Under Cover

Welcome back one and all.
A long time ago, in the greater Atlanta GA area, there was a decent rock station. The Project 96.1 was the only station worth listening to if you’re a rock fan. On that station was a daily show called “Under the covers with Ally“. It was a fun show that – not shockingly – featured cover versions to various songs. I miss that station and that show, so in honor of the fun times, and following the Foo Fighters week-long residency at the Letterman show, I present to you my top ten favorite rock covers. Not a “best ever”. Taste is taste and all that.

10. My Way – Sid Vicious (Covering Frank Sinatra)

Talk about doing things “my way”. The Sex Pistols were all about kicking at the establishment, and Vicious in this solo endeavor was taking a shot at one of the more prominent faces of the establishment. The complete opposite of the spirit of the original performance, this piece is a great example of taking a song away from its cozy familiarity and owning the shit out of it.

9. Black Magic Woman – Santana (Covering Fleetwood Mac)

You know the famous “That moment when…” memes? That moment you realize this is a cover song… Nothing wrong with the original, of course, but Santana sinks the Latin rock teeth into this one and making it his own. My favorite Santana song is not even a Santana song…

8. Me and Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin (Covering Kris Kristofferson)

Another holy shit moment, when you realize that’s a cover. Never say never and all that aside, how can anyone top this? Bobby became synonymous with Joplin. I have to attribute the mental association of this song with Janis to the voice. It seems today that it can only work this way. Go ahead, try singing it any other way.

7. Mama Kin – Guns N’ Roses (Covering Aerosmith)

Joe Perry is a fantastic guitar player, and Steven Tyler doesn’t need my approval for being one of the best vocalists of all time. So why does this song sound so much better when GNR does it? I’ll have to pen it down for the machine like, full-bodied rock n roll work of the guns. There was always something more complete about them.

6. Hard To Handle – Black Crowes (Covering Otis Redding)

I’m not making a judgement call here, but the crowes did a fantastic work keeping the soulfulness of this song while making it sound new. Personally I think that was the best Black Crowes ever.

5. Baba O’riley – Pearl Jam (Covering The Who)

The who (read: Townshend) were always about the production. That was the greatness of songs like Baba. PJ just rips through this song and that’s their magic. The raw energy that only bands of this magnitude and attitude generate make this one of (if not THE) most fun covers to watch live (which I have :))

4. Have A Cigar – Foo Fighters (Covering Pink Floyd)

Talk about raw energy and fun. The Foos have a body of original work, enough to run 5 or 6 hour shows, but are always happy to throw in a cover or two every night. It’s about the respect they have for artists such as Pink Floyd. Tyler and Dave switch spots and while Dave goes wild on the drums, Tyler screams the hell out of this one, doing his Sid Vicious to Floyd’s Sinatra.

3. Bad Company – Five Finger Death Punch (Covering Bad Company)

A fantastic example (much like the aforementioned Black Crowes rendition of Hard to handle) of updating a song. FFDP didn’t re-invent the wheel here. What they did was apply their contemporary spin to the main riffs and crank up the volume. I can play this one on a loop.

2. Turn The Page – Metallica (Covering Bob Seger)

One of those songs that when you hear the original you kinda think ‘You would’ve done it like they did’. Another classic example of taking the original, and simply taking it a step (or 5) further in terms of intensity and volume.

1. The Man Who Sold The World – Nirvana (Covering David Bowie)

Nirvana Unplugged was cover heavy. We talked about how wise that decision was before. Every cover on this performance was so good it became difficult to think of it as a cover. At the end of this track on the CD, you can hear Kurt say “This is a David Bowie song”. Now back then, you’d think ‘No shit, Kurt. Of course it is’. But these days, when kids might not even know who Bowie is (it’s a sad sad world…) this clarification is needed, as it sounds so Nirvana-ish, so Kurt Cobain-y that it’s hard to even think of it as a cover.

Listen to the covers in the playlist below, and don’t forget to find the originals too!

