Tag Archive for 'Beatles'

Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Dub Band

When you hear the word “cover” what comes to mind? Is it a wedding band singing crowd favorites to fill a dance floor? Is it bad karaoke? One of the more unique ways to cover a song is, of course, to recreate it in a different genre. Think Johnny Cash‘s gorgeous rendition of the NIN classic “Hurt”, the tongue-in-cheek folk-rock cover of “Boyz in da Hood” by Dynamite Hack, or even The Fray‘s cover of Kanye West‘s “Heartless” (or American Idol winner Kris Allen’s version for that matter.) Sometimes, the cover song ends up being better or more popular than the original. Just look at this list of greatest cover songs and you’ll probably be surprised at how many of the covers you thought were the originals!

Well, what if you take not just one song, but rather an entire album and recreate it in a different genre? That is precisely what Easy Star Records has been up to. Take a look:

As mentioned above, in 2003 the Easy Star All-Stars released Dub Side of the Moon, a reggae tribute to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. It went on to become one of the most successful reggae albums of the 21st century and spent over 5 years on Billboard’s Top Reggae Chart. As if that wasn’t enough, they then tackled Radiohead’s OK Computer, putting out RadioDread, which spent 18 months on that same chart (and apparently earned some accolades from Radiohead themselves.) Notice anything that those two classic albums have in common? They are both considered (by some) to be concept albums.

Producer Michael Goldwasser, the musical wizard behind much of the All-Star magic says “We’ve focused on re-envisioning concept albums as reggae and it’s really important that the source material works as a whole and is not just a collection of songs. So, what better to take on next than the mother of all concept albums?” He was referring to the one and only Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. If it’s been a while, here’s an interesting breakdown of the songs. And for the real fanatics among you, a little album art history.

Obviously it takes balls to cover the Beatles, let alone the album considered to be one of the most influential and greatest albums of all time. And yet, in April of 2009, the All-Star’s put out Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band. The album features a number of reggae and dub greats including Steel Pulse, Matisyahu, Luciano, and Steel Pulse, along with the usual suspects – the usual suspects being a collection of some of the finest reggae musicians in the New York area.

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What immediately stands out about this album, upon first listen, is how accurately they were able to preserve the vibe of each song. Though each song has been deftly crafted into a vibrant new reggae interpretation of its original, you can almost picture the Beatles nodding their heads in approval in the background because the emotion is the same.

Noteworthy tracks:

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – Frankie Paul’s haunting vocals and the psychedelic guitar and effects stand out, deliciously juxtaposed against the mellow dubbed out percussion and keys, giving this track a certain irresistible je ne sais quoi.

She’s Leaving Home – Singer Kirsty Rock’s mellifluous voice soars delicately above the more upbeat ska-infused high hat and brass section. The reggae style keys come and go, a couple of interesting instrumental breakdowns happen unexpectedly and overall the listener is left constantly wondering what’s next.

This album is unique to say the least. Check it out. And while you’re at it, follow the All-Stars on Twitter.

Odes to Rain

It’s been raining and freezing here in San Francisco, and that got me thinking about the emotional effects weather can have on people. Some feel refreshed and invigorated after running in the rain, some curl up by the fireplace and read a book, some whine about bad drivers and wet socks…

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Weather – and rain specifically – has surely inspired more than a few artists to write music. Let’s get nostalgic and take a look at some odes to rain from years gone by.

Gene Kelly – “Singin’ in the Rain”

Beatles – “Rain”

Dinah Washington – “September in the Rain”

CCR – “Who’ll Stop the Rain”

Led Zeppelin¬† – “The Rain Song”

Milli Vanilli – “Blame it on the Rain”

Madonna – “Rain”

Missy Elliot – “The Rain”

Blind Melon = “No Rain”

And of course, one of YouTube’s own celebrities…

Tay Zonday – “Chocolate Rain”

Got any others? Leave a comment.

What I'm Hearing, Vol. 1

How do you organize yourself and your music listening when you add somewhere between 50 and 150 songs, MixMatchMusic style, to your collection every month? That was the issue confronting me at the beginning of this year as I reflected on 2007 and saw that sometimes my iPod updates and music purchases (yes, I still purchase music) were erratic and not organized to the best possible use. With that in mind, I concocted a new system this year. As I add songs throughout a month to the library, they stay there. At the end of the month, I organize several playlists…album specific lists that are titled “A: Artist-Album,” and an overall update titled “A: Month Update” that includes all songs added since the last update. Then, at some point during the month, the new playlists go onto the iPod, and the old ones are retitled “B:” which keeps the newest stuff at the top of the playlist while also retaining the older updates further down the line.

