The First Official Release from The Cover Album of the Century
I have a confession to make: there’s days where I get out of bed and think to myself that I do not belong in Point Breeze any more. Most of the people on my block like the young mother that works 3 jobs to raise her son, the Czechoslovakian ballet dancer married to a jet-setting operaman and Dar, the loud but loving former block captain who always had an open door, are gone. Five years ago, when I bought my house, the prospect of the neighborhood changing seemed very appealing. Who doesn’t like the removal of trash-filled vacant lots, stick-up kids, and abandoned homes. Is not the hope of profiting on a new home part of the American dream? Of course it is. Any form of progression in this country is part of the dream. But anybody that truly knows me knows that I thrive in places where the sun don’t shine. Downtrodden places, like Lansdowne, whose prime got lost in the suburban economic shuffle we call a trend.
It’s only suitable that this town provides the backdrop to the first time I hear the War on Drugs cover the Grateful Dead’s biggest commercial hit: ‘Touch of Grey.’ I always hold the War on Drugs synonymous with founding member, Lansdowne native, Kurt Vile just as I always hold an area like Lansdowne synonymous with the classic 80’s Dead song. In the year of a presidential election, the words of the this song ring as true as they did in the 80’s when they were written. The current president will probably have a similar legacy as Ronald Reagan. He’s the Democratic Party’s Ronald Reagan. On paper, much of what he did looks better than his predecessor. In reality, most of what you see around you is actually worse.
Which brings me back to listening to the War on Drugs go all ‘Eighties Dylan’ (how I like to classify their music) on the Dead’s anthem of hope. It makes me think of my own current neighborhood and all the soul that has been sucked out of it. Once intimidated by my surroundings, now my neighbors are afraid of me. No longer do I belong in an area crowded with people who fit the script. It seems I’m better off on a barren lawn barricaded by a broken metal fence. At least that’s where I find myself these days, back on the outside looking in where the thought of living in a place like Lansdowne, despite all its neglect, begins to seem rather charming.
Check out the War on Drugs version of Touch of Grey and if you get a second, read this wonderful annotation of Robert Hunter’s lyrics on a great sight dedicated to annotated Grateful Dead lyrics. Looking forward to many more offerings by this 3 lp collection of Dead covers curated by the National!
War on Drugs covering Touch of Grey
annotated Touch of Grey lyrics
Some Things Never Change
I’ve been meaning to feature a couple more cover tunes that have crossed my audio palate. The first one is the Charles Bradley cover of ‘Changes’ by Black Sabbath. This version has been on heavy rotation over the past six months escalating the singer to national notoriety so shame on me for not giving it an earlier mention. I first heard about Charles Bradley via a text message my youngest brother sent me after seeing him at SXSW back in March 2015. If you don’t know anything about the life story of Mr. Charles Bradley you only have to look at anybody in your life has a craft but has never became famous. If you ask me about listing life stories I enjoy hearing about, the ones that involve people finding due recognition for their craft after many years of paying their dues ranks pretty high on my list. I heard the story from my brother while waiting in line to see Mac Sabbath, a band that dresses up as McDonald’s characters and parodies the songs of Black Sabbath, a couple weeks ago. Thankfully the parody band (which actually puts on an entertaining show) did not make light of this serious tune. While I do not see anything completely different in the structure of either version of the song, one thing that sticks out to me is that it sheds light on one of Black Sabbath’s least Sabbath-like tunes. It’s no wonder the song works perfect being covered by a soul singer in his 60’s. The best part about the song not being a more well known Sabbath tune (if you’re living in an un-Sabbath musical world) is that it sheds light on a great song. You wonder to yourself why this song isn’t a more recognizable tune from the Sabbath catalog. Bradley reviving the song gives it a Lou Reed ‘Perfect Day’ effect, meaning a great tune getting the recognition it deserves after being covered many years after the original tune was released. Below I am listing links to both versions (the original and the cover) for your listening pleasure. It’s the perfect cover song. Not only does it finally introduce a great voice to a wider audience, it exposes many in that audience to the greatness of Black Sabbath, a band that often gets overlooked outside the realm of metal and classic rock.
Changes by Charles Bradley
Changes by Black Sabbath
Next up: the elephant in the room I’ve been jouncing to get to…the first official track release from the Cover Album to End All Cover Albums…a Grateful Dead tribute curated by The National…The War On Drugs covering ‘Touch of Grey’
The Cruelest Month…is over!
I’d be lying if I told you that March 2016 will go down in the annals of loucervantestory as one of my better months. If I had to choose a set of Seven Dark Days, I’d probably pick March 14th to March 21st as the winner of being the Seven Darkest Days of my life. I’m not going to waste this space right now talking about those days. Although I want to take this opportunity to tell a friend, supporter, and fellow writer that I apologize about not being able to see him while he was in town. I was in bad shape and did not want him to see me in the dungeon that was MidMarch. When I get more time, there will be a stack of louhaikus completely dedicated to looking back at this prison sentence. Right now, unfortunately, I have a lot of work that is needed to catch up on some responsibilities. I vow to be back on track by the end of the month. Until then, the length of my posts may suffer. Lemme tell you: 15-16 hr workdays, 7 days a week can get to be pretty time-consuming. But it’s these times in life where we need a constant occupation in order to avoid falling deeper down the rabbit-hole. It’s also a good pick me up whether you look at it in a chicken soup for the soul kind of way or in a crossing the Walt Whitman Bridge into Jersey as the sun is rising while listening to Phish jam ‘The Curtain’ into ‘Blackbird’ from the 11.22.94 official release kind of way.
I came across this song during my funk. I’ve been meaning to give this band a shout-out ever since they gave a shout-out to my brother’s music. Hearing this 3 minute and 25 second masterpiece makes the shout-out much easier. I’m hoping to catch them at Milkboy on 4.24.
The Dark Heart’s Out by Hezekiah Jones
March may be over but that doesn’t mean there was a lot of great music to write about. Hopefully I can piece together a recap of the highlights at some point this week. Thanks for being patient.