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Beatles Recovered: Magical Mystery Tour

November 23rd, 2017 9 comments

The Magical Mystery Tour LP, released 50 years ago on November 27 in the US (and in the UK on December 8 as a double EP) is something of a stepchild in the Beatles canon. The British EP comprised the original tracks from the British TV movie of the same name. On the album, those tracks make up side 1 of the LP. Side 2 of the LP are songs that appeared on single that year.

The British EP was lavishly packaged. The gatefold cover included a 28-page, full colour booklet of photos from the critically panned TV film and song lyrics. When I bought a Japanese pressing of the LP 14 years later, it came in a gatefold sleeve with the booklet, now in LP-size.

The Magical Mystery Tour LP was a success in the US, even earning Grammy nominations. And there are some stone-cold classics on that LP. Obviously the singles on Side 2 – All You Need Is Love, Strawberry Fields Forever, Penny Lane and Hello Goodbye – plus the title track, Fool On The Hill and I Am The Walrus on Side 1. Then there is the glorious Baby You’re A Rich Man, which was the b-side of All You Need Is Love but could just as well have been a hit in its own right.

Which leaves us with the quite forgettable instrumental Flying (the only Beatles song credited to all four members); Harrison’s Blue Jay Way, another one of his Indian-flavoured tracks which are unloved by most Beatles fans; and Your Mother Should Know, one of those McCartney flapper-tinged nostalgia trips.

So, a strike rate of 9/12 is pretty good going. Even if one allows that half the LP is a singles collection, it is nevertheless remarkable that they were all recorded during or just after the Sgt Pepper’s sessions that culminated in the release of that watershed in rock history, only five months before Magical Mystery Tour came out. It’s The Beatles in 1967 that needed to put out a double album, not those of 1968. Sgt Pepper’s Recovered is still up.

The cover of the German release of the Magical Mystery Tour LP, under the imprint of TV magazine HörZu.

So, here are a bunch of covers of the tracks on The Magical Mystery Tour. Oddly, it was easier finding covers for Blue Jay Way that it was for Hello Goodbye. And I fear that there will be some resistance to the cover of that song included here. This can be explained by the shortage of alternatives, but it should be put on the record that Glee produced some very good cover versions. Hello Goodbye is not the best example of that, but it is not by any means objectionable. It’s, in fact, pretty joyful. Still, when Richie Havens follows on with his version of Strawberry Fields Forever we are on firmer ground.

Elvis Costello might have featured here with his version of All You Need Is Love from Live Aid, when the crowds filled in the horn section part. It’s on the Live Aid mix which is still available. Instead, Costello is representing Penny Lane here, performed live in 2010 at the Gershwin Prize for Paul McCartney.

All You Need Is Love is done here beautifully by the wonderful Brandi Carlile. And Bud Shank turns the unremarkable Flying into an engaging jazz number.

1. Cheap Trick – Magical Mystery Tour (1991)
2. Stone The Crows – Fool On The Hill (1970)
3. Bud Shank – Flying (1968)
4. Siouxsie and The Banshees – Blue Jay Way (2003)
5. Damita Jo – Your Mother Should Know (1969)
6. Oingo Boingo – I Am The Walrus (1994)
7. Glee Cast – Hello, Goodbye (2010)
8. Richie Havens – Strawberry Fields Forever (1969)
9. Elvis Costello – Penny Lane (2010)
10. Martin Newell – Baby You’re A Rich Man (1996)
11. Brandi Carlile – All You Need Is Love (2012)

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More Beatles Recovered:
Beatles Recovered: A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles Recovered: Beatles For Sale
Beatles Recovered: Help!
Beatles Recovered: Rubber Soul
Beatles Recovered: Revolver
Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club  Band
Beatles Revovered: Magical Mystery Tour
Beatles Recovered: White Album
Beatles Recovered: Yellow Submarine
Beatles Recovered: Abbey Road
Beatles Revcovered: Let It Be

Wordless: Any Major Beatles Instrumentals
Covered With Soul Vol. 14 – Beatles Edition 1
Covered With Soul Vol. 15 – Beatles Edition 2

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1967-68
Any Major Beatles Covers: 1968-70
Any Bizarre Beatles

Beatles Reunited: Everest (1971)
Beatles Reunited: Live ’72 (1972)
Beatles Reunited: Smile Away (1972)
Beatles Reunited: Photographs (1974)
Beatles Reunited: ’77 (1977)
Beatles Reunited: Let It See (1980)

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Any Major Schlager Covers Vol. 1

October 12th, 2017 9 comments

 

The germanised cover version was a staple of the Schlager scene. Often they were cash-ins of songs that were big hits in other countries — not just from the Anglophone world but also from other European countries, especially France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.

But not all German covers were cash-ins. Some were sophisticated and sincere interpretations by artists who in France would record under the rather more satisfying title “chanson”. These artists included the likes of Daliah Lavi, Katja Ebstein, Dunja Raiter and Joy Fleming, who are represented here. And others were reinterpreted in ways that gave the artist a break from recording grandmother-approved music. Some of these were filler album tracks. For example, former Les Humphries Singers member Jürgen Drews covered Hotel California, which features here, as he was having a hit with Eddie Rabbitt’s Rocky Mountain Music (as Barfuss durch den Sommer).

The collection kicks off with Joy Fleming‘s cover of Aretha Franklin”s version of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And if there was one German singer qualified to sing soul, it was Fleming, a woman of big voice and big personality. In 1975 Fleming came third-last in the Eurovision Song Contest with a soul-touched song that deserved better, Ein Lied kann eine Brücke sein. Fleming sadly died in September, after this mix had been compiled.

Former teen star Manuela gives us a version of Percy Sledge’s When A Man Loves A Woman. The title, which translates as When Night Falls In Harlem, is not promising, but her version turns out to be okay. The singer, who was something of Germany”s version of Connie Francis, resists the temptation to emote.

Also singing soul is Katja Ebstein with her 1972 take on Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay, which has a tasteful arrangement and is well interpreted. Ebstein also represented West-Germany in the Eurovision, coming third in 1970 with the excellent Wunder gibt es immer wieder, and again in 1971 (with the ecology song Diese Welt), and second in 1980 (backed by mimes, with Theater). A social-democrat, the now 72-year-old Ebstein is still an engaged social activist.