Until next time, feel free to like, comment and share 🙂
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Overdue Respect

Hi all and welcome back to my corner of the web.

Apologies for the recent slump. It’s due to some technical issues that are still ongoing (but being worked) as well as the flu. While I’m still not out of the woods on either front, I’m well enough to share a thought with you.

What’s on tap for today? Today is about a new-found respect.

You may have noticed that about me, but I do have the tendency to focus on a fairly narrow spectrum of interests at any given time. When put together, I’d like to think I found interest in a very wide variety, but my attention cannot be spread too thin, otherwise I feel I may let some things slip by…

The problem is, that while I try to avoid it, a few things definitely slip by or in the worst case scenario, I might even lose interest, or get “the wrong impression” of these.

What am I on about? I’d like to share just a few examples of artists I learned to like, or at the very least respect a lot more than I did in the past:

Chris Cornell:

For some odd reason, whether it was personal preference at a given time or god knows what, during the whole Seattle revolution I was (as usual) focused on a select few. Nirvana unsurprisingly being my main interest, followed closely by Pearl Jam and Alice in chains. Soundgarden was not. It just didn’t catch my ear at the time and when it did, more than a decade later, it coincided with a few things.

First was Audioslave. A band I knew nothing about but still managed to really like their music very much. Funny, at an older age, I care way less about “Who plays the bass for this band?” and more about listening to the actual songs. So when I later learned from a friend that this was Cornell’s project, I was pleasantly surprised.

The second thing that happened was PJ20 – Pearl Jam’s film in which (for obvious reasons), Chris Cornell played a pretty important role.

Two pieces of perspective were given in that regard. One is that the “Seattle scene” was in my humble view the most supportive, inspiring of all recent ones. Where bands work with each other, rather than compete with each other. Where collaboration and mutual artistic feedback were the bread and butter. The second observation was that Cornell was one of (if not THE most) the more influential/involved figures.

So yes, I found new respect for Chris Cornell. Rock on Chris!

R.E.M:

What can I say? When all the shiny happy people held their hands, I was Welcoming people to the Jungle and Seeking & Destroying most of the time 🙂 I didn’t have time for their music. I was also younger. So much for excuses.

When I grew up just a tad more, I softened enough to at least recognize that while I may not like some of their work, I could find things to respect them for. If nothing else, we’re talking about superb lyrics and really good melodies (for the most part :)).

Stipe has always struck me as a true artist, a feeling that was affirmed further in his touching speech when he inducted Nirvana into the rock and roll hall of fame.

Depeche Mode:

I never did like music that was heavily synthesized. I always preferred the Singer-Guitar-Bass-Drum set up. All of which actual instruments rather than an electronic representation. When I was younger, I obviously took that to the extreme by ignoring a lot of the bands that were heavily using this technology.

Again, I have to attribute this to age (See, there are advantages to getting old…), but while I still have the same preferences as I did in the past, I can appreciate and enjoy other things. Many “New Wave” bands (as is the case with any genre) are still of little to no interest to me, but Depeche Mode just have it just right. The right singer, the right creative forces. And good music.

 Tom Petty:

This one is a pure case of me being busy catching up with other artists, completely ignoring others. When I did give him a minute, it was the “Don’t come around here no more” video, which to this day is my least favorite song… So I let Tom slip by and only when I watched the making of “Damn the torpedoes” and a great Foo Fighter cover of “Breakdown” did I finally “get it”.

Suffice to say that Tom Petty was likely the biggest, most significant artist that slipped by my attention deficient ears…

Who will I write about in 10 years? Who’s slipping by me these days? Muse won’t 🙂

  • Who went under your radar?
  • Who changed your mind?

Until next time,

Expectations Vs. Performance (Biggest Rock Concerts)

Welcome back everyone, to another “Special”!

I hope you all love music. You may not have the same taste in music as mine, but I know that this is relevant to all concert going folks. What I’m going to do here is a little breakdown of the 10 biggest concerts I attended and focus on my expectations going in versus the general feeling I had on my way back to the car/bus/train.

