100 best covers: #92 Crash Vegas “Pocahontas”

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I did things a little backwards as it pertains to my university years’ accommodations. I won’t go into why I lived off campus for my first two years and then, moved into residence during my third year, but in hindsight, am very glad that was the way things turned out. My grades definitely suffered that year but I made countless memories and met some amazing people. One of these was Bahar, who everyone simply called ‘Boo’, and who lived just a few doors down the residence hall from me and over the course of the year, became my ‘little sister’.

I mention Boo in connection with this cover of “Pocahontas” by Crash Vegas, since it’s likely because of her that it is on this list. I half remember hanging out in her room one afternoon and my mentioning that I had seen the video and how it had stuck with me, despite never really having heard anything else in their catalogue. She immediately pulled a CD copy of “Aurora” off her massive CD shelf and replaced the Beastie Boys disc in the player to put it on. I later borrowed the disc when I was making a mixed tape, pulling this track and “Scarborough” for the mix. And a couple of years later, when I bought a used copy of the album for myself, it was on basis of these two songs.

I’m not terribly familiar with Neil Young’s original and only really knew that the song was a cover because Boo told me so that day. I know he’s done a few versions, ranging from electric to acoustic, and if you’re one of his fans, I’m sure you prefer his original. Crash Vegas, a Canadian alternative rock band that saw some success in the 90s, doesn’t do anything spectacularly different with the song, an acoustic backbone and a spiritual edge, but I do prefer Michelle McAdorey’s soft vocals to the whines of Young. I’ve always appreciated his talent. What makes “Pocahontas” such a great tune is his songwriting, the imagery evoked through astral plane time travel and the connection of cultural figures not immediately plausible, but I could never get past his voice enough to explore his original. I could play this cover on end though, and remember back to 1995 with fondness whenever I do.

The cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.

Vinyl love: Billy Bragg “Life’s a riot with spy vs. spy”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Billy Bragg
Album Title: Life’s a riot with spy vs. spy
Year released: 1983
Year reissued: 2013
Details: Black vinyl, 180 gram, 45 rpm, 30th anniversary edition

The skinny: The debut album by England’s Billy Bragg is just over 15 minutes in length but packs a blue collar, folk-punk punch. It fits quite nicely on one side of the LP so he re-recorded the songs live for side two of this 30th anniversary pressing.

Standout track: “A new england”

Best tunes of 2010: #13 Gorillaz “On melancholy hill”

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Anyone who’s been reading my words on music for a while now knows that I’ve been a pretty big Blur fan since the very beginning. But what about Damon Albarn’s other music projects? Well, I did enjoy me some of The Good, The Bad & The Queen’s only LP and his solo album, “Everyday robots” also had some very fine moments. Where Gorillaz are concerned, however, my thoughts are decidedly mixed.

I thought the concept was fantastic. A virtual band that was just as much a multimedia experiment as it was a serious musical project, throw in Albarn’s talents and those of Jamie Hewlett, one of the comic artists behind “Tank girl” and you have some serious potential. But given the heavy hip hop influence, especially on the first couple of albums, I didn’t find myself all that interested. There were exceptions, of course. I really liked the first single, “Clint Eastwood”, and also, “Hong Kong”, off the “Help: a day in the life” compilation and this track, “Up on melancholy hill”.

It appears on Gorillaz third album, “Plastic beach”, but I didn’t hear it there first. I blame AUX TV for this. For a while there back in 2010, I spent a lot of time watching that channel, or half-watching it, as the case may be. I was quite enthused to find a cable channel that actually played music videos again. And not just the popular music videos, but quite the mix of music, much of it new and hip. It became part of my early morning routine to switch AUX TV on and listen to tunes while I was making my lunch and brewing espresso for my wife’s and my morning lattes. I discovered a lot of music in this way that year and also rediscovered my love for watching music videos.

The video for “On melancholy hill” was played regularly on AUX in the summer of 2010 and it’s a great one too. Some pretty fantastic animation by Hewlett has band member Noodle gunning down some Korean War era planes before surviving a boat explosion in the open waters. Other fantastic adventures follow under the deep blue sea that include the other band members and some “superfast jellyfish” but you don’t need me to explain all that. You can just watch the video below.

And oh yeah, the song… well, it’s a catchy one. A real pop gem. It could have something to do with the time of year that I first heard it but it’s a real summer song for me. It’s sunshine and happy days. It’s not your typical danceable number but I think it would be a fun one to hear at a club nonetheless. Alternatively, it fits quite nicely in a lounge or playing on your boombox while you languish out by the pool. The melody is just so simple and laidback and Damon Albarn’s vocals are forefront, drifting lazily over the synths, like he’s there just singing you off to la la land. Beautiful.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.