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That’s when you realize you’ve been shot down.

October 19, 2009

People don’t talk about Michael Penn enough. Myself included.

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I don’t know what it is about him as an artist — I know there are a lot of people out there that really like him (myself included), but it always takes a song of his to pop up on shuffle for me to go, “God, that’s a good song. That’s a good album too. I should listen to that again.” As a fan, I feel a bit guilty about that… and the fact that of all the seasonal mixes I’ve done to date, only one song of his had made it — “No Myth.” I know, I know… but there are more seasons to come, aren’t there.

Anyway, over the weekend I had my iPod on shuffle as I did a bit of work around the apartment and “Cupid’s Got a Brand New Gun” from Penn’s debut album March cropped up. I started singing along and thought more about it — it’s actually my favorite song on that record, and just might be my favorite song in Penn’s oeuvre. Unless I’ve heard “Walter Reed” or “Bunker Hill” that day.

But what “Cupid’s Got a Brand New Gun” has is somewhat of an anomaly for any artist — two really great recorded versions of the song separated by almost 20 years.

When compiling the tracks for his 2007 career retrospective, Palms & Runes, Tarot & Tea: A Michael Penn Collection, Penn made the choice of not only digging up demos and alternate versions of his tracks, he also took to the studio to record some updated versions of his tracks.

A lot of artists will do alternate versions or revisit songs written and recorded before — the Beatles with “One After 909,” Oasis with “Fade Away,” countless songs Sinatra would rerecord from Columbia to Capitol to Reprise — but usually you can find one version that’s clearly superior to the other.

With “Cupid’s Got a Brand New Gun,” I just can’t decide. They’re both brilliant.

Michael Penn – Cupid’s Got a Brand New Gun [March]

Michael Penn – Cupid’s Got a Brand New Gun [Palms & Runes, Tarot & Tea: A Michael Penn Collection]

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