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Tunes

100 best covers: #58 Sarah McLachlan “Blackbird”

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Way back at number 90 on this list, I wrote about Rufus Wainwright’s cover of “Across the universe” for the soundtrack of the Sean Penn film, “I am Sam”. Now, more than thirty songs later on this 100 best covers list, we have another Canadian artist covering another Beatles track off the very same soundtrack.

The music for “I am Sam” was supposed to reflect the title character’s love for Beatles music, a sort of crutch for an intellectually disabled man fighting for custody of a daughter, named, get this, Lucy. The original Beatles songs were chosen while filming was taking place so when the filmmakers were refused the rights to those originals, covers were commissioned that had to retain the same track length and time signatures.

The Paul McCartney penned “Blackbird”, a gentle acoustic piece about US racial tensions off The white album, was assigned to Canadian singer/writer, Sarah McLachlan. It was recorded right in the middle of a six year break between her very successful 1997 record “Surfacing” and the 2003 ‘comeback’ album, “Afterglow”. I honestly don’t know how well McLachlan does outside of Canada but here at home, she is pretty legendary. And why not? That voice of hers is golden. She made a career out being a solo, folk-influenced female artist in a time when male-dominated grunge was king. She started the Lilith fair touring festival in 1996, a card that prominently featured female solo artists or female-led bands and was so successful that two more annual editions followed. I’ve never been a huge fan of her myself, but you can’t argue with her talent and her success.

Much like the stripped down original, Sarah McLahlan’s cover is built upon beautiful finger plucking on the acoustic and yeah, that wonderful voice of hers. It is quite simply a lovely rendition. Do I like it better than the original? No. However, I do find it a shade better than the one done by Doves (who you all know that I love) for the Roswell soundtrack. So yeah, I think that’s saying something.

Cover:

The original:

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

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Live music galleries

Live music galleries: Kalle Mattson [2014]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts page.)

Kalle Mattson and his band at Bluesfest 2014

Artist: Kalle Mattson
When: July 5th, 2014
Where: Claridge Homes stage, RBC Bluesfest, Ottawa
Context: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that one of the great things about Ottawa’s biggest music festival, RBC Bluesfest, is the organizers’ focus on promoting local talent. The years that I purchased a pass and attended on multiple days exposed me to a lot of bands and artists (many of them local) that I might not have ever experienced otherwise. Kalle Mattson, who came to the nation’s capital by way of Sault Ste. Marie for school, is a talented indie folk singer/songwriter that I had already seen opening for Cuff the Duke a few years prior, but his early afternoon set in 2014 really won me over. The weather that afternoon was sunny and humid and hazy, a perfect suit for his dusty and languorous tales of heartache. I would later purchase that year’s Polaris prize nominated album, the Gavin Gardner produced, “Someday, the moon will be gold”, and jumped at the chance at Mattson perform with his friends once again the following summer.
Point of reference song: A love song to the city

Kalle Mattson on the mouth organ
Mattson and Andrew Sowka
JF Beauchamp, the man on the horn
Rory Lewis on guitar
Mattson with drummer, Kyle Woods
Andrew Sowka and JF Beauchamp
Kalle Mattson taking it home.
Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2012: #12 Frankie Rose “Pair of wings”

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I’m pretty near positive that I first came to listen to Frankie Rose’s second solo album, “Interstellar”, because of her impressive resume that included working with bands like Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls. I was likely expecting to hear some 60s girls group wall of sound, given this pedigree*, but this is not what I got. Instead, I voyaged off to space with her, a retro outer space, minimalist and analogue synth heavy, reverb drenched and vacuous. Stanley Kubrick would have been proud.

My favourite song on this record wasn’t either of the two singles that were proudly advertised on the hype label. Don’t get me wrong, “Know me” and “Night swim” are also both excellent. However, there is just something about “Pair of wings” that flirts heavily with near perfection.

The liner notes credit the song to a ‘Wu Li Leung’ who originally wrote the song as “Wings to fly” but initial (and lazy, and perhaps slightly drunken) attempts to track this original down while writing these words came up empty. I will trust our musical artist, though, and appreciate her honesty in giving credit where it is due. “Pair of wings” is a delicate and sweet notion, universal and easily comprehensible, repetition into simplicity.

“All that I want is
A pair of wings to fly
Into the blue of
The wide open sky”

These four minutes of magnificence starts and ends with the ticking of an alien clock. From there, the minimalist synth chords change slowly yet assured, washes upon washes, bells ringing into infinity, rocketing percussion, steam and exhaust, layers of everything and eternity. Rose’s vocals are amplified by the vacuum, her ringing vocals bouncing off planets and moons.

This is space rock that is only such because it is dreamy pop rocked by synths and empty space. It envelops you and assimilates you. If you scream in space, does anybody hear it? And with beauty this palpable, does it matter?

*Apparently, her first solo album, recorded under the name Frankie Rose and the Outs, did follow this line of questioning, but I have yet to listen to this one. So I am unable to confirm or deny.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.