Like Ebstein, Israeli singer Daliah Lavi, who died this year, enjoyed mainstream success with music that transcended the clap-along fare of the Schlager scene. Her take on The Beatles’ Something is a proper, understated reinterpretation of the song, most of it spoken. Lavi had a powerful voice; she knew better than to let it loose here.

It’s probably a stretch to call Volker Lechtenbrink a Schlager star. He already had a long career as an actor when he recorded his well-received debut album in 1976, which consisted almost entirely of covers of Kris Kristofferson songs. As a KK afficionado, I can confirm that he did the man’s songs no injustice. Hear his version of Sunday Morning, Coming Down to see if you agree.

Also starting out in acting was Croatian-born Dunja Raiter. In her musical career she was always was more chanteuse than Schlager singer. Her soulful version of Leonard Cohen”s Suzanne bears that out. There was not much clapping-along to be had with that.

Given the poor production values of many German versions of international hits, one is entitled to expect awful things from Hoffmann & Hoffmann‘s German take on The Boxer. The lads sing it well enough — neither will be mistaken for Art Garfunkel, though — and the arrangement stays clear of cliché and shortcuts.

Worse things might have happened to another “60s classic here. Peter Haupt‘s version of Monday Monday is not likely to displace The Mamas & The Papas’ original, with those gorgeous harmonies, in anyone’s affection, but he gives it his personality without disrespecting the song. Haupt never became famous and died in 1999 at 58.

Those who know the Schlager scene might suspect that I tagged on Nina & Mike with their version of In The Year 2525 as a bit of a joke. They were very much of the mind-killing, rhythm-defying clap-along variety of Schlager (sample their hit Fahrende Musikanten as an example). But, Nina and Mike had higher aspirations than shitty Schlager music. Folk Music, not Volksmusik. In that they were much like their fellow husband-and-wife act Cindy & Bert, whose cover of Paranoid we encountered in Curious Germany.

That Curious Germany mix also included a bunch of songs sung in German by English-speaking artists. Two more feature here: Alma Cogan gives us her German take on Tennessee Waltz; Cliff Richard appears here with his German version of Power To All My Friends, his 1973 entry for the Eurovision (here he is just grateful for having friends; he doesn’t want to give Germans ideas about power). I once actually posted a whole mix of international stars singing their hits in Deutsch.

Another foreign Eurovision alumni, this one a winner, here is Dutch singer Cory Brokken, singing her very songbirdy version of Do You Know The Way To San José, which Bacharach would approve of. Here the coffee is hot in San José, presaging the liquid crimes that coffee chains like Starbucks (boo!) commit today. Brokken died last year, earning a backgrounder entry in In Memoriam thanks to her unusual career: from being a singer to becoming a lawyer in her 40s and then a judge — before making a showbiz comeback.

Also from far shores was Bill Ramsey, who was born in 1931 in Cincinnati. Stationed with the US Air Force in Germany in the 1950s he began to play on stage, and went on to have a career in Germany. Most of his early stuff was square, sometimes ingratiatingly so. With the advent of beat music, Ramsey found a new voice, which often delivered some clever lyrics in that genre. Here he is with an interesting version of Jimi Hendrix’s The Wind Cries Mary. A bit over a decade later, rock group Spliff seemed to borrow from Ramsey’s vocals on their hit Deja Vu.

Another artist who got his big break thanks to the US army was Gerhard Wendland — but in his case it was thanks to being a POW of the Americans after World War 2, through Berlin station RIAS. His first record actually already came out in 1943, under the mentorship of Franz Grothe, a full-on Nazi who unaccountably enjoyed a long career in West-Germany. In the 1950s Wendland, already in his 30s/40s, was one of the biggest singing stars in West-Germany. By the 1960s his star started to fade slowly; now in his 50s he was an anachronism. His Sweet Caroline is the worst of the lot here.

In the 1990s old Schlager music enjoyed a rehabilitation, along the lines of semi-ironic nostalgic cult, and few artists benefitted from the revival in reputations more than Marianne Rosenberg. The good girl from next-door started out as a performer of standard Schlager fare before in the mid-’70s tapping into that new-fangled disco music. Her cover of Blondie’s Heart Of Glass belongs in that context. Rosenberg is one of the classic gay club favourites in Germany.

Rosenberg’s version of Heart Of Glass is not bad, nor is it particularly great. I do, however, like Christina Harrison‘s rather faithful cover of ABBA’s S.O.S. The singer had previously released singles as Christina May. After her career, Christina became a practitioner of ayurveda (an Indian wellness approach) and an activist for Native American rights, having lived on a Lakota reservation. In 1990 she married old Beatles friend Klaus Voormann, the designer of the Revolver cover, with whom she still lives near Munich.

The most demented track here is Karel Gott‘s take on the Stones’ Paint It Black. The Czechoslovakian singer with the presumptuous surname was better known for his clean-cut crooning; later he’d sing the theme song for an animated kids’ show about a bee. But here Karel, “The Sinatra of the East”, goes apeshit: the arrangement is Slavic gypsy, and the singer can barely contain his voice with arousal as he yelps and hits high notes for no good reason, and as the song climaxes, Gott lets out a devil-possessed scream. It”s bizarre and absolutely wonderful. You’d think a well-mannered crooner would have political views as bland as most of his music, but Gott was a committed supporter of his country’s communist regime — and apparently remained a communist even after the fall of the regime there.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes hausgemachte covers. PW in comments.

