Archive for April, 2009

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But love is blind and you soon will find that you’re just a boy again.

April 14, 2009

Continuing on with Ronnie Lane month here at “Ain’t Superstitious, But These Things I’ve Seen…” I thought it would be appropriate this week to take a look at some covers other artists have done of Ronnie songs, since we already dipped into some of the covers he took on in his lifetime (which are gone now, ah see — sticking to that 10-day rule. Gotta keep up!)

It’s my personal opinion that any artist worth their salt should be able to do a Ronnie cover, but the funny thing is that even as simple as his songs are, it’s impossible to better the original versions of Ronnie’s songs. His songs were just perfect in his hands, and while everyone should and will try them (like Beatles songs), they never will better them (like Beatles songs).

Nevertheless, here are a few cool tries.

 

They're just pointing out who the man is. That's all.

They're just pointing out who the man is. That's all.

 

 

Golden Smog – Glad and Sorry
You can all debate whether this was a supergroup or just a cool get together of some high profile names (at the time and now), including Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Soul Asylum’s Dan Murphy and the Jayhawks’ Gary Louris and Marc Perlman, but they made some pretty cool music together, and this was pulled from their debut album together, 1995’s Down by the Old Mainstream. It’s one of only two covers on the album, and while it rolls along at a relaxed pace and with nice guitar work, it’s still not a patch on the Faces’ version from 1973’s Ooh La La where Ronnie harmonized with Ronnie Wood and Ian McLagan laid down one of the finest simple piano lines ever committed to acetate. 

Idha – Ooh La La
Andy Bell’s ex-wife is getting some decent mileage on this blog all of the sudden, but not without good reason — she has a pretty good voice and obviously some exquisite taste in tunes. This is culled from her 1994 EP A Woman in a Man’s World, in which she does a lot of acoustic-led covers of male-penned songs. This is a fun song for anyone to play and/or sing, but considering she doesn’t change the lyrics, it gives the song a funny feeling in that, well, a woman’s singing it. Because, as my late friend Brian once said, the whole reason this song is so great is “because it’s just about how women f*ck with you your whole life.”  

Ocean Colour Scene – The Poacher
Arguably Britain’s most prominent Mod band in the late 1990s, the Birmingham quartet laid down an acoustic version of this solo Ronnie classic for the BBC, which can be now found on The BBC Sessions. Lead guitarist Steve Cradock got his first proper vocal debut on OCS’ last album, On the Leyline with the track “These Days I’m Tired” and also issued a beautifully understated record, The Kundalini Target, earlier this year, but this is pretty cool because he takes lead vocals here for what might be the first time in an Ocean Colour Scene song (I’m hard pressed to think of an earlier example at the moment). The band were also known to tear up Ronnie’s Small Faces classic “Song of a Baker” at several gigs in the 1990s.

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Tell ya, something’s happening ’round here.

April 10, 2009

With the return of the Friday Five this month, we look into (or I guess, more appropriately outside of) one of my all time favorite bands, Oasis.

I’ve been obsessed with the band since I first saw the “Live Forever” video in 1994, and have followed, researched and loved the band ever since. 

Ultimately, it is Noel and Liam’s band, but arguably since 2000, the band’s been more of a band than it ever previously was with the addition of formidable songwriters in their own right, Gem Archer and Andy Bell, both of whom played in bands on Oasis’ former label, Creation Records.

However, the stories of musicians that have come and gone from Oasis is like an unending web that keeps falling in on itself. For instance, when Alan White was only 15, he tried out to be in Gem Archer’s band at the time. Though the audition went well, the older boys figured a 15-year-old would be too much trouble to have along on the road, so they told him no. Several years later, Alan was the one welcoming Gem into Oasis. 

Johnny Marr basically helped Oasis from their start — from supplying Noel guitars and a manager at the very beginning of the career to adding guitar tracks on Heathen Chemistry and helping Liam Gallagher find his legs as a songwriter. For several years of selfless help, how did the Gallaghers repay him? By taking the Healers’ drummer Zak Starkey away and employing him on two of their own albums. 

