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Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010

“I Shall Be Released” is an iconic, universal anthem. It’s been covered by everyone under the sun, from Nina Simone to the Deftones. Below I’ve included several variations on the tune, starting of course with Bob Dylan’s original 1967 version from The Basement Tapes. Dylan’s original (where he is joined by the Band) is followed by the Band’s own rendition from their 1968 classic Music From Big Pink. It’s set to a socially motivated Vietnam YouTube video. The British Beatlesesque outfit, the Tremeloes, recorded their own version of the tune, which reached number 29 on the UK charts. 


Nina Simone’s take on the song is from her 1969 album To Love Somebody. I also had to include a 1969 version from the Mama Cass television program featuring the Mama herself, Joni Mitchell and Mary Travers. Joan Baez’s live performance of the song at Sing Sing Prison in 1972 follows.


Tagged as: bob dylan, the band
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Tuesday, Feb 9, 2010

I just finished watching the sexy 1989 thriller Sea of Love that I picked up from the library. The title intrigued me, and it was a VHS. My DVD player is broken, so I’ve been renting VHS tapes. Well, the movie was a gem; if you haven’t seen it, you should. More appropriately, the film piqued my curiosity about the song it was named after, “Sea of Love”. 


The song was written by Phil Phillips and George Khoury and, in 1959, Phillips’ version of the song charted at #1 on the Billboard R&B chart and #2 on the Billboard top 100. It’s had several reincarnations. In 1981, ‘60s rocker Del Shannon took the tune to #33 on the Top 40. In 1983, the Honeydrippers (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Jeff Beck et al) launched their version to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.


Since those early ‘80s covers of “Sea of Love” topped the charts, “Sea of Love” has come in to the hands of two less mainstream artists who have made it their own for respective soundtracks. Tom Waits covered it specifically for the aforementioned Sea of Love film. Indie crooner Cat Power played it as part of her 2000 album The Covers Record and her version was catapulted into the pop culture zeitgeist on the Juno film soundtrack.


Here are the different versions of the song in chronological order.



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Monday, Feb 8, 2010

I pressed “songs” on the iPod within my iPhone, and then pressed “shuffle”. The first song that came up was “The Loco-Motion” by Little Eva from an album called The Best of the Girl Groups Vol. 2.  What a precious tune. It was written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin and first topped the charts with Little Eva’s version in 1962. The song appeared on the American top 5 two more times, each from a different decade. Grand Funk Railroad released their chart-topping “Loco-Motion” in 1974. In 1988, it was Kylie Minogue who took her version of the song into the top 5. 


Here are the three versions in chronological order.  I’ve included the videos to get a real taste of the eras.



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Thursday, Feb 4, 2010

It’s no doubt that my favorite album from 2009 was M. Ward’s sensitive and unassuming Hold Time. Every time I listen to it, I’m romantically transported to a perfect sunset circa 1960 and Ward seems to be a fan of that era as well. I’ve read various articles about his fascination with old-timey analog recording tools and instruments. Listening to his music always provides a soulful escape from what can be an all-too-modern collage of noise and images out in the world. 


As is often the case, I have one of M. Ward’s songs in my head. The song is a cover of Buddy Holly’s 1958 single, “Rave On”. The song was actually first recorded by Sonny West, but made popular by Holly. I’m not a Buddy Holly expert, but it’s always interesting to connect the dots with some internet research. So I’ve included Holly’s “Rave On” below, followed by a young Waylon Jennings riffing on the tune with mariachi horns, a rare John Lennon cover of the same song and, finally, M. Ward’s 2009 version.



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Monday, Jan 18, 2010

Tuesday, January 19th marks the birthday of the late, great Janis Joplin. Born in 1943, Joplin rose to rock stardom in the mid-‘60s with her raspy, soulful vocals and colorful demeanor as the front woman of Big Brother and the Holding Company. Unfortunately, her life and career were short-lived due to continuous run-ins with various substances, ultimately passing away from an overdose on October 4th, 1970. Regardless, Joplin’s spirit, presence, and voice will be immortalized in her music. Happy 67th, Janis!



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