1. Joy Fleming – Geld (1975 – Respect)
2. Mary Roos – Die Liebe kommt leis’ (1972 – You Can’t Hurry Love)
3. Corry Brokken – Heiss ist der Kaffee (1968 – Do You Know The Way To San José)
4. Monica – Bang Bang (1966 – Bang Bang)
5. Karel Gott – Rot und schwarz (1969 – Paint It Black)
6. Bill Ramsey – Der Wind ruft Mary (1971 – The Wind Cries Mary)
7. Daliah Lavi – Manchmal (1971 – Something)
8. Katja Ebstein – Der Mann am Meer (1972 – Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay)
9. Manuela – Wenn es Nacht wird in Harlem (1967 – When A Man Loves A Woman)
10. Dunja Rajter – Susann (1969 – Suzanne)
11. Hoffmann & Hoffmann – Der Boxer (1977 – The Boxer)
12. Volker Lechtenbrink – Sonntag Morgen (1976 – Sunday Morning, Coming Down)
13. Hans Hass Jr – American Pie (1972 – American Pie)
14. Jürgen Drews – Hotel California (1977 – Hotel California)
15. Olivia Molina – Aber wie (1972 – Let It Be)
16. Gerhard Wendland – Sweet Caroline (1970 – Sweet Caroline)
17. Christina Harrison – S.O.S. (1975 – S.O.S.)
18. Marianne Rosenberg – Herz aus Glas (1979 – Heart Of Glass)
19. Cliff Richard – Gut dass es Freunde gibt (1973 – Power To All Our Friends)
20. Alma Cogan – Tennessee Waltz (1964 – Tennessee Waltz)
21. Eileen – Die Stiefel sind zum wandern (1966 – These Boots Are Made For Walking)
22. Peter Haupt – Monday Monday, was bringst Du mir (1966 – Monday Monday)
23. Nina & Mike – Was wird sein in sieben Jahren (1972 – In The Year 2525)

GET IT: https://rapidgator.net/file/2c6c58981f7473652b376a19e298749b/schlagercov_1.rar.html

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Any Major Steely Dan Covers

September 3rd, 2017 18 comments

The death today of Steely Dan’s equal half, Walter Becker, merits a tribute to the band, especially on a site titled Any Major Dude With Half A Heart.

Steely Dan is the kind of band that invites strong opinions. Their music is not very soulful but expertly executed, using some of the finest session players of their time. For some it’s too cold; others can bathe in glow of the music’s brilliance. I can see why one might not be touched by the music, even finding it too clever, too self-consciously sophisticated. It’s a fair criticism, even if I don’t share in it. But the musicianship and the innovation deserve admiration. Much of it was Walter Becker’s work.

After starting out as a conventional rock group, Steely Dan soon became the two-some of Becker and Donald Fagan, surrounding themselves with a collective of top session musicians. Almost all the drummers that have featured in the Session Players series have played with Steely Dan: Bernard Purdie, Steve Gadd, Hal Blaine, Jim Gordon, Jim Keltner, Ricky Lawson“…

Fagan was pretty much the frontman, taking the lead vocals. Becker’s primary job was to see to the intricate arrangements, with those complex rhythm tracks and finely tuned harmonies.

And that is where the critics of Steely Dan might do well to listen with new ears. I think they’ll find many surprises in most tracks.

And now, having bigged up the arrangements, I’m presenting a collection of cover versions.

It is not easy to do covers of songs that rely on intricate arrangements, and only very few Dan songs have been covered any significant number of times. This is what Steely Dan share with ABBA. But where the versions on the ABBA covers mix mostly required reinvention to be any good, Steely Dan songs can be covered fairly straight and still be good.

One version here is not good. Donny and Marie Osmond singing Reelin’ In The Years as the opening production of their show on 13 January 1978. Having done their job on the song, the toothy siblings hand over to the easy listening choir that scores an ice-skating routine, complete with high kicks. It is quite a show; take a look at it! Strangely, even though Reelin’ In The Years is pretty much the simplest, most straight-forward Steely Dan track, I’ve not heard a cover of which that I really liked.

And with that, here”s to the legacy of the great Walter Becker. May he rest in peace.

As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard-length CD-R, includes home-dirtyworked covers, and PW in comments.

1. Wilco – Any Major Dude Will Tell You (2000)
2. Ben Folds Five – Barrytown (2000)
3. Nathan Haines with Damon Albarn – F.M. (2003)
4. Turin Brakes – Rikki Don’t Lose That Number (2011)
5. Minutemen – Dr. Wu (1984)
6. Rickie Lee Jones – Show Biz Kids (2000)
7. Atlanta Rhythm Section – Hey Nineteen (2011)
8. Michael McDonald with Donald Fagen – Pretzel Logic (1991)
9. Waylon Jennings – Do It Again (1980)
10. José Feliciano – Dirty Work (1974)
11. Poco – Dallas (1975)
12. Snake Davis Band – Deacon Blues (2016)
13. David Garfield – Josie (2003)
14. Sara Isaksson & Rebecka Törnqvist – Fire In The Hole (2006)
15. Ivy – Only A Fool Would Say That (2000)
16. Zo! feat. Phonte and Sy Smith – Black Cow (2011)
17. Toto – Bodhisattva (2002)
18. Woody Herman Band – Aja (1978)
19. Donny & Marie Osmond – Reelin’ In The Years (1978)

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Any Major Elvis Covers

August 16th, 2017 9 comments

Where were you when you learned of Elvis” death, 40 years ago on August 16? I was at a church summer camp. At 11 I didn”t really appreciate the importance of Elvis. To me, he was a name and face one just knew, like those of Charlie Chaplin or Bing Crosby “” both of whom also died in 1977. But, as it so often is, the death of an icon kicked off a mania. Suddenly everybody was an Elvis fan, myself included.

A greatest hits type of double album was my introduction to Elvis. It had all the important stuff on it. Some months later I bought a four-album set of Elvis rock & roll stuff. I was blown away by it, and adopted I Want To Be Free as my nominal favourite Elvis song.

It took me longer to get into latter period Elvis, other than the usual suspects (Suspicious Minds, In The Ghetto etc), and only grudgingly came to appreciate some of Movie Elvis period output.

I have previously run two mixes of the originals of songs Elvis had hits with (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2). To mark the 40th anniversary of Elvis” death, here is a mix of artists covering Elvis songs. Almost all were Elvis originals; the three that aren”t “” All Shook Up, Suspicious Minds, Burning Love “”were rather obscure before Elvis recorded them. So no Hound Dog or Blues Suede Shoes here.

