100 best covers: #74 The Charlatans “Time for livin'”

<< #75    |    #73 >>

In the very first post in this series, I made mention of the compilation, “The Help Album”. It was a charity album to raise funds for War Child, an organization that helps “children in war-affected communities reclaim their childhood through access to education, opportunity and justice”*. All of the songs, along with a handful that were released on a companion EP, were recorded on one day, Monday, September 4th, 1995, mixed the following day, and released to the buying public a few days later, on Saturday, September 9th. The artwork on the copy of the compilation that I still have on CD did not make mention of any of the artists or songs, given how quick everything came together. Instead, a yellow sticker was affixed to the front of the disc with this pertinent information.

The songs on the album are all performed by Irish and English artists that were current at the time and given the year, you might be unsurprised to see that many of them were associated to the BritPop movement. Some of the songs were those that the bands had been demoing for upcoming albums, some were reimagined, previously released songs, and many, many more were covers. Hence, my mention of this album today. And besides this particular cover by The Charlatans of the Sly and the Family Stone tune, “Time for livin'”, Manic Street Preachers’ cover of “Raindrops keep falling on my head” has already appeared in this series at the aforementioned 100 spot and I’m reasonably certain without looking at my list that there might be one or two more songs from this compilation to appear later on.

The Charlatans were one of my favourite bands from the early 1990s. I had adored their first two baggy-infused albums but was slightly disappointed by their third. In early September 1995, however, they were just over one week removed from releasing their fourth, eponymously named album and to me this was a remarkable ‘comeback’ of sorts. And this cover fits right in with the sound and energy of that album, all danceable rhythms, roaring guitars, and Rob Collins’ wailing organs. It actually ranks up there with my favourite recordings by the band, not actually knowing it was a cover until many years later. Then, when I found out, I avoided listening to the Sly and the Family Stone original until just a few days ago because I just couldn’t imagine a different version. I mean, Tim Burgess singing those lines: “Time for changin’, re-arrangin’, no time for peace, just pass the buck. Rearrangin’, leader’s changin’, pretty soon he might not give a f**k.” C’mon!

So apologies to those fans out there of the original, but I’m going with the cover here. You can go ahead and try but I don’t think you’ll change my mind.

The cover:

The original:

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

* This quote is taken directly from the charity organization’s website.


Vinyl love: The Charlatans “Us and us only”

(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: The Charlatans
Album Title: Us and us only
Year released: 1999
Year reissued: 2019
Details: Limited edition, limited to 1000 copies, Record Store Day exclusive, clear vinyl

The skinny: So perhaps my expectations were unreasonable, as were my hopes that our local stores would somehow manage to track down some of the US and UK exclusives, but I have to admit to a modicum of disappointment with this year’s Record Store Day. Unless you count the free disc I scored with one of my purchases, the only RSD exclusive I picked up today is this one, though I did take advantage of the sales to procure a few records I’ve had my eye on for a while. Still, rather than dwelling on what I didn’t find, let’s have a look at this excellent clear vinyl reissue of The Charlatans’ 1999 album, “Us and us only”, that I did find. One of the many great albums by one of my favourite bands, this release was one of the few bright spots for me in the year it was released. And it sure does sound sweet on vinyl.

Standout track: “My beautiful friend”


Best tunes of 2001: #2 The Charlatans “A man needs to be told”

<< #3    |    #1 >>

Here we are, right near the top of the heap of 2001, and we have an awesome track off the seventh album by The Charlatans, a band considered also-rans of the Madchester era, more than a decade earlier. Yeah, and now they are now considered “survivors”.

Indeed, the group originally formed in 1989 and still continue to tour and release new albums, their latest being album number thirteen, “Different days”, in 2017, though only one member, Martin Blunt, still remains from their very early days. They weren’t from the Manchester area proper and yet they were originally lumped in with the likes of The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays, more because of their blending of 60s rock sound with that of acid house culture. Their longevity can partly be attributed to their infusing different sounds to each of their albums, not necessarily to always blend in with their environment as some writers have suggested but to keep things fresh.

Released in our year of focus, “Wonderland” was the second album without original keyboard and organ wizard, Rob Collins, who had tragically died a few years earlier in a car crash and who had leant the band their trademark Hammond backbone. His replacement, Tony Rogers, fills in wonderfully but his mark isn’t the most indelible here. Instead, it’s frontman Tim Burgess that shows us a whole new set of colours by spending most of the album in falsetto, brushing the already soul and R&B-tunes with a swathe of Mayfield.

The highlight of the whole album, though, has got to be “A man needs to be told”. In fact, the tune ranks up there with my favourite of their tunes, even though my preference of their sounds is still that of their first couple of albums. It’s so damned laidback and groovy. Yeah, I just used that word. Groovy. Blunt’s funky bass line just booms along, answered in flourishes and tinkling bursts of piano. Jon Brooke’s drumming is spot on, understated but shimmering, right up to the end where the beat picks up substantially. And yeah, that’s none other than Canada’s own, Daniel Lanois adding his pedal steel to the mix, making the whole thing more dreamy. Burgess.

Ready to play it again? Let’s do it.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.