Saturday, November 18, 2017

Who's That? Behind Blue Eyes

As we close out our second week special, “Who’s That?,” we leave you with a cover of one of my favorite songs by The Who: “Behind Blue Eyes.” Who am I kidding? I like most of The Who’s songs. Pete Townshend began writing the song after being tempted by a groupie. Having the strength to resist, he began by writing the song’s bridge:

When my fist clenches, crack it open
Before I use it and lose my cool;
When I smile, tell me some bad news,
Before I laugh and act like a fool.
And If I swallow anything evil,
Put your finger down my throat;
And If I shiver, please give me a blanket.
Keep me warm, let me wear your coat.

“Behind Blue Eyes” was the second single “Who’s Next” and peaked in the US at #34.

Today’s cover comes from a Dutch symphonic metal band, “Within Temptation,” and features Sharon den Adel on lead vocals. The lyrics were changed to match a female protagonist. To celebrate their 15th anniversary in 2012, Within Temptation recorded 15 cover songs for Belgian radio station Q-Music.

During the following year, the band released 11 of these songs from the session on a CD, as “The Q-Music Sessions.” “Behind Blue Eyes” made the cut for one of the inclusions. It was not, however, released as a single. In my opinion, Within Temptation’s rendition is one of the better covers of this Who classic.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Who's That? Squeeze Box

In 1975, The Who issued their seventh studio LP, “The Who by Numbers.” Two singles were subsequently released in the US: “Squeeze Box” and “Slip Kid.” While “Slip Kid” failed to chart in any country except with a dismal showing at #72 in France, “Squeeze Box” did much better with a showing at #16 in the US, #10 in the UK, and at number one in Canada. Pete Townshend really shows his talents on guitar, piano, banjo, and squeeze box. Specifically, I love his guitar and banjo work on this number.

Fast forward to London in 1997 and Sheryl Crow pays homage to The Who by performing “Squeeze Box” live. Now Crow is very talented and can play every instrument that Townshend plays (but not as bombastic); however, she chose the accordion as her weapon of choice to attack this Who classic. The band is tight as well with the lead guitar and mandolin being standout instrumentalists.

It is a pity that Crow hasn’t released a studio version of this song.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Who's That? Love, Reign o'er Me

From the 1973 rock opera “Quadrophenia,” The Who’s “Love, Reign o’er Me” remains one of the band’s better-known selections even though the original single peaked at #76 on the Hot 100. The title is a play on words, as Pete Townshend took the inspiration from Meher Baba who believed that rain was a blessing from God. Even the original version opens with the sound of rain and the lyrics reference rain over reign. Perhaps the title indicates that Jimmy, the protagonist of “Quadrophenia,” isn’t beckoning for love to rain on him, but rather he is wanting love to reign over him.

Music critic Mark Deming believed that Roger Daltrey was at the peak of his singing career with the “Quadrophenia” album in general and “Love, Reign o’er Me” in particular. It would be difficult for any vocalist to duplicate Daltry’s performance. Eddie Vedder, however, tried and succeeded with Pearl Jam’s 2007 rendition. While Vedder’s voice is lower than Daltry’s and he often strains to hit the high notes, he reaches his intended goal. His lower timbre gives “Love, Reign o’er Me” a distinctive character.

While the original Who version is referenced in the movie, “Reign over Me,” Pearl Jam’s version plays over the credits. When I saw this movie about post traumatic stress disorder, I automatically realized that it wasn’t The Who, so I waited for and waded through the credits to see who had recreated this classic. Pearl Jam’s version peaked at #32 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Good stuff.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Who's That? Won't Get Fooled Again

Day four of our “Who’s That?” feature with another cover a classic Who song. The original version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” charted in the US at #15, and it was the fourth highest charting Who single in the US, as it was outpaced by “I Can See for Miles,” “See Me, Feel Me,” and “Who Are You.” “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was the final cut on my favorite Who LP, “Who’s Next.”