James Brown recorded his version of Love Me Tender after Elvis” death, by way of tribute by what he says is one king to another. Humility was never JB”s strong suite. Of the soul covers here, his is not the best: that would be Candi Staton“s In The Ghetto.  And yet I was tempted to include the bizarre cover by Sammy Davis Jr that featured on The Ghetto Vol. 1.

Three covers here are by people who wrote the songs. Otis Backwell“s version of Return To Sender appeared on an album defiantly titled These Are My Songs. Dennis Linde“s recording of Burning Love sounds like it ought to have been a hit for Creedence Clearwater Revival. And Mac Davis took four years before he recorded the Elvis hit he had co-written, A Little Less Conversation.

Most songs here more or less follow the Elvis template, with some variations. So The Pogues” version of Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do is reworked in the band”s customary Irish folk-punk sound, but the song retains its intregrity; likewise Albert King gives Jailhouse Rock a blistering blues treatment, but it”s still discernibly Jailhouse Rock. I suppose it might be difficult to immediately recognise Teddy Thompson”s wonderful version of I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone as the rock & roll track Elvis created, but that”s just clever arranging.

Two tracks, however, totally rework Elvis: John Cale“s Heartbreak Hotel has only passing acquaintance with the original. The Jeff Beck Group “” with “Extraordinaire Rod Stewart”, as the sleeve notes have it, on vocals, backed by Beck, Ron Wood and Nicky Hopkins “” stir into All Shook Up a heavy dosed of blues-rock. What, one may wonders, could have been had Elvis adopted that kind of sound in the late”60s. Poor “Colonel” Parker might have spontaneously combusted, leaving behind a pile of dust and a rock where his heart once was.

The benefit of listening to others sing Elvis is that one can understand the lyrics. Presley was a wonderful singer, but his diction was awful. I don”t think there”s a single up-tempo Elvis song which has not required me to innovate some alternative lyrics. So a good number of songs here have helped me disabused me of misheard lyrics. One of those was Devil In Disguise, thanks to candidates for inclusion which I rejected in favour of the one cover here that isn”t in English. It”s in Czech and performed by veteran crooner Karel Gott, “the Sinatra of the East”. It is, let”s say, interesting. I suspect Elvis might have approved as left the building.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on as standard CD-R and includes home-gyrated covers. PW in comments.

1. Albert King – Jailhouse Rock (1969)
2. Roy Orbison – Mean Woman Blues (1963)
3. Buddy Holly – You”re So Square (Baby I Don”t Care) (1958)
4. Otis Blackwell – Return To Sender (1977)
5. Ry Cooder – Little Sister (1979)
6. Dillard & Clark – Don”t Be Cruel (1968)
7. Teddy Thompson – I”m Left, You”re Right, She”s Gone (2007)
8. Mac Davis – A Little Less Conversation (1972)
9. Dennis Linde – Burning Love (1973)
10. Candi Staton – In The Ghetto (1972)
11. The Persuasions – Good Luck Charm (2003)
12. Chuck Jackson – (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear (1966)
13. James Brown – Love Me Tender (1978)
14. PJ Proby – If I Can Dream (2011)
15. Fran̤oise Hardy РLoving You (1968)
16. Sandy Posey – Don”t (1973)
17. Chris Isaak – I Forgot To Remember To Forget (2011)
18. Fine Young Cannibals – Suspicious Minds (1986)
19. The Pogues – Got A Lot O” Livin” To Do (1990)
20. Bruce Springsteen – Viva Las Vegas (2003)
21. Wanda Jackson – Hard Headed Woman (1961)
22. Conway Twitty – Treat Me Nice (1961)
23. Bobby Stevens – Stuck On You (1960)
24. Robert Gordon with Link Wray – I Want To Be Free (1977)
25. Vince Eager – A Big Hunk O”Love (1972)
26. The Jeff Beck Group – All Shook Up (1968)
27. John Cale – Heartbreak Hotel (1975)
28. Karel Gott – Dábel tisíc tvárí má (Devil In Disguise) (2011)

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Any Major Bob Dylan Covers Vol. 4

July 27th, 2017 11 comments

The first three volumes comprised covers of most of the better-known Dylan songs. This compilation, and  Vol. 5, enter the terrain of some lesser-known tracks (unless you”re a Dylanista, in which case there is no such thing as an obscure song).

This means that for many listeners, some of these cover versions serve as an introduction to Dylan songs they didn”t know; and for the Dylan fans, I hope there are some versions of the tracks they know which they hadn”t heard before.

As ever, CD-R length, masterpiece-painted covers, PW in comments.

1. George Thorogood and The Destroyers – Drifter”s Escape (2006)
2. Counting Crows – You Ain”t Goin” Nowhere (2012)
3. Neko Case – Buckets Of Rain (2006)
4. Stan Ridgway – As I Went Out One Morning (1996)
5. Elvis Costello – Don”t Throw Your Love Away (2008)
6. Los Lobos – On A Night Like This (2003)
7. Yo La Tengo – 4th Time Around (2007)
8. Phoenix – Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands (2010)
9. The Dubliners with De Dannan – Boots Of Spanish Leather (1992)
10. The Neville Brothers – With God On Our Side (1989)
11. Patti LaBelle – Most Likely You Go Your Way And I”ll Go Mine (1977)
12. The Persuasions – The Man In Me (1971)
13. The Faces – Wicked Messenger (1970)
14. The Leaves – Love Minus Zero (1965)
15. Jackie DeShannon – Walkin” Down The Line (1963)
16. Jason and the Scorchers – Absolutely Sweet Marie (1984)
17. Gary U.S. Bonds – From A Buick 6 (1981)
18. Joe Cocker – Watching The River Flow (1978)
19. David Bowie – Trying To Get To Heaven (1999)
20. George Harrison – Mama, You”ve Been On My Mind (1970)

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Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s

June 15th, 2017 12 comments

The release of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50 years ago rewrote the rulebook of pop music. It’s not that it was the first concept album (in as far as it was even that in the sense we’ve come to understand the idea now), nor the first to dabble innovative studio tricks (The Beatles themselves had done so on Revolver, and Brian Wilson was perhaps even more innovative at the time). But for contemporaries, the album changed everything.

