Friday, June 8, 2012

100 Cover Versions #33: Cher covers 'Fire and Rain' by James Taylor

The song Fire and Rain was written by James Taylor and featured on his second album Sweet Baby James in 1970. It has over the past 40 years become one of his most covered songs. The version of Fire and Rain that I am highlighting is Cher's cover which first featured on her seventh studio album Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves in 1971. Cher has recorded versions of many songs over the years both on albums and on her own and other star's television shows. Cher's cover of Fire and Rain was recorded very soon after it's own original release and I think really captures that gorgeous time in music.  

100 Cover Versions #32: Ane Brun covers 'Another World' by Antony & The Johnsons

In 2005 Antony & the Johnsons came to a lot of people's attention with the release of his album I am a Bird Now. I loved the songs on that album, his collaboration with Boy George on You are my Sister is still one of the most perfect songs of the past decade. I think his songs are little works of art.
The follow up studio album to I Am a Bird Now was The Crying Light in 2008. Between both of those albums was an EP which featured five songs. One of those songs was Another World which would also feature on The Crying Light album. 

Ane Brun's cover version of Another World features on the second bonus disc to her album It All Starts with One. Regular readers to this blog will know that she has become one of my most favourite new singers over the past few months. If you are new to her music this song is a great introduction to her voice and talent.

100 Cover Versions #31: Bananarama cover 'Long Train Running' by The Doobie Brothers

Bananarama's songs have from the beginning of their pop music career been a mix of their own original songs and a great choice of cover versions. That mix continues to today with great covers of the songs Rapture by iiO, S-s-single Bed by Fox and The Runner by The Three Degrees which all featured on their album Viva in 2009. 

Back in 1991 the three members of Bananarama were Keren Woodward, Sara Dallin and Jacquie O'Sullivan. The third single from their Pop Life album was a cover of the 1973 song Long Train Runnin' by The Doobie Brothers. There is a great story about how that song came to be on the album when they were recording it here on the Bananarama UK website.  Two other facts that  Bananarama's fans will know is that the Gypsy Kings under the name of Alma de Noche played flamenco guitar on the song and the backing singer was Zoe who had a number 4 hit in the UK singles chart in 1991 with her signature song Sunshine on a Rainy Day.

This year marks 30 years of Bananarama's music career. For news and updates you can follow them on their own  official Twitter page which is @VivaBananarama and for great memories of their history in pop past and present at @Bananarama2012

I will feature one or two more covers by them over the next few weeks but first of all from 1991 here is their version of Long Train Running

Bananarama - Long Train Running from gatti inc on Vimeo.

100 Cover Versions #30: Alison Krauss, Shawn Colvin & Jerry Douglas covers 'The Boxer' by Simon & Garfunkel

On May 23rd of 2007 the American Library of Congress brought together various singers and musicians to honour and celebrate the music of Paul Simon. At the event in the Warner Theatre in Washington DC Paul Simon became the first recipient of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The other award recipients since then have been Stevie Wonder in 2008, Paul McCartney in 2009 and most recently Burt Bacharach and Hal David in 2011. 

The inaugural event in 2007 featured singers such as Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Lyle Lovett, Yolanda Adams and Art Garfunkel. One of the most beautiful performances was by Alison Krauss and Shawn Colvin who were accompanied by Jerry Douglas on slide guitar.

Here is that performance.

100 Cover Versions #29: Tracy Chapman covers 'The House of the Rising Sun'

Back in the 1970s one of the first songs that I remember hearing on the radio was The House of the Rising Sun. That version was by The Animals who had a worldwide hit with it in 1964. Like other songs I remember from childhood it seemed like a very old song. It was a song that I remember frightened me, the adult tone of the lyrics and music stood out in my mind in the way that you don't understand at all as a child. As I grew older I realised what a great song it is but only recently did I realise that The House of the Rising Sun is an old traditional folk song, the original writer is not known. In 1962; two years before The Animals had a hit with their version, Nina Simone had recorded it as well.

The House of the Rising Sun is one of the many fine songs that Nina Simone covered and brought to wider audiences but it is not her version that I am going to highlight but instead a version by Tracy Chapman. 

Back in the late 1980s Tracy Chapman was one of the first music artists that I saw in concert when she played the RDS in 1988 (I think!) with Hothouse Flowers and Deacon Blue. It was a brilliant concert. At the time she had released her debut album so everyone knew her songs and I can still see her up on stage in my mind.

Tracy continues to be one of music's greatest singers, musicians and activists. Since the release of her self titled debut album in 1988 she had recorded a further seven studio albums. In 2008 she released her album Our Bright Future. Here is Tracy's cover of The House of the Rising Sun which she sang in concert in Milan in November 2008. It is just her and her guitar and the words and tone and mood of that amazing song.