As it isn’t always possible to do an album review for every one I pick up, and I get some amazing music in the course of a month, I’ve decided it might be beneficial and fun for all if I start a monthly post, “What I’m Hearing,” glossing over and talking about some of the music I’ve been listening to that’s good for your ears. With that in mind, here’s some information about the April iPod Update…

First, I should start by saying that the 80s revival that has been bubbling up for a while now is most decidedly here. I’ve noticed, for the past 8 months or so, a steady and heavy influence of 80s synths, drums and instrumentation coming back to the music scene. And in the past 4 months, I’ve heard an increasing number of groups picking up different styles from the 80s and tweaking them just enough to retain that wistful electronic feel of some of the better songs of the era while omitting some of the more foolish and unlistenable aspects of the original genre.

The Beatles, Let It Be: Sure, it’s an old album, and granted most people think of The Beatles now as that quaint collection they have in their library but rarely get into anymore, but delving back into this late album of the most influential band in history (yes, you read that right), offers quite a few gems that have matured over the years. For a while I thought of Let It Be as the weaker younger brother of the other albums, notably Revolver, Abbey Road and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But hearing these original songs again after so many remakes of most of them (see the I Am Sam soundtrack, Pleasantville soundtrack and others) gives them a fresh perspective. The simplicity of the songwriting meshes perfectly with a group obviously quite comfortable with their musical abilities at this point in their careers. Don’t Sleep On: “I Me Mine,” “Dig a Pony,” and “Two of Us.”

The Helio Sequence, Keep Your Eyes Ahead: This group out of Oregon weaves an electronic feel into songs that delve into Indie and singer/songwriter varieties. On their fourth album, following the near destruction of the lead singer’s vocal chords which prompted him to take time off recording and re-teach himself to sing, the group brings a number of simple and melancholy songs in the style of Simon and Garfunkel and Bob Dylan interspersed with slightly heavier sounds that would have been right at home on the FM airwaves of the mid-80s. Don’t Sleep On: “Hallelujah,” “Broken Afternoon,” and “The Captive Mind.”

Groove Armada, Soundboy Rock: Andy Cato and Tom Findlay sure like to keep us waiting. Released last year, Soundboy Rock was the first full album since 2002′s LoveBox. What I find interesting about dance music, especially full out dance records like this one, is the lag time sometimes associated with it. It’s not like a pop, rap or rock album that hits the radio airwaves, goes viral, makes the summer BBQ playlists and then disappears. More often, solo tracks will gradually seep through the cracks, slowly filtering from listener to listener. While I can’t say I’m a fan of this entire album, some of the songs are just pure energy. Don’t Sleep On: “Soundboy Rock,” “The Things That We Could Share,” and “Love Sweet Sound.”

M83, Saturdays=Youth: For M83′s 5th album, the soundscapes and emotionally taxing lyrics are as blunt as ever. Drifting piano melodies reminiscent of NIN’s Fragile album, eerie synth work that could support the Blade Runner or Risky Business soundtracks and sometimes wailing guitars provide the backdrop for the spoken and lightly sung lyrics of this shoegazing style album. While it’s out there enough to sound fresh, the songs are unmistakably M83, which I wouldn’t recommend for long drives after dark. Don’t Sleep On: “Couleurs,” “We Own the Sky,” and “You Appearing.”

American Princes, Other People: Sometimes, fantastic bands don’t always show up when and how you expect. This group managed to get 3 albums out before I heard of them. While that makes it impossible to compare Other People to their previous work, what you can compare it to is the rest of the current musical landscape. American Princes does an almost unbelievable job of mixing sounds and genres from Police to Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bravery to U2, Reggae to easy pop, this album covers it all in a spectrum that allows every song to create a different feeling. An incredible album all the way through with a great depth of lyrical emotion and musical intensity. Don’t Sleep On: “Real Love,” “Wasted Year,” “Watch As They Go,” and “Son of California.”

Cut Copy, In Ghost Colours: Australian Cut Copy’s sophomore release is a show-stopper, and in my mind, Other People and In Ghost Colours rule the roost of this particular iPod update. This album has it all, from instrumental wall-of-sound interludes to full out 80s new wave dance songs. The ambient chill sounds of some tracks help to artfully balance the bursting energy of others. This group is an excellent example of what can come of taking the best portions of 80s music and stripping away the garbage. Don’t Sleep On: “Strangers in the Wind,” “Hearts on Fire,” and “Far Away.”