I figured I'd do a monthly 'what I'm listening to' kind of thing. This could be viewed as a lame placeholder kind of post. And probably it is. But it's my blog! So there!
If you read for content and have a good bit of retention, you might remember that I have a love / hate relationship with cover and / or tribute records.
I'd says 96.4% of the time, they are just bad. Bad song choices by the wrong artist, and a bad arrangement.
As I've said before, if you're using the popular material, chances are you're never going to meet the expectations that drew one to the original artist. The best you can do is make it "interesting". So my thought it counter intuitive to the record execs who would greenlight a project anyways: cover the deeper tracks of said original artist.
Naturally, that won't sell records, but to be honest, no cover disk has ever raked in piles of dough. They're all vanity projects. Not Vanity - though I'm sure someone could (and should!) remake "Pretty Mess".
And you know what won't make a dime? Female artists covering songs by Tom Waits.
Come On Up to the House was released recently. And while not unwelcome, I can pretty much assure you that no one was waiting for this album.
Tom Waits is in the same category as Dylan and Cohen: a great songwriter with a challenging voice. I can honestly say, I have only one Waits disk, and it's soundtrack from Coppala's film, One From the Heart. It's a great disk.
He is a good songwriter and the talent drawn to this record is what piqued my interest: Aimee Mann, Rosanne Cash, Iris DeMent, Patty Griffin, Allison Moorer & Shelby Lynne. That's not sucky talent. There are a few other artists on here I know by name, but not by their actual work, save Corrine Bailey Rae.
The would-be bonus to this is, not many of Waits' songs are widely known. Someone named Courtney Marie Andrews tackles "Downtown Train" - and it falls into the "interesting" category. It's already been covered by Mary Chapin Carpenter, Rod Stewart, Bob Seger, Everything but the Girl, Patty Smyth (minus Scandal), etc. I don't think anyone needed another version of that. The chorus is familiar, I'm not sure Waits wrote any of the notes she sings in the verse.
Ditto with "Ol' 55".
How much would you care to wager that you thought the Eagles wrote that? I'll give it up for them that that group did an admirable job of it and made it their own. Moorer and Lynne (sisters, dontcha know), bring nothing new to this song. They stick with the original arrangement too (but so did Sarah McLachlan when she covered it 20 year ago). It's not a song to fuck around with - as Waits did a fine job the first time.
Cash does a nice job with "Time". The writing scream "Waits", and while she sings his notes, by the time he wrote the song, he wasn't really hitting many of them. Mann's "Hold On" is fairly spot on, but you know - different key, and all.
I am always going to dig an Iris DeMent song. She has a unique take on "House Where Nobody Lives" . While there is nothing on the song to compare side by side vocals, hers couldn't be more different than Waits, but in a way, the longing in that voice achieves something no one else does on the record: evoke the Waits vibe. I get it's not for everyone, but it is a great take on a great song.
Some more interesting takes, but ultimately don't work: "You Can Never Hold Back Spring", and Ruby's Arms. But two interesting takes that do work: "Take it with Me" (Angie McMahon) and "Georgia Lee" (Phoebe Bridges). I don't know either of these two artists, but did enjoy the songs.
The premise for Come on Up to the House is a good one. I always love the premise of disks like these, it's usually the execution that does them in. This fares better than most, but it's never gonna make a dime.