I don’t know about you, but I buy tickets ahead of time and spend the following days or weeks until the concert developing some expectations. Especially when it comes to artists I see for the first time.

I can’t say I suffered in any of these of course, and everything in life is relative. But there were some let downs, some shows that hit the spot and some that exceeded expectations.

The shows are not ordered by how good or bad they were, and there’s a lot of weight put into the overall placement to the significance of said artist to me personally.

With that, let me walk you through some fun times!

All Set lists taken from the great setlist.fm, a great resource for people of my age.

Bob Dylan

Location Beer Sheva, Israel
Date June 19th, 1993
Expectation 10
Performance 6

The show:

I don’t really need to explain why I expected 10 from arguably the most influential singer of modern history, right? But that was a lesson one learns only when one goes out and experience.

The show wasn’t bad, as much as I was young, drunk and not familiar with the full scope of work of Bob Dylan, nor with his tendency to do things perhaps for different reasons, other than pure entertainment.

The reason I left that concert deflated was mostly my unrealistic expectation to hear a stream of songs (not least of which – Joey) tailored to my personal preference. As I said…young and drunk.

Setlist:

BobDylan_Israel__Jun_19_1993

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Location Ottawa, On, Canada
Date May 12th, 2003
Expectation 9
Performance 6

The show:

Ok, so in this case I was absolutely ready for the show! Or was I?…

I fell in love with the peppers a long time before I saw them. Mostly because I lived in Israel and didn’t have the opportunity to see them live. What I did see, were videos from concerts that aired on MTV and other outlets. With that in mind, I was sure I’m going to get treated to a crazy Flea fest, kiedis 101, the whole 9 yards.

Instead, the band was relatively “tame”… In fact, the only member who remained as I remembered him was John Frusciante. But again, Just look at this set list. For 2003, I can’t complain. I had tons of fun! Added bonus – Warm up show was Queens of the stone age! (On the ticket was printed the next sentence “Dave Grohl will not be playing with Queens of the stone age”).

Setlist:

RHCP_Ottawa_May_12_2003

Neil Young

Location Kaesarya, Israel
Date August 23rd, 1995
Expectation 9
Performance 7

The show:

Neil Young is another (if not THE) one of these guys who perform not only for entertainment (See Dylan, Bob). At that time in my life I was really – and still am – a Harvest/Harvest moon type of guy. Again, I did not suffer one bit. Hell, Neil F’ing Young AND Pearl Jam in one night? It was a little short and kind of weird at times (Israel is not an easy place for artists of this magnitude to perform in), but that’s Neil Young for ya’ – Keep on rocking in the free world!

Setlist:

 NeilYoung_Israel_Aug_23_1995

Aerosmith

Location Tel Aviv, Israel
Date July 12th, 1994
Expectation 8
Performance 7

The show:

For me, Aerosmith was always a fun band to listen to. Groovy, not too complicated and… Steven Tyler, like, duh? J

With that in mind, I came there expecting to have fun and fun I had. The only thing this concert lacked a little was a great crowd… Not the band’s fault.

Setlist:

Aerosmith_Israel_July_12_1994

Guns N’ Roses

Location Tel Aviv, Israel
Date May 22nd, 1993
Expectation 9
Performance 7

The show:

I was a BIG Guns N’ Roses fan and to this day I believe that an ensemble of musicians such as this one is very unique. It was a well-oiled, mean, lean, Rock machine with a set list that simply could not go wrong. I loved each GNR song bar none.

Axl brought his A game (read: showed up), Slash was his awesome self and played Hava Nagilah.

Two things stood between this concert and perfection. One was a terrible sound system… I’m not sure you can even imagine how frustrating listening to Slash’s solos as they fed through these bush league speakers could be… The second was again, a crowd which included some violent guys in the front rows. At one point, Axl had to run for cover and the show was interrupted for a public request to stop throwing bottles at the stage??!!?

