Wednesday, January 19, 2011

1000 SONGS DAY 22 - SONG # 42

Day 42 - A Cover Version you like

In the second run of the "30-days song challenge", I have decided to change all "I hate" and the like categories to "I like" (why should I post songs I do not like?). The easiest way to change "A Song from a Band I Hate" seems to be to feature a good cover version of a song that in the original version does not sound that good (as I have already tried to do in the first run, when posting a fine cover - done by a cool guy - of a song by a band I do not like that much). In a way, there is no real cover-version of the song featured here, since none of the performers has actually written the song. The song would best be described as a "murder-ballad", but it is too highly (or: deeply) orchestrated in the original recording to be called a "ballad". And the version that I want to present here is also not a ballad, it is simply a great performance of a song you would not like but are afraid of that you like (so it is something like "a song I like and dare not to tell anyone".)
DELILAH was written by Les Reed, with lyrics by Barry Mason and originally recorded by Tom Jones in 1968. The welsh guy did his normally good job in delivering the lyrics with his powerful, brilliant voice. But the scots stroke back, Alex Harvey (1935-1982), born in Glasgow, - (like his brother, Les Harvey (1945-1972), who was the guitarist of Stone the Crows and died during a live performance after having touched an unearthed microphone with his wet fingers) - did the best version, in my humble opinion, His Sensational Alex Harvey Band played it as a circus-song, and that gives us the best of both worlds: in a way, they stick to the pathos of the song - a deceived lover killing his beloved - but, very obviously, they ridicule it (but we never really know). I think, this is a great performance, because the band does a somewhat simply arranged version and uses the room set free by that simplicity of the music to do some mocking commentaries on the subject (in a way, they deconstruct the song).

In contradistinction, the recording featuring Tom Jones drowns the simplicity of the song in an orchestral arrangement that leaves no space for reflecting on the possible absurdity of the situation (he could just have left the woman, why should he kill her, she loves another, let her go…). Altough, after having listened to the Alex Harvey version, we cannot take the Tom Jones rendering seriously, we cannot listen to it without thinking it could be irony, can we?

And we cannot consider the German version to be an earnest attempt at delivering a murder ballad. It is done by the Austrian singer Peter Alexander, who was proficient in that time (the late 60ies) in doing German versions of British hits.

One man that has written some murder ballads in a convincing style, is the Australian singer/songwriter Nick Cave, who has done a cover version of one Alex Harvey song on the Bad Seeds' "Kicking against the Pricks" (an album merely featuring cover versions), "The Hammer Song", not to be confused with Nick's own song of the same name from the album "´The Good Son"


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