Today’s cover is by the late Richie Havens from his last album “Nobody Left to Crown.” The album was released in 2008, five years before Havens passed away. It is a slightly slower acoustic version of this classic Who rocker. Stephanie Winters emulates the synthesize on the original during parts of the recording. The song also features Keith Christopher on bass and Shawn Pelton on drums. Richie Havens and Walter Parks are both featured on guitar, Parks also plays some of the original synthesizer parts on his guitar as well. 

Not your typical Who cover, but I think you’ll like Havens’ take on Townshend’s composition. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Who's That: Join Together

Are you ready Steve? Uh-huh. Andy? Yeah. Mick? Okay. Who could forget the immortal beginning to The Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz?” Remember this glam-rock band from the ‘70s . . . well, they’re still out there – well actually two versions of the band. For a while, there was a third edition of The Sweet – all different bands bearing the name and led by a different former member of the original 70s unit.

Of the two versions of The Sweet, one led by Andy Scott is based in the UK and the other under the leadership of Steve Priest is in North America. Today, we’ll discuss Andy Scott’s Sweet and their 2012 rendition of The Who’s classic 1972 single “Join Together.”

Although Sweet’s version of “Join Together” is good, this is a song that would be difficult for any band to duplicate, no matter how talented. Peter Lincoln’s lead vocal is accentuated by Andy Scott’s  excellent guitar work, but I am missing the jaw harps and harmonicas. Andy Scott’s Sweet’s version failed to chart as a single and is found on their self-released “New York Connection” CD. The Who’s original peaked at #17.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Who's That? I Can't Explain

You may remember the name Yvonne Elliman – she had her start singing in the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar. Her first single, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” peaked at #28 in the US; unfortunately, Helen Reddy’s cover outpaced the original in the chart wars. Following her tenure with the rock opera and her first solo career, she joined Eric Clapton’s band as a backup vocalist and appeared on five of his releases in the 1970s. The work with Clapton landed her a contract with RSO Records and Elliman scored a number one record with “If I Can’t Have You.”

In addition, Elliman had several other Top 40 hits such as “Love Me,” “Hello Stranger,” and “Love Pains.” During her earlier solo years, Elliman recorded a cover The Who’s “I Can’t Explain.” While not technically the first Who single, as they recorded Zoot Suit as The High Numbers, “I Can’t Explain” was their first release under their new name.

Chided by The Who’s management to write original music, Pete Townshend locked himself in his room listening for lyrical inspiration from an eclectic group of artists. Instrumentally, however, he was drawn to The Kinks. When you compare “I Can’t Explain” to the early Kinks’ records, you can hear the direct influence.

Although a fantastic rendition of this Who classic, Elliman’s 1973 single failed to chart in the US or the UK. The song was featured on her second solo LP, “Food of Love.” By the way, Pete Townshend plays lead guitar on this track. How great is that? The single and album were released in the UK on Deep Purple’s label: Purple Records. In the US, MCA picked up the option for Elliman as she had been under contract to MCA’s Decca Records for “Jesus Christ Superstar” and her self-titled debut album.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Who's That? I Can See For Miles

It’s no secret that one of my favorite bands is The Who. While I have written about a number of their recordings and covers of the same, I have dedicated this month’s second week’s special to several other artists’ renditions of Who classics under the name of “Who’s That?”

Our first “Who’s That?” tune is one that originally appeared the band’s third album: “The Who Sell Out.” This was the first Who album I owned and “I Can See for Miles” remains one of my favorite cuts. As a single, the tune peaked at #9 in the US. As with many of the CSI franchise using Who songs, “I Can See for Miles” was the theme for CSI-Cyber.

I wanted to buy limited rights of the original recording for a regional TV commercial I was producing back in 2001, but Essex Music and Universal refused my request. Pity, it would have made a great commercial with the music. We went another direction with a song we had written and recorded for the commercial, but “I Could See for Miles” would have been a killer tune the message we were sending.

As for today’s selection, we have a 2014 release by Raul Midón from his CD “Don’t Hesitate.” Midón, who is blind, plays guitar and sings on this cut. The tune was recorded in his home studio that alleviates the need for a separate engineer and allows Midón complete control of the recording process. This is a fantastic rendition and Midón’s acoustic guitar and his strong vocals are powerful enough to do the ultimate justice for this classic.