There are several inward folding examples which only grow more obtuse when you include all the dudes who’ve helped them out on tours. But we’ll save those stories for another time. Today, let’s look at the auspicious pre-Oasis work of members who enjoyed an extended stint with the band on record and stage.

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The Friday Five
The Oasis Family Tree, Vol. 1 

Deborah Bonham & the Houseband – Black Coffee (live)
Although I admit to being very impressed by Chris Sharrock’s stickswork with Oasis (was at the Chicago show in December and have to concede, he’s by far the most entertaining Oasis has had just in terms of watchability), I still say the decision to show Zak Starkey the door was a big mistake. Listen to some of the drumming on Don’t Believe the Truth and Dig Out Your Soul. It’s heavy, but it’s tight as hell too. It’s hard to pick one pre-Oasis Zak drummed song to serve as a good tie to his work with Oasis. Certainly any Johnny Marr + the Healers track would’ve been sufficient, and the live version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” that Noel performed with the Who in 2000 marked the first time Noel and Zak shared the same stage. But I think this pull from the Steve Marriott tribute gig is a bit more apropos, since even though they didn’t play together, Noel, Gem and Zak all shared the same stage that night. Zak backed the houseband, and I think his work behind Debbie Bonham on the rendition of “Black Coffee” is his best performance on drums that night. Can now be found on the recorded memento of the night, Mustn’t Grumble – The Steve Marriott Memorial Concert 2001.

Heavy Stereo – Smiler
By far the best move Oasis ever made was taking on Gem Archer to replace Bonehead in 1999. Gem brought an amazing set of skills to Oasis as well as a dead cool look. The one drag of his involvement is that he’s not singing nor writing the same caliber songs as he was when he fronted Heavy Stereo in the preceding years. Of course, his voice has a Liam-esque tinge to it anyway, so I suppose the difference is not completely vast, but even as good as songs like “Eyeball Tickler,” “The Quiet Ones” and “To Be Where There’s Life” are, I still don’t think he’s bested the best Heavy Stereo stuff. This was a standalone single from the band in 1995. Listen to the sheer glam rock glory in here and tell me an Oasis album wouldn’t have benefitted from this track. Funnily enough, Noel Gallagher once deadpanned that on second thought, he should have called their 2005 hit single “Lyla” “Smiler” instead. 

Hurricane #1 – Step Into My World
Following the demise of Ride, whose final album Tarantula was an Andy Bell-driven and still underrated affair, Bell formed Hurricane #1 and moved himself away from the microphone, relegating himself to guitar player/songwriter, a la Noel Gallagher. Perhaps a little too conscious of what he was doing, the band’s first single, “Step Into My World” overtly sounded like an Oasis album track or B-side of the era (which is no diss), and Alex Lowe sounded like one of the many Liam-copycats being spawned in Britain in the mid-1990s. The press wrote them off as a ridiculous carbon copy of Oasis, which Lowe took exception with and then brilliantly decided to start insulting his world-conquering labelmates in the press in a vain hope at some kind of separation. Didn’t have the intended effect, and Hurricane #1 limped on until 1999, when Bell left to join Gay Dad but was intercepted by Oasis to take over bass duties. Obvious influence aside, this is still a brilliant song, and it  ended up on the band’s self-titled debut
Interesting pull from a 1997 NME interview with Noel an Liam:
“I see Hurricane #1 went in at Number 35,” notes Noel, chomping his BLT and nodding at his press officer. This is not a congratulation, but an opening jab at labelmates who recently and foolishly lashed out at Liam in NME. “That’s 35 places too high in my book.”
“Hurricane #1?” queries Liam, sauntering over. “He copies my haircut and then slags me off! What’s that about? But I ain’t into this bickering between bands now. I’m a married man. I’ll just blank the c—!”
“No you won’t, you’ll batter the c—!”
“Who’ll I batter? Hurricane #1? Never heard of them. Isn’t that some indie band with the guy from Erasure in them?”

