100 best covers: #99 The Rural Alberta Advantage “Eye of the tiger”

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I’d be rather surprised if any one of you was to tell me they’d never heard the original version of “Eye of the tiger” by Survivor. It was the theme song for the third installment of the “Rocky” series (the one in which Stallone does battle with Mr. T!) and was released as a single the day after the film hit theatres. It is the American hard rock band’s biggest hit, attaining certified double platinum status and sitting atop the Billboard 100 charts for six weeks in 1982.

To say that this cover by Toronto-based indie rock trio, The Rural Alberta Advantage, is a bit less well-known is tongue-in-cheek hyperbole on my part. I first heard this performed live on a Spring evening back in 2011. I dragged my wife out to the now-defunct Ritual nightclub in downtown Ottawa to see this band I discovered at Bluesfest the previous summer. We were treated to a highly energetic and entertaining set, during which frontman Nils Edenloff was left alone on stage a couple times to perform a pair of covers, all acoustic like. The first of these was “Maybe tomorrow”, the “Littlest hobo” theme song (for Canadian fans of this classic TV show, you can check that one out here), and the other was this awesome cover of Survivor’s massive hit.

I think Victoria recognized it as “Eye of the tiger” before I did during the show but she definitely wasn’t as impressed as I was by the cover. She’s not really a fan of covers and she’s of the opinion that certain songs should just be left alone, this song being one of them. You see, she’s actually quite the fan of Survivor’s original version of “Eye of the tiger”. She describes it as one of those songs that always makes her want to move and has been a favourite of hers to put on mixes designed for working out. I can’t really argue with any of that but I think this cover is also special, mostly because it completely changes the mood of the original. Edenloff slows down the pace a tad and replaces the uppercut and left right hook combination on the muscular hard rock guitars with a quiet and lonely pluck on the acoustic. His voice is pained, almost wistful and tired where the original Survivor vocalist, Dave Bickler, was triumphant and full of adrenaline.

I’m not saying The Rural Alberta Advantage’s “Eye of the tiger” is better than the original but it feels to me like it actually has a bit more edge, kind of like it’s after the fight and the reality of all those rounds have set in. Have a spin of both and let me know what you think.

The cover:

The original:

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

100 best covers: #100 Manic Street Preachers “Raindrops keep falling on my head”

#99 >>

Happy Friday all!

To celebrate kicking off the weekend and to belatedly usher in June, I am launching a new list, this one a grandiose glimpse of my 100 all-time favourite covers. And we start it all off on a high note with Manic Street Preachers’ rendition of “Raindrops keep falling on my head”. The original was written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach for the Butch Cassidy & Sundance Kid soundtrack. Recorded by BJ Thomas on vocals, it was released as a single in 1969 to middling reviews but sales jumped to colossal heights after the film was released in 1970.

“Raindrops” has been covered several times over the years but this one by Manic Street Preachers has been praised for injecting some angst into the blind optimism of the original. It came about as part of the Help album project in 1995, a compilation for which some of the biggest names in British music at the time (including Blur, Oasis, and Radiohead) all went into the studio on the same day to produce brand new recordings, all to raise funds in support of Bosnia’s children. A great cause to be sure and it resulted in one of my favourite ever compilation albums, containing many fantastic songs, some of which were covers that will possibly appear further on down this list.

In the case of Manic Street Preachers, they were seven months removed from the infamous disappearance of songwriter/guitarist, Richey Edwards, who to this day, has never been found. They had decided to carry on as a trio and had incidentally booked studio time for their next album. Some have theorized that the recording of this song was a message to Richey that the Manics were going to soldier on but the band has denied this, stating that the short timeframe necessitated a song that they were already familiar with, this being one that had been part of past live sets.

Manic Street Preachers inject some (to my ears) much-needed rock and roll into the number. James Dean Bradfield’s vocals are a lot less polished than those of Thomas, but are lovely, nonetheless. The acoustic guitars are jaunty, the bass bubbly, and the drums are like a skipping heartbeat but the fun really comes in with drummer Sean Moore’s trumpet solo at the bridge. All in all, it’s just a fun track, a band showing a toothy grin in the face of adversity, and that it’s okay to be cheerful when the rain continues to fall, seemingly without end.

The cover:

The original:

This is the first in what will be a long list but once more are posted, the rest of the list can be viewed here.