Perhaps it was also the cover that had such an impact. It was not usual to create artworks for LP covers – the Beach Boys were still goofing about with animals on snapshots for the sleeve for Pet Sounds. One could study Peter Blake’s collage for the duration of Side 1 and while away the inferior second side studying it some more,, and return to it over and over again. Even today, it is a significant piece of 20th-century art.

But the thing is, Sgt Pepper’s is greater in its context than it is within the canon of Beatles albums. Of course, there are mighty tracks on it. A Day In The Life is a masterpiece, but I know few Beatles fans whose life would be poorer for the absence of Lovely Rita, or, indeed, Within You Without You (cleverly sequenced to start Side 2, for easy skipability). It doesn’t require clever revisionism by deliberate iconoclasts to regard Sgt Pepper’s as not the greatest album the Beatles made. But it does require the revisionism of fools to call it overrated. Sgt Pepper’s is a great album, especially the first side, and its historical impact cannot be overstated.

And if the later rule of already-released singles finding a place on albums had been in force, imagine how much better Sgt Pepper’s might have been with Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane. In the event, EMI insisted on releasing the songs, which were recorded as part of the Sgt Pepper’s sessions, as a double a-sided single.

A poster of The Beatles in Sgt Pepper’s uniforms in the German youth magazine Bravo in July 1967. (see www.bravoposters.wordpress.com for daily vintage Bravo posters)

Just a couple of weeks after Sgt Pepper’s was released, The Beatles recorded All You Need Is Love. The boys – Ringo was just turning 27; John was 26, Paul was about to turn 25, George was 24 – were on a hot streak.

Of course, Paul McCartney will turn 75 this month. But 50 years ago he was already dead, and long-standing research shows that Sgt Pepper;s provided the proof we’d have confirmed by the Abbey Road cover, by way of very clear clues. To start with, there’s a new band with one Billy Shears as the singer (well, Ringo is Billy Shears, but let’s not have Failing Fake News disturb us). In A Day In The Life John sings: “He blew his mind out in a car”, indicating the method of Paul;s death. And if you play the song backwards, you apparently can hear the phrase, “Paul is dead, miss him, miss him”. At the end of Strawberry Fields Forever, John says, “I buried Paul”. Lennon claimed he mumbled “cranberry sauce”, but why would he say “cranberry sauce” when Paul is dead and he buried him? Wake up, sheeple!

And then there’s the cover. In the foreground is clearly a grave — Paul’s grave, of course! Look at the wax figure Young Beatles: Ringo is sad, very sad, as he looks at Paul’s grave. John is putting a comforting hand on Ringo’s shoulder (George seems glad though. Was he involved in the plot to kill Paul?). On the back cover, “Paul” turns his back; even Fake Paul is trying to give us a clue, apparently trying to escape the conspiracy. And here’s the smoking gun: Place the cover in front of a mirror, and the words “Lonely Hearts” on the drum read, “1 ONE 1 X HE DIE 1 ONE 1″, as you can see very clearly below. It’s so obvious, folks.

So happy birthday to you, Sir Paul McCartney, whoever you are!

Which brings us to this selection of cover versions of songs from Sgt Pepper’s, in the proper sequence. The selection is eclectic, yet it all flows. You’d expect otherwise from a sequence that goes from psychedelic rock of Jimi Hendrix (recorded in concert in Stockholm) to bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs to soul singer Natalie Cole to rockers Status Quo to old comedian George Burns to folkie Richie Havens and so on. And still, it all fits together well. It helps that Scruggs isn’t banjoing the hell out of With A Little Help From My Friends, and that Natalie Cole rocks harder than the Quo, who sound more like Burns. On the LP, the closing song is the crowning glory. The same might be said here of War’s epic take on A Day In The Life.

I have added covers of Strawberry Fields and Penny Land to the mix. The best cover of the former is that by Richie Havens, but he already features with She’s Leaving Home. In any case, Havens’ version has featured before on one of the many mixes of Beatles covers.

Coming in at under an hour, the mix fits on a standard CD-R. Covers are included. PW in the comments section (the purpose of which is not really to declare passwords but for readers to say something).

1. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1968)
2. Earl Scruggs – With A Little Help From My Friends (1971)
3. Natalie Cole – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (1978)
4. Status Quo – Getting Better (1976)
5. George Burns – Fixing A Hole (1978)
6. Richie Havens – She’s Leaving Home (1968)
7. Eddie Izzard – Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite (2007)
8. Sonic Youth – Within You Without You (1989)
9. Claudine Longet – When I’m Sixty-Four (1967)
10. Fats Domino – Lovely Rita (1968)
11. Micky Dolenz – Good Morning Good Morning (2012)
12. Stereophonics – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) (2007)
13. War feat. Eric Burdon – A Day In The Life (1976)
14. Peter Gabriel – Strawberry Fields Forever (1976)
15. Amen Corner – Penny Lane (1969)

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More Beatles Recovered:
Beatles Recovered: A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles Recovered: Beatles For Sale
Beatles Recovered: Help!
Beatles Recovered: Rubber Soul
Beatles Recovered: Revolver
Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club  Band
Beatles Revovered: Magical Mystery Tour
Beatles Recovered: White Album
Beatles Recovered: Yellow Submarine
Beatles Recovered: Abbey Road
Beatles Revcovered: Let It Be

Wordless: Any Major Beatles Instrumentals
Covered With Soul Vol. 14 – Beatles Edition 1
Covered With Soul Vol. 15 – Beatles Edition 2

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1967-68
Any Major Beatles Covers: 1968-70
Any Bizarre Beatles

Beatles Reunited: Everest (1971)
Beatles Reunited: Live ’72 (1972)
Beatles Reunited: Smile Away (1972)
Beatles Reunited: Photographs (1974)
Beatles Reunited: ’77 (1977)
Beatles Reunited: Let It See (1980)

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Any Major Springsteen Covers

April 27th, 2017 15 comments

 

When I was 14 I heard Hungry Heart on the radio. It was familiar and yet unlike any other sound I had heard. Looking back, I think it was the keyboards, which I still think are key to giving the E Street Band that distinctive sound (along with Max Weinstein’s booming drumming and, of course, Clarence’s sax). So I heard Hungry Heart and straight after school on a snowy day in February 1981 I rushed to town to find the new LP by this guy Springsteen. On my way home on the bus I could hardly wait to play it. As I held my new purchase, I liked the look of the face that filled the cover. This guy looked like a rock ‘n’ roll Al Pacino. Justice for all!

