The little money comin’ worked out well.

April 1, 2009

As always on April 1, we pay tribute to this blog’s patron saint and the perennial April Fool, Ronnie Lane.

In years past (at the old host, of course), we’ve delved deeply into Ronnie’s career and celebrated his songwriting at several turns, most recently in the latest spring mix which is racking up downloads like nobody’s business (thank you).

But one thing that we haven’t really done is look at how the guy’s gentle voice fit other artists’ songs. As prolific and great of a songwriter he was, he also brought his own charm to rustic old traditional folk songs, great R&B, rock and roll classics and even fellow band members’ compositions several times throughout his career. So as a way to kick off Ronnie Lane month this year, why not take a look at just a few of the covers he performed in his lifetime?

Clowns and Fool.

Clowns and Fool.

Small Faces – Shake
This is probably the most vexing cover Ronnie ever performed in his life for two main reasons. One, the Sam Cooke cover kicked off the Small Faces very first LP, their self-titled debut on Decca in 1966, in which they established themselves as a new Mod, R&B force on the British scene. Two, (and basically continuing on from one) it’s just the kind of song that the Small Faces’ principal singer, Steve Marriott should have wrapped his unbelievably soulful vocal cords around. Nevertheless, Ronnie proves he can belt too, and with all the verve and excitement any young British rocker of the time would. So it’s missing Marriott’s gutteral “Whoa-oh!”s, but it’s not entirely without its merits.

Ronnie Lane – You Never Can Tell
When Ronnie left the Faces in 1973 and began his solo career, it looked like he would forever shed the rock and roll roots that spawned him in favor of folky, sepia-flavored acoustic songs from there on out. While that wasn’t entirely the case, the folky stuff did dominate the majority of his solo output, and as fantastic as most of the songs were, his cover of Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” from 1975’s Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance hit the listener like a wonderful refresher of Ronnie’s previous musical outfits. Sure, the feel is more zydeco than R&B, but to hear Ronnie pumping away on an electric six-string and hear his voice wonderfully merging with the multi-talented Steve Simpson’s is a real treat and provides one of the best versions of this song ever. Also was a treat to watch when he performed it on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1975.

Ronnie Lane – All or Nothing (live)
Sure, Lane got the co-writing credit on this Small Faces classic (the band’s first number one record, mind you), but it was always a Marriott dominated song (thanks in large part to the impassioned vocal Marriott delivered on record and in live performances). Despite having a wealth of great Small Faces songs to dip into himself (including “Song of a Baker,” “Eddie’s Dreaming,” “Show Me the Way” and “All of Our Yesterdays”), Lane rarely reached back to Small Faces stuff during Slim Chance gigs. Nevertheless, the band’s biggest hit got a few airings in the late 1970s, and Ronnie proved that while he didn’t have the vocal depth of his former collaborator, he was no slouch in delivering a soulful vocal and could provide a bit of muscle when needed.

Ronnie would have been 63 today. Lift a glass for him.

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