Idha – Still Alive
Nevermind that Swedish import Idha was married to Andy Bell and got a deal on Creation herself, her 1997 album Troublemaker was notable for another Oasis-related album. The album comprised several recording sessions since 1994 and three of the album’s tracks, including this one, featured Alan White banging the drums prior to taking over the sticks from Tony McCarroll in Oasis. These sessions were the first where Noel actually took note of Whitey’s drumming abilities, even though the younger brother of Paul Weller’s magnificent drummer Steve White had already been suggested to Gallagher by Weller himself. When Whitey joined in on sessions for  (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, Noel raved about the drumming on “Roll With It” being comparable to Keith Moon. This wonderfully moody track from Idha also features Bell on guitar and backing vocals. 

Ride – Crown of Creation
Caramba, another Andy Bell entry? Well this has to get a mention because it actually features Bell on lead vocals and marks the beginning of his journey down the retro path that would eventually plant him in Oasis. Although Ride’s first two albums were renowned as trailblazing records that set the stage for the shoegazing movement, the band tossed all that aside to mimic their idols on 1994’s Carnival of Light, a move which had many fans screaming bloody murder. The press slated it, essentially calling it a backwards-looking load of hogwash, but ironically would praise Oasis for the same moves just a year later. But there’s a big charm to this song, and it’s something Andy needs to find again, because nothing he’s written for Oasis has been this pure. Just let him sing one like this on a B-side at least, Noel? I mean, surely it’s better than another f*cking remix?

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Down and out to no fixed abode where no one can get you.

April 9, 2009

There are some things in life I accept that I will never understand. Card games. Women. The unpredictable life spans of fish. Why I know I will always hear “Like a Prayer,” “Piano Man” and “Sweet Caroline” at any karaoke bar I venture into or any show in which alcohol is being served and the performer is taking requests. How they keep Lenin preserved. 

Fine. Maybe I’m not meant to know. That’s life. Well, except in Lenin’s case.

But as someone who knows and appreciates a lot about music and great songwriting, critical and commercial ignorance of brilliance always befuddles me a little. Eventually I figure it out — lack of promotion, poor transitions between the live and studio settings, lack of promotion, perfectionism gone mad on the part of the artist, lack of promotion or lack of promotion are usually the main things that lead to such ignorance.

But when it happens to a guy who’s already got the world on a string, I just can’t suss it out. Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the release of Jeff Lynne’s first solo album. And that preceding mention might be the only mention it gets. 

WHY?!

jeff_lynne-armchair_theatre

Jeff Lynne
Armchair Theatre
Reprise, 1990

01. Every Little Thing
02. Don’t Let Go
03. Lift Me Up
04. Nobody Home
05. September Song
06. Now You’re Gone
07. Don’t Say Goodbye
08. What Would it Take
09. Stormy Weather
10. Blown Away
11. Save Me Now 

Nowadays, it’s in fashion to consider Electric Light Orchestra something of a “guilty pleasure,” which is another thing that confuses me, although I think I have somewhat of a handle on it (the drums in “Don’t Bring Me Down,” right?). 

But when Jeff Lynne unleashed his first solo album in 1990, it should have been sent out to a rapturously awaiting public. Nevermind the fact that it was the first album featuring him at the forefront since his unceremonious termination of Electric Light Orchestra a few years earlier (I think we can all admit most of the 1980s material was cack anyway — apart from “All Over the World,” the only good thing about “Xanadu” and a viciously overlooked song for highlighting sports teams’ championship runs). But certainly the guy had built up enough good will in the 1970s with a string of ELO hits that you can probably sing at least five of without even ever having owned an album. 

But while he hadn’t delivered anything of “Evil Woman” or “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” quality with his voice at the front throughout the 1980s, he’d at least helped other artists write songs just as good and better. Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” and Roy Orbison’s “You Got It” come immediately to mind, and the fact that he produced Petty’s Full Moon Fever, bits of Orbison’s Mystery Girl, George Harrison’s Cloud Nine, and bits of Randy Newman’s Land of Dreams and Brian Wilson’s self-titled solo debut showed that he could run with the best, and the best eagerly sought his council. Hell, even Del Shannon went to Lynne for an attempted career resurrection before killing himself in 1990.

And of course, we can’t discount Lynne’s involvement with Petty, Harrison, Orbison and Bob Dylan in the Traveling Wilburys, the supergroup to end all supergroups, and a rare thing indeed — a supergroup that actually put out an album in 1988 worthy of the complete sum of its parts.