But before I could play the The River, I had an afternoon appointment with the optician who proceeded to shine a light into my eyes that virtually blinded me for a few hours. How auspicious that on the day my relationship with Bruce Springsteen began, I was blinded by the light.

I played sides 1 and 2 of The River to death. I rarely played the second disc. That first disc was perfect. With time I would become familiar with Bruce’s four previous albums, and come to regard Darkness On The Edge Of Town as one of the greatest LPs ever made. My loyalty to Springsteen began to waver in the 1990s, in as far as I didn’t rush out to buy every new album. But I have most of them.

So I was excited to read Springsteen’s autobiography. My biggest problem with it was the title. Could nobody come up with something less predictable than Born To Run? I like to think the title “Cars And Girls” would have been a great, even if very belated, riposte to the cutting Prefab Sprout song of that title from 1988. But that is my biggest gripe.

True, Bruce at times exceeds the waxing lyrical, and when he goes fan boy with CAPS LOCK switched on he sounds more like his fawning friend Bono than the poet laureate of a generation. But that’s minor quibbling. Born To Run is a welcome extension of the long prologues to songs in his concerts (usually The River). He is at once fully aware of his genius as he is also genuinely self-deprecating. Here is a man who knows his strengths and his limitations, and how to balance them. He knows his value and has no need for false modesty, even when he explains why he took the decision to be the boss of his backing band, the E Street Band. Incidentally, he says that he doesn’t like the nickname “The Boss”, much as Sinatra hated being called “Chairman of the Board”. I wonder what Bono calls Springsteen…

Born To Run mostly confirms that with Bruce, what you see is indeed what you get — mostly. I didn’t know about his battles with depression, and commend him for speaking about them with such honesty. I did know that Springsteen is a funny guy. Some of his songs are good comedy; take, for example, Sherry Darling. The book has some laugh-out-loud moments, such as when he describes his moves with Courtney Cox in the Dancing In The Dark video as “white-man boogaloo” and “dad dancing”.

Springsteen mentions a few memorable concerts he has played. To my delight, all three Springsteen gigs I have attended are included. His Wembley concert on 4 July 1985 might be the best of any act I have seen.

But I don’t want to write a book report on Born To Run, much as I recommend it. It rather serves as an intro to the mix I am presenting here: of covers of Springsteen songs. And it might seem easy to cover Springsteen. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band did so with Blinded By The Light. Patti Smith had a hit with Because The Night, and The Pointer Sisters with Fire. But Mann had his hit before Springsteen was famous, and our man hadn’t yet recorded the Smith or Pointer Sisters hits (the latter itself a cover of a record by Springsteen pal Robert Gordon, who sang it like Elvis might have).

It’s quite different covering Springsteen songs after Springsteen has recorded them, almost invariably producing the definitive version (differently to Bob Dylan). That is, I suppose, why so few dare to do that. It’s a risk, and it doesn’t always pay off. So, in absence of an abundance of any more quality choices, there most certainly will be no second mix of Springsteen covers.

As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-bossed covers. PW in comments.

1. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Born To Run (1984)
2. Nils Lofgren – Wreck On The Highway (1997)
3. The Band – Atlantic City (1993)
4. The Hollies – 4th Of July Asbury Park (Sandy) (1975)
5. Everything But The Girl – Tougher Than The Rest (1992)
6. Emmylou Harris – The Price You Pay (1981)
7. Cowboy Junkies – Thunder Road (2004)
8. Justin Townes Earle – Glory Days (2014)
9. John Wesley Harding – Jackson Cage (1997)
10. Raul Malo – Downbound Train (2000)
11. Patty Griffin – Stolen Car (2001)
12. Townes Van Zandt – Racing In The Streets (1992)
13. Richie Havens – Streets Of Philadelphia (1997)
14. Minnie Driver – Hungry Heart (2004)
15. Greg Kihn – For You (1977)
16. David Bowie – It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City (1989)
17. PJ Proby – I’m On Fire (1990)
18. Natalie Cole – Pink Cadillac (1987)
19. Big Daddy – Dancing In The Dark (1985)
20. The Flying Pickets – Factory (1984)

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Any Major Chuck Berry Covers

March 23rd, 2017 29 comments

Rock & Roll was invented when Marty McFly’s 1980s guitar solo of Johnny B Goode compels Marvin Berry to phone his cousin Chuck for inspiration for the new sound the latter was seeking. The obituaries for Chuck Berry noted his huge contribution to the rise of Rock & Roll. Along with Ike Turner — another nasty individual who, like Berry, is best remembered only for his music — Chuck Berry is often cited as Exhibit A in the claim that Rock & Roll is the white man having stolen the music of the black man.

The argument has merit in some ways — the many hit cover versions by white artists of tracks first recorded by black artists or the exploitation of black musicians by record companies in the ’50s being cases in point. But it doesn’t hold true for the development of Rock & Rolll as a musical genre, which from the start was subject to a broad sweep of influences and served as a broad church of musical styles.

And that finds concrete expression in Chuck Berry’s debut hit Maybelline, the record some regard as the birth of Rock & Roll as a thing. And in a way it was: Maybelline was the first Rock & Roll record performed by a black musician to break into the Billboard Top 10. Berry himself said that he had based Maybellene on country legend Bob Wills vocal version of the traditional fiddle number Ida Red, recorded in 1938. The foundation of Maybelline was country, but the building was rhythm and blues. In varying formulas, that was the architecture of Rock & Roll. Of course, Wills” Western Swing sound was itself a fusion — the white music we now call country incorporating black musical forms — which led Wills to claim that he did Rock & Roll two decades before anyone, but that’s another story.