Setlist:

GunsNRoses_Israel_May_22_1993

Green Day

Location Alpharetta, GA, USA
Date August 10th, 2010
Expectation 7
Performance 9

The show:

On the day of the show, I wasn’t even aware it was. When a friend tried to convince me to go, I said I didn’t really know many Green Day songs and didn’t feel like standing around just to hear Minority and go to sleep. My friend said something that proved to be surprisingly true. “You don’t realize just how many Green Day songs you actually know”.

You know what? I went and really loved that show. It really exceeded my expectations and the only reason it’s not at the top of the list is that Green Day, while being loads of fun, are not at the top in terms of significance to me personally.

Setlist:

GreenDay_Alpharetta_Aug_10_2010

Pearl Jam

Location Atlanta, GA, USA
Date September 22nd, 2012
Expectation 9
Performance 9

The show:

Pearl Jam were some of my heroes back in the day… Yes, I’m afraid I’m one of those guys. You know, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in chains, etc. With that in mind, I did not particularly like each and every album Eddie and Co. produced in later years. However, one does not simply not go to a Pearl Jam concert when one is presented with an opportunity.

Pearl Jam however knows what many of the fans want and they deliver. They will play whatever they want, but they will always remember that the fans will not be happy without “the old stuff”. So what you get is a mix, just right for you to go home and still hum Black or Even Flow.

Setlist:

PearlJam_Atlanta_Sep_22_2012

Metallica

Location Tel Aviv, Israel
Date June 30th, 1993
Expectation 10
Performance 10

The show:

I saw Metallica three times. They rocked each time. So I’ll focus on the first, where the expectations couldn’t possibly be higher.

Just to give you an idea how much I waited for this one, had my commander in the army not let me go out on a Wednesday (nearly unheard of), I would have gone AWOL. My buddy came to fetch me, took me all the way back to my parent’s place so I could lock my weapon away and sped up to Tel Aviv to catch the show. The sound system (See GNR) was much better. The band tore through many major milestones. It was Jason newsted on bass. It was perfect!

Setlist:

Metallica_Israel_Jun_30_1993

Foo Fighters

Location Duluth, GA, USA
Date November 7th, 2011
Expectation 10
Performance 10

The show:

I also saw Foo Fighters three times, only for this I will pick that third time. It was their ‘Wasting Light’ tour and having seen them as they grew, I knew this was supposed to be the best Foo Fighters show ever.

The Foo Fighters are a band who lives to play music. You don’t need ‘Back and Forth’ or ‘Sound City’ to know that. But watch these anyway.

I had zero concerns about getting disappointed and as expected, the show absolutely rocked! Songs choice, performance, Dave Grohl… Well, you know how I feel about that. Don’t ever miss an opportunity to see these guys live.

Setlist:

FF_Duluth_Nov_7_2011

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band

Location Ottawa, ON, Canada
Date April 18th, 2003
Expectation 10
Performance 11

The show:

I saw Bruce and the E Street band twice (and have a ticket for the third as we speak). Bruce Springsteen (As discussed before on this very blog) is the reason I love music. The reason I love Rock and Roll. A man (with a band) I never thought I’d get a chance to see live. I saw so many taped performances through the years that when I held that ticket, my expectations didn’t go through the roof. They went all the way up to music heaven.

Now, there was no way, Bruce could have disappointed me. Really, All he had to do was show up and say “Hello Ottawa”. Well, he did a hell of a lot more than that.

Playing the crowd like a conductor. Starting with the prayer of ‘The Rising’, the reflections of ‘Lonesome Day’ and ‘No Surrender’ then lifting it up with ‘Proove it all night’ before slowing down for the deeper songs from the rising album and once the crowd was in his palm, he declares “Let’s have a party” and takes us on a 2 plus hours (concluding in possibly 3.5~4) of a joy ride only the boss and his fantastic band can give.

Best.Show.Ever

(At least until the next one)

Setlist:

Bruce_Ottawa_Apr_18_2003

Here’s how they compare (In Expectation Vs. Performance only). They were all good!

