Friday, February 29, 2008

Music Thread #2: Nobody Does It Better

...than ______?

Go at it in the comments and nominate your favorite "covers" or "versions" of songs.

I will stir the pot first by saying that I think the best version of Superstar is NOT Sonic Youth's, but Luther Vandross'. Oh sure, The Carpenter's is appropriately campy with plaintive female vocals on "don't you remember you told me baby," but Luther just takes it to the next level, with his drawn out smooth stylings, and the beginning of the song is just the most super dramatic, crazy thing ever. It is my nomination for best cover of Superstar.

I really hate The Honeydrippers' version of The Sea of Love, but I love the Phil Phillips' original. It is so awesomely doo-woppy. But yes, Juno bandwagoners, Cat Power's three albums are nearly perfect, and I love love love her version of The Sea of Love, which sounds like a girl in the cafe's plea to the boy in the striped sweater.

Nothing beats Nat King Cole's Unforgettable, so don't even try, but I have to say, his version of The Autumn Leaves is not as good as Edith Piaf's, although it is certainly the best male interpretation. But the brittle Little Sparrow sings it with such heartbreak, and obviously her French is better.

Speaking of the French, they make up far too much of the Great American Songbook. Beyond The Sea = La Mer. Of course, Charles Trenet does La Mer best with his simple, boyishly Gallic vocals, while Bobby Darrin does it with spectacle and excess (as all good Americans do) in Beyond The Sea. And Que Reste til de Nos Amours (also by Trenet, very sweet and with this-shy-of-childhood bittersweet awareness) = I Wish You Love, the best version of which is by Rachael Yamagata.

There are always too many versions of songs (I often have to choose between which crooner or which jazz lady I like best for a song, and it's always between Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughn, and Billie Holiday), but what is most interesting is when they cross genres. Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye (Eddy Arnold vs. The Casinos). You Don't Know Me (Eddy Arnold v. Too Many People). You Belong To Me (Patsy Cline does an awesome version!). Country crosses with rock and pop pretty easily, but it's always a lovely juxtapositoin when I hear two versions of the same song that sound totally different depending on the vocals and arrangement. Some songs work better in certain genres. Even though I've heard so many versions of Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye in the country genre, I will say boldly that The Casino's version is the best. 1950s' doo-wop just serves the song better--country-style makes it too sad, doo wop makes it sweet and pleading.

Anyway, that's all for now from me. Tell me your favorite versions and which genres suit which songs best!