So for Jeff Lynne to do a solo album, it seemed like the time was right. He was either co-writing, producing or playing on several major hits in the 1980s, people still loved the classic ELO stuff and he had some pretty big name buddies. Is it any wonder Warner Bros. took up the solo album deal?

Armchair Theatre is not a classic album. But it’s a very, very good album. It’s the best thing he’d done since ELO’s Discovery (and probably better than that, even), when the songs are on, they’re untouchable, George Harrison shows up all over the place, and Tom Petty gets a co-writing credit on “Blown Away.” It’s really more of a solo Wilbury album as opposed to a Jeff Lynne album. Hell, even former-ELO keyman Richard Tandy is back playing alongside Lynne.

What f*cking more could people want? What on earth went wrong?

For starters, that continuing problem of lacking promotion dogged the album from the start. Why Warners didn’t put a bit more muscle behind it remains a mystery, but then again, it can’t be blamed as the singular pigeonhole considering the guy had a lot of momentum going for him already. If I was an exec at the time, I certainly might have figured the Beatle and Petty connections alone could shift several units, not to mention interest from all the casual music fans who’d kept an eye on his post-ELO career trajectory.

Having said that, I would have also splurged a bit for more posters in music shops and subways, or at least, some decent music videos.

I suppose the idea of letting primitive computer art students take control of the first single’s video wasn’t all bad, but when it became apparent that this was no Peter Gabriel- or (to a lesser musical extent, but no lesser video extent) Gloria Estefan exercise, why in God’s name they decided to reprise the idea for the second single’s video is beyond me. It’s easy to say in 2009 that they’re frustrating to watch, but I can say even as a kid only eight years of age in 1990, I probably would’ve started channel surfing for “Inspector Gadget.” 

Better videos certainly could have snagged him younger fans, but the older ones still have no excuse for not picking up on the record. Both “Every Little Thing” and “Lift Me Up” are glorious songs that stand just as tall as anything Lynne ever wrote for ELO or with anyone else, and “Nobody Home” and “Blown Away” both have simple charms about them that enhance their catchiness and worm their way into the listener’s brain.

Lynne’s covers of “September Song” and “Stormy Weather,” which he dedicated to his late mother are also surprisingly well done considering he delivers them in a very 1990 Jeff Lynne manner as opposed to trying to sound overtly retro. What’s more, both tunes feature some excellent slide work by Harrison.

Only in the uncomfortable stab at eastern-ness of “Now You’re Gone” and the lamentable Earth Day-styled message of “Save Me Now” does the album take horribly detrimental turns, but even so, two stinkers out of 11 tracks isn’t a bad ratio album at all. Hell, if you get that kind of ratio on an album today you automatically go to the top of Spin or Pitchfork’s year end best of list, don’t you?

Maybe Warner was more excited from the imminent Traveling Wilburys follow-up (which also performed less impressively than its predecessor, but still a lot better than Armchair Theatre). Lynne’s solo adventure topped out on the US charts at number 83.

In 2005, rumors circulated of a possible 15th anniversary Legacy Edition-styled rerelease, but even then no record company figured there was enough interest in the long-since buried album to resurrect it. The good news is you can shell out for used copies at Amazon.

Of course the Traveling Wilburys’ rereleases the next year were a huge hit. And Jeff’s production of Tom Petty’s Highway Companion was also revered. 

But I don’t know, I’m still listening to “Every Little Thing” wondering what the hell everyone else missed.

I don’t get it.

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As it skims along with a happy sound.

April 7, 2009

A few months ago at the old site, there was a Friday Five (the series returns this week, folks!) where five songs were featured that were completely redefinied by their inclusion in major motion pictures.

Of course, several movies have rendered a second lease of life to songs of old previously long-since forgotten, and always on the lookout for new series possibilities, I thought, “Hey, why not take a look at other such motion picture-led rebirths?”

And so today we launch…

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CINEMASCOPE
Songs rediscovered and redefined through film.

