover versions today, and as is my habit I’m mixing the well known with the less well known and, in one case, the downright obscure. Some of the songs may be less familiar than others, too, which adds to the fun for me.
The first one is a song that was a huge hit for Katy Perry back in 2010, when it topped the charts in both the UK and the US, as well as in several other countries. I’m not a fan of her music, or of her as a person, but there was something that attracted me to her video for this song: probably the bit where she was naked on a cotton candy cloud, I guess. This cover, by one of my favourite singer-songwriters, is altogether more tasteful:
There is a huge difference in profile between the two versions. Katy Perry’s has over 588m views, while Sarah Darling’s, which was released last October, only has around 11,000. To me, the original is a typical pop song, with a boring electronic drum beat driving it, whereas Sarah has turned it into a laid back, Fleetwood Mac style song, which I think is much more in keeping with the title and lyrics. Somehow, I don’t think that it will overtake the Katy Perry version for views, but it deserves a wider audience. It was part of a series of covers that she released throughout last year, under the title Campfire Sessions, and the full collection is available on streaming services: I can recommend them, they are all lovely. This is also the name she gives to her live Facebook shows, when she plays for around 20-30 minutes most Sundays at 2pm CT, 8pm UK time. She has a loyal following here, hence the UK-friendly time slot: many live streams by American artists aren’t so kind to us in their timings!
For my next song I’m choosing a singer who is much more recognisable, but I’m not sure how many of you will be familiar with this one, or the original:
Gorgeous singer, gorgeous voice, and a great song. The song was written, as Linda says on the video, by Lowell George, of the band Little Feat, and the original was on their eponymous debut album in 1971. They re-recorded it at a slower pace for their second album, Sailin’ Shoes, released in 1972, and that is the version that Linda is singing here. The original is incredibly good, and Linda gave it her own stamp, as she did with all of her cover versions. There have been many covers of the song – my other favourite is the one by Steve Earle on his Side Tracks album, which I commend to you. It is his album covering some of his favourite songs, and maybe I’ll feature it here sometime.
Talking of Steve Earle (smooth link, huh?) this is one of his songs:
This song originally appeared on Steve Earle’s debut album, Guitar Town, which was released in 1986. I’ve been a fan of his ever since then, and have seen him play this live. This version is on Shawn Colvin’s 1994 album Cover Girl, with Mary Chapin Carpenter providing harmony vocals: two of my favourites for the price of one! Shawn and Steve became friends after this cover, and eventually joined forces for an album called Colvin And Earle in 2016. Their joint version of this song is on that album too!
My next song today is by one of the most famous rock bands of the past 30+ years, but was written by another of my long-time musical heroes:
This one was written by Richard Thompson, and originally released on the 1982 album Shoot Out The Lights, which was the final album made by RT with his wife Linda before their musical and matrimonial split. R.E.M recorded this in 1994 for a tribute album: Beat The Retreat – The Songs Of Richard Thompson. I rather like their cover, which is a pleasant listen, but if you don’t know it I suggest you seek out Richard and Linda Thompson’s original, which is very good!
I said at the beginning that one of today’s bands fell into the ‘downright obscure’ category. This is their turn. You will probably know the song – it was originally performed by a little band called The Beatles – but I doubt you’ll have heard of this band, or heard this version:
Moonshee were a fairly short lived band, who blended English and Indian folk music. Their name derives from both Indian and Persian languages and means a variety of things, including secretary, teacher, and language expert, which I think is quite fitting. They released just the one self-titled album, from which this track is taken, and the video is built around their album launch show at Cecil Sharp House, the home of the English Folk Dance And Song Society in Camden, London. I’ve been there, and it is a very warm, welcoming venue in which to listen to music. The band comprised two from Ireland (Amy McAllister on harp and Emma King on the Cajon), plus two from England (Jonathan Mayer on sitar, and Rachel Button on vocals), and then one each from Australia (Lisa Fitzgibbon on guitar) and India (Mitel Purohit, who provided the Indian percussion). The Beatles’ original version was on their Revolver album, from 1966. It was a natural one for Moonshee to cover, given that it features a sitar, but (heresy) I prefer the Moonshee version, which strips out the extraneous weirdness and odd noises of the Beatles and allows the tune to come to the fore. It is very rare to get me to say that I prefer a cover to a Beatles original, but in this case I do. I can find very little information about the band: their website no longer exists, although their Facebook page is still there. To me, this is a shame, as I think they had something to offer and for whatever reason it just didn’t happen for them. The Imagined Village had some success with a similar fusion, and I prefer Moonshee to them. Oh well, when was life ever fair!
I’ve taken to closing these posts with a song from my favourite covers band, Walk Off The Earth (yes, Jim, I got there in the end). Often these are quite lively affairs, raucous even, but I thought I’d go for something a little different this time:
No doubt you know that from the Tina Turner version, which was on her Foreign Affair album, released in 1989. The song was written by Holly Knight and Mike Chapman, and was first recorded by Bonnie Tyler a year before Tina did it. Both of those versions were what I call ‘power vocals,’ but though they were both great, neither really allowed the beauty of the song and its lyrics to shine through. Sarah and Gianni have done that, and when you know that they have been together for many years, their love really makes this a special cover version. They are singing the words to each other, and there is more real meaning to the song than in either of the two pop diva versions. I think this is lovely, and is a good way to bring this selection to a close.
Thank you for reading and listening. I hope you’ve enjoyed these, and will come back next time I do this. Hopefully it won’t be a two month gap till the next set! I’ll see you again then. Take care 😊