Graph

That’s all for today folks. I hope that (at least) met your expectations 🙂

Feel free to share your experiences right here.

Until next time,

Another Brick In The Wall (Burning Bridges)

An open letter to Mr. Roger Waters.

Dear Mr. Rogers,

I don’t know you personally, but growing up I was a big Pink Floyd fan. I think that The Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, Atom Heart Mother are simply artistic masterpieces and that no musical education is complete without them. Even though, I think The Wall is not on the same level as the aforementioned albums, I still believe it’s an important piece of musical history. It’s actually a corner stone in terms of artistic statement.

As a teenager, I listened to The Wall countless times and have watched the film again and again, finding new nuances every time. I admit  that the effective use of symbolism affected me and helped shape the young individual I later became.

It may have been my misconception, but I did view you as a person who looked past the obvious, a person who didn’t look at a group of individuals as a “crowd” but just as a group of individuals. A man who did not judge a book by its cover. A supporter of democracy and freedom of speech, freedom of expression. Sensitive to human rights.

I forgot to mention, Mr. Waters, that I was born and raised in Israel, in a perfectly normative family and attended the public school system, which is the mainstream in my homeland.

That is why I was so surprised to learn that you spend quite a bit of energy to promote a boycott of my country. That’s why I was shocked to read that you’d attack fellow artists for their connections with Israel. This is why I was so disappointed to see a hero of mine, judging our book by its apparent cover. I was rather appalled by the use of symbolism you chose for a Berlin show of The Wall, where a floating pig had the star of David printed on it. Just to give you an idea – the star of David is not the symbol of the state of Israel. It is the symbol of the Jewish religion. So by presenting it the way you did, you (unintentionally, I will wish) did something rather unfortunate.

I will not try to convince you that you’re pointing a finger at the only democracy in the region. Nor would I try to ask why you would want to harm a country of more than 7 million people just because you read about a few radical individuals, who are considered as radicals by most of the country. I wouldn’t even venture to go into the “who’s right” debate. First, because I have criticism of my own to my government and second, I don’t believe I’ve seen one example where arguments over the internet did any good.

All I want to say, Mr. Waters is that you of all people, should be the last one to demand that other artists do not pursue their happiness and careers.

Neil Young played a fantastic concert with the members of Pearl Jam in Israel. I was there. I didn’t hear Neil justify any deed done by any government. Nor did the members of Pearl Jam jump up and down covered in the blue and white flag. They came to play music for people, to make them happy. And if you read Neil Young’s lyrics, you know what they say. You know the topics.

Scarlett Johansson is not “undeniably cute”. She is a fantastic and acclaimed actress with her own mind. I don’t know why you would jump at her and demand she stops a business connection she has with a factory that employs both Jews and Arabs.

Ok, I’ll give you that. She is rather “cute”. I even dedicated a post here to her (With all due respect).

In other words Mr. Waters, I think that your intents are pure (I don’t know you personally, so I will not put word in your mouth), but the actions you take are not constructive. You want to build bridges for peace, but you alienate people and cause the chasm between them to grow bigger. Because that’s what boycott does.

In this little humble spot of the internet, I try to send positive messages. So let me reach out to you and say – Let’s build bridges for peace. Not burn them. Let’s work together, and realize that we are not our governments. The people want peace. The people want to live and let live. So rather than punish them, how about you do the opposite?

How about a monumental “The Wall” concert in the region? You Mr. Waters and (if the gods are listening) the rest of the legendary Pink Floyd, performing to a crowd of Israelis and Palestinians and helping mend the wounds of this conflict.

Sincerely yours,

Gil Shalev

Point Of View

Hello and welcome back to my humble meta-world.
I apologize for the long break since the last post. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to write, quite the opposite… I had tons of writing to do on my novel…Plus I’m still a little sick. And I can throw in a couple of less convincing excuses if you twist my arm 😉 But last night, as I was unable to sleep, I watched the Pearl Jam Twenty movie (It’s on Netflix people! – No excuses not to watch!) Continue reading