Perry Como – Round and Round
Featured in “Blast From the Past,” 1999

“Blast From the Past” is one of the movies that you wouldn’t pay to see, but once it came out on video/DVD (wherever most of society was at the turn of the century), it was an alright rental for a family movie night. Now it pops up every once in awhile on basic cable, and if its star power (Brendan Fraser, Alicia Silverstone, Christopher Walken and Dave Foley, notably) wasn’t enough to make you cough up $7.50 10 years ago, it’s at least enough to keep you interested until a commercial break now.

If you haven’t seen it, the basic idea is this — there’s this family in California, the father (Walken) is an extremely intelligent guy, but is routinely lambasted by colleagues as a bit of a nut. He has a bit of fear of nuclear annihilation and builds an elaborate deep under the family’s home that can serve as a formidable housing unit for as long as it takes the after effects of nuclear explosion to wear off. One day a plane crashes into the house, and thinking nuclear war is underway, moves himself and his pregnant wife underground for about 30 years.

They raise a well-behaved, intelligent kid (Fraser), and after about 30 years, they get a bit antsy and want to go up and see what the world’s like now that the nuclear holocaust is over. Of course, a bomb never went off — society just charged right ahead without them, but when Dad pops up for a peek, he comes back down mortified at the changed world. The kid pleads to go up and be afforded the opportunity to find a love and life of his own, and of course, all sorts of outrageous hilarity ensues as a kid raised in a 1950s world tries to make it 1990s Los Angeles.

This is the scene where he encounters his muse — a typically cynical, uneasy-to-impress 1990s chick, played by Silverstone (start really paying attention at the 4:17 mark):

Growing up, I didn’t really know much about Perry Como. My great Uncle Gene would go on and on about him and say his name with ridiculous reverence (much like Fraser’s character in the above clip), but for whatever reason, Perry’s music didn’t make it’s way through the family generation lines like Frank Sinatra’s or Dean Martin’s. Personally, I think it’s just as well that it worked out like that. Not a huge loss, you know?

The charm of the clip above, of course, is the ridiculous pleasure Adam takes in Como’s music (I now find myself saying, “This is where it really takes off!” when listening to any song I particularly like with a friend), and enthusiastically referring to Como as “Perry!” (he also refers to him as “Mr. Como” at another point in the film).  It kind of reminds me of Uncle Gene, and makes me wonder whether it was something about the guy that commanded such reverence or if it’s just the way people referred to artists they admired in the late 1950s.

Of course, the real genius of the clip is that although director Hugh Wilson centered the particular scene around the song, more attention is paid to the developing interplay between Adam and Eve and the song serves as just a funny backing to a guy who’s beside himself to hear the song on the radio, and a girl who’s a little weirded out by her overenthusiastic passenger. It plants the seed of the song in the audience’s head, but it doesn’t really pour any water on it or encourage it to grow in any other way.

Which is good. Because while it’s a charming little song, it’s also borderline annoying-as-f*ck, and take caution that when you download and listen to the song, it will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. It just will. And at first it’s alright, because it’s an easy hook and is kind of fun to whistle or quietly sing to yourself. But when you find your brain hasn’t moved on four hour laters, you might regret buying Round and Round and Other Hits. Although you’ll certainly understand why the song made it to number one in 1957. It’s audible brainwashing. Maybe that’s why Uncle Gene always said “Perry…” like that, come to think of it.

A couple weeks ago, a friend came up and asked if I had a DVD copy of “Blast From the Past.” I said I didn’t, but I could easily sum up the movie with one song and threaten to mentally handicap all of us for the ensuing 24 hours.

Thanks, Hugh.

And thanks, Mr. Como.

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We can’t have one kind without the other.

April 3, 2009

First off, I must admit it is a little strange to be blogging again, and you’ll have to forgive the fact that posts this week have come every other day as opposed to every day. You’ll have to give me a bit of time to get back into the habit. You go off something for three whole months, and it takes a little more push to get back into it.

Plus, I’m a busy guy, alright?

Anyway, although it’s kind of difficult for me not to think of this as a new blog, it simply is a a nicer extension of the one that was already in place, and let’s not kid ourselves — the old one had some great features, and they’ll carry over to this one.