The idea that Rock & Rolll started as a “big bang”, ascribable to individuals, or a select groups of individuals, or even a particular point in time, is absurd. The genre, which itself is so diffuse, was the result of a relatively slow evolution. Music that sounded like Rock & Roll was already made more than a decade before Maybelline or Rocket 88. Just listen to Buddy Jones” Rockin’ Rollin” Mama from 1939 on A History of Country Vol. 3: Pre-war years — 1937-41.

My proposition is that Rock & Roll wasn’t so much a musical genre than a social movement. And for that a series of big, small and tiny bangs were needed. Chuck Berry being the first black R&B musician to cross over into the Billboard charts was one such seismic moment. Rock Around The Clock and The Blackboard Jungle, Tutti Frutti, Elvis on Ed Sullivan, perhaps even the death of James Dean, were others.

Chuck Berry, influencing some white kid in England…or Hill Valley.

So Chuck Berry of course does occupy a central place in the history of Rock & Roll. And other than Elvis and Little Richard, a good case can be made that Berry most influenced the post-war kids who would lead the British invasion in the 1960s — though he was by no means the only one, so the equation that without Berry there’d have been no Beatles or Stones is poor arithmetic.

Unlike Elvis, Berry wrote his own songs, and this is the subject of this mix: 26 covers of tracks written by Chuck Berry between 1954 and 1970 (the mix is a result of me taking the bait from regular reader and radio presenter Martin). What is striking is how few black artists covered Chuck Berry. On this mix I count three. Three other shortlisted covers by black artists — Wilson Picket, Robert Cray and Aaron Neville — didn’t make the cut. Similarly, very few women covered Berry (which the old misogynist might have been pleased about). Which raises the question: Is Chuck Berry music the soundtrack of white maleness? Answers on a postcard, please.

Of my joint-favourite Berry songs, one is covered as one would expect it and as it has to be by The Beach Boys. The other, however, sounds nothing like the original. Taj Mahal does interesting things to Brown-Eyed Handsome Man, though I still prefer the original. I never had much of an opinion either way of Too Much Monkey Business, but Leon Russell’s version here is exquisite — one of the few instances where the cover of a Chuck Berry song is much better than the original.

My choice for the cover of Memphis, Tennessee was obvious — even if I still like Johnny Rivers’ take the best — and there was only ever one choice for Rock And Roll Music. I expect that here and there somebody will regret that I left out some song or other (I’m adding on four bonus tracks that very narrowly didn’t make it on to the CD-R), but one song that I was not going to leave out was the b-side for Maybelline, covered here by Trini Lopez — on the title of which Chuck is declaring his future intent.

Alas, I found no suitable cover of a Chuck Berry song by his lyrical heir, Bruce Springsteen. But I can recommend that, if you are Springsteen fan, you join in the fun with the crowd in Leipzig, Germany, in 2013 on You Can Never Tell, the Berry song that seems to have been written for Springsteen and his E Street Band.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-duckwalked covers. PW in comments.

1. Electric Light Orchestra – Roll Over Beethoven (1972)
2. The Beatles – Rock And Roll Music (1964)
3. The Rolling Stones – Come On (1963)
4. Elvis Presley – Memphis, Tennessee (1963)
5. Trini Lopez – Wee Wee Hours (1965)
6. Marty Robbins – Maybelline (1955)
7. Ernest Tubb – Thirty Days (To Come Back Home) (1955)
8. Linda Ronstadt – Back In The USA (1978)
9. Emmylou Harris – (You Can Never Tell) C’est La Vie (1977)
10. George Thorogood & The Destroyers – You Can’t Catch Me (1988)
11. Dave Edmunds – Dear Dad (1982)
12. The Animals – Around And Around (1964)
13. The Troggs – The Jaguar And The Thunderbird (1966)
14. The Beach Boys – School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes The Bell) (1980)
15. Slade – I’m A Rocker (1981)
16. Status Quo – Carol (1981)
17. Rod Stewart – Sweet Little Rock ‘n’ Roller (1974)
18. David Bowie – Almost Grown (1972)
19. Juicy Lucy – Nadine (1969)
20. Humble Pie – No Money Down (1974)
21. Taj Mahal – Brown-Eyed Handsome Man (1975)
22. Leon Russell – Too Much Monkey Business (1992)
23. Dr. Feelgood – I’m Talking About You (1976)
24. Luther Johnson – Little Queenie (1975)
25. Jimi Hendrix – Johnny B. Goode (1970)
26. Redwing – Bye Bye Johnny (1972)
Bonus Tracks:
Conway Twitty – Reelin’ And A Rockin’ (1961)
Ray Manzarek – Downbound Train (1974)
Carlos Santana – Havana Moon (1983)
Levon Helm – Back To Memphis (2011)

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Any Major Bob Dylan Covers Vol. 3

March 9th, 2017 11 comments

It has taken a while for Volume 3 of the Dylan covers to appear “” longer than it took for Dylan to respond to the Nobel Literature committee. As it stands, there will be two more Dylan cover mixes after this.

The fun thing about compilations of Dylan covers is to play off the featured versions against the originals: which one is better than the other? In some cases it”s a difficult exercise because the respective versions have their own merits. How do you compare Dylan with Tina Turner?

But for me the surprise winner in this game is Mike Stanley, who turns one of my least favourite Dylan arrangements (and I know I”ll make many eternal enemies and absolutely no friends for thinking so), Subterranean Homesick Blues, into the great song it is. Stanley”s eponymous 1972 album featured the likes of Joe Walsh, Todd Rundgren, Joe Vitale and Patti Austin, but somehow he failed to make it really big in the mainstream. He is still recording, but is also a popular DJ in Ohio, and appeared as himself on The Drew Carey Show.

Of course, many Dylan songs are so quintessentially Dylan that they cannot be bettered, no matter how good the cover is. Like A Rolling Stone, covered here with imagination by Major Harris, is one such song. Check out the Song Swarm of it; there are many good attempts, but Dylan inhabits the song so much that everything else is just a copy. Frankie Valli doesn”t even try to give Queen Jane Approximately his own voice: he sings it like a Dylan parody.

Dylan recorded Queen Jane Approximately on the same day as Just Like Tom Thumb”s Blues, which features here in Gordon Lightfoot”s version (a face-off Dylan wins handily). Lightfoot scored a #3 hit with it Canada in 1965, shortly after the song appeared on Highway 61 Revisited. Bob Dylan is a great Lightfoot fan, having once said that when he heard a Lightfoot song, he wished “it would last forever”.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-strummed covers. PW in comments.

1. Randy Crawford – Knockin” On Heaven”s Door (1989)
2. Major Harris – Like A Rolling Stone (1969)
3. Freddie King – Meet Me In The Morning (1975)
4. Blood, Sweat & Tears – Down In The Flood (1972)
5. Michael Stanley – Subterranean Homesick Blues (1972)
6. Indigo Girls – Tangled Up In Blue (1995)
7. Townes Van Zandt – Man Gave Names To All The Animals (1992)
8. Chris Whitley – Spanish Harlem Incident (2000)
9. Mary Lou Lord – You”re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go (2002)
10. Cowboy Junkies – If You Gotta Go, Go Now (1992)
11. Moon Martin – Stuck Inside Of Mobile (With The Memphis Blues Again) (1993)
12. George Harrison – If Not For You (1970)
13. The Youngbloods – I Shall Be Released (1972)
14. Waylon Jennings – I Don”t Believe You (1970)
15. The Four Seasons – Queen Jane Approximately (1965)
16. Staple Singers – Masters Of War (1964)
17. Gordon Lightfoot – Just Like Tom Thumb”s Blues (1965)
18. Tina Turner – Tonight I”ll Be Staying Here With You (1974)
19. The O”Jays – Emotionally Yours (Gospel Version) (1981)
20. The Angels Of Light – I Pity The Poor Immigrant (2005)

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Any Major Bob Dylan Covers Vol. 2

December 1st, 2016 18 comments

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Only a few weeks after I posted the Any Major Dylan Covers Vol. 1 Mix, the Nobel committee announced the Bobster as this year”s literature laureate. Coincidence? I doubt it. The only logical conclusion we can draw is that the folks at Nobel HQ is Stockholm are keen readers of Any Major Dude With Half A Heart, and that my mix persuaded them to give Dylan the gong. Bob, it seems, does not really want the award, and he is unlikely to thank me for my part in his Nobel Prize award. If only I could please everybody…

Anyhow, the first mix attracted a fair number of comments. Some of them addressed one of the great debates in pop history: is Bob Dylan”s voice an instrument of art or is it a punishing aural assault? It”s the kind of question that provokes internecine warfare even between Dylan fans.

My view? I think Dylan”s voice is, in itself, quite unpleasant. In most other artists, that nasal whine might be considered objectively offensive “” even Trump supporters, who enthusiastically embrace the objectively offensive, would find it offensive. His lower register on the country-flavoured albums “” on songs like Lay Lady Lay and Just Like A Woman “” is more tolerable, but you”d be hard-pressed call it beautiful.

But the tone of his voice, however you perceive it, is not really important. Indeed, one can acquire a taste for it, just as people acquire a taste for things as revolting as tequila, broccoli or mayonnaise. What is important is how Bob Dylan uses that voice. At his best, Dylan doesn”t so much sing his songs as he inhabits them “” and that is the mark of a great singer. In so many of his songs, his vocals not only drive the narrative, but they are a character in it.

That works best when Dylan has a stake in the songs he sings. There are very few singers who can spit venom quite as Dylan. In Hurricane, that anger is on the verge of boiling over; but this is not just anger. With his delivery, with the encunciation of single syllables, he also communicates an utter contempt for the system which he is singing about. The effect is devastating; no other singer could do Hurricane to such great effect as Dylan does it. What does it matter that his voice isn”t lovely? Likewise, the menacing derision for the subjects of his contempt which he conveys in his vocals on mean-spirited songs like Positively 4th Street, Ballad of A Thin Man or Like A Rolling Stone hits you in the gut. Not many singers can do that.

dylan1-photocopy

Dylan might have an ugly voice, but he has an extraordinary way of delivery “” especially, as I”ve said, when he is invested in the words he is singing (which might explain why few of his covers of other people”s music are particularly outstanding). To be sure, there are also many Dylan songs which are immeasurably improved by cover versions.

One such song is All I Really Want To Do, from Dylan”s 1964 LP Another Side of Bob Dylan. I really like Dylan”s version, especially the idea of a songwriter laughing at his own lyrics. But in The Byrds” version, a comprehensive reinvention, the song becomes a thing of special beauty. As does the lovely Every Grain Of Sand, which is okay when sung by Dylan, but sublime in Emmylou Harris” treatment.

And this is the genius of Bob Dylan”s music: as it is with Beatles songs, they can be interpreted and reinvented them to good effect in so many ways. This second collection of Dylan covers testifies to this.

Incidentally, in the first post of Dylan covers I promised three mixes. Clearly, that is not enough. I”m up to five mixes now.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-strummed covers. PW in comments.

1. The Band – When I Paint My Masterpiece (1971)
2. The Byrds – All I Really Want To Do (1965)
3. Simon & Garfunkel – The Times They Are A-Changin” (1964)
4. Nina Simone – Ballad of Hollis Brown (1965)
5. Sam Cooke – Blowin” In The Wind (1964)
6. Solomon Burke – Maggie”s Farm (1965)
7. Billy Preston – She Belongs To Me (1969)
8. The Flying Burrito Brothers – To Ramona (1971)
9. The Hollies – I Want You (1969)
10. The Piccadilly Line – Visions Of Johanna (1967)
11. Arlo Guthrie – When The Ship Comes In (1972)
12. New Riders Of The Purple Sage – You Angel You (1974)
13. Merle Haggard & Willie Nelson – Don”t Think Twice, It”s Alright (2015)
14. John Mellencamp – Farewell, Angelina (1999)
15. Steve Earle & Lucia Micarelli – One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below) (2012)
16. Everly Brothers – Abandoned Love (1985)
17. Thea Gilmore – I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine (2003)
18. Jennifer Warnes – Sign On The Window (1979)
19. Leon Russell – It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry (1971)
20. Joan Baez – One Too Many Mornings (1968)
21. Caravelli Orchestra – Wigwam (1977)

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