Since it’s the beginning of a new month, it’s only appropriate that we delve back into an ASBTTIS monthly series, “Vs.,” wherein we pit two artists’ rendering of the same song against each other for judgement on who ultimately proved superior.

For newcomers, previous matchups can be found here, but basically the ground rules are this:

  • The recordings must have been officially laid down for an album or single — no radio sessions or live shows where inclusion might be impromptu or simply to spark reaction can compete with official recordings.
  • The differing versions of songs must have been recorded within five years of each other. Leads to one version of the song having less to stand up against in terms of stature. Ask Madonna how people felt about her version of “American Pie.” My point exactly. Even though I’ve always hated that song…
  • The pairing must have a horribly photoshopped piece of artwork depicting battle between the two combatants rendered by yours truly. It just makes proceedings more fun.

Right, so now that you’re up to speed, let’s get on with this month’s matchup which pits one of one of southern soul’s greatest voices against the guy that penned and produced several of his hits. It’s Lee Dorsey and Allen Toussaint in a battle royale, folks…

Although odds are pretty strong that you know a Lee Dorsey song, Dorsey’s career in professional music was never really one of any consistency. He had a string of hits throughout the 1960s, but in between them, labels folded and he ended up taking odd jobs to keep the money coming in. Despite the fact that “Ya Ya” was a top 10 record in 1961, for example, the subsequent washout of Fury Records meant the budding pop star went back to fixing cars.

But the New Orleans native found his golden goose in another up and coming N’Awlins-ite who was making huge steps in the city in terms of songwriting and production. Having already seen his songs “Mother-in-Law” and “Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette)” taken to the upper reaches of Billboard by Ernie K-Doe and Benny Spellman respectively, it seemed kind of natural that Allen Toussaint might be made to share some of his magic with the mechanic.

Dorsey received a lot of Toussaint magic over the years. “Working in the Coal Mine,” “Get Out of My Life, Woman,” “Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky (From Now On),” and “Yes We Can Can” all were solid notches in Dorsey’s belt, and all were written by Toussaint.

But in the 1970s, some of the dynamic in Toussaint’s musical career began to change. While he was still one of the most coveted composers and producers around (Dr. John, La Belle and Paul McCartney & Wings were just a few of the artists to employ his services in the seventies), label heads started to wonder why the guy writing so many hits wasn’t making records himself.

Although Toussaint had been a lead artist on some instrumental records and singles throughout the 1960s, it wasn’t really until 1970’s From a Whisper to a Scream that he became a bona fide solo artist. Most of the record comprised his versions of songs that others had made famous, and while it was followed by some excellent records like Life, Love and Faith and Southern Nights, Toussaint never really found the fame as an artist that many of the people he wrote songs for did.

While Dorsey enjoyed success with the “Yes We Can” album and single in 1970, he reverted back into the shadows shortly thereafter as Toussaint stepped into the spotlight.

But Toussaint’s admitted discomfort with being in front of the band as opposed to behind it, combined with the unimpressive sales his albums wracked up (which still boggles my mind as they’re all amazing albums), kind of pushed him back into his New Orleans studio to instead work with other artists.

But in the late 1970s, former Atlantic Records #2 man-turned-Warner-honcho Jerry Wexler pulled Toussaint out of New Orleans and into Los Angeles to make the Motion album. At the same time Dorsey had been convinced to record what would ultimately prove his final LP, Night People.

Dorsey’s title track was written and produced by Toussaint, who actually delivered his own version of the song on Motion in 1978, the same year Dorsey’s album was released. Motion is criminally out of print now, but Toussaint’s version of “Night People” can be found on the The Allen Toussaint Collection.

Personally, I prefer Toussaint’s read. There’s a bit more sheen to it, sure, but there’s also a lot more tension for the L.A. studio pros to build on as it’s lead by that electric piano. Dorsey’s version is good, and certainly a lot funkier, but I don’t think it has the edge that Toussaint delivers. And when you listen to the song’s lyrics, well, the edge is what this song is about, man.

But that’s just me. What say you?

allenvsleeAllen Toussaint Vs. Lee Dorsey
“Night People”

Allen Toussaint – Night People

Lee Dorsey – Night People

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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.