Monday, July 16, 2018

Five Days in July

So I heard this at our local pizza joint the other day. I've been listening to a lot of Neil Young recently, so the opening harmonica immediately grabbed my attention, sounding as it does like an amalgamation of several different NY tunes, most especially "I Am a Child" and "Comes a Time," but shifted into the minor.

I couldn't hear very well, but enough to grok that it wasn't ol' Neil on vocals, and then some of the harmonic movement made it clear that if the song was written by Mr Young, it wasn't one I knew.

But then came the solo at the end I thought, damn, if these boys don't have the Neil Young aesthetic down pretty cold.

I've embedded this oh so pretty version of the song rather than the official video because the official video is about half the length and doesn't have the guitar searage.

Turns out Blue Rodeo was founded in the early 1980s and I'm only listening to them now. Seems about par for the course.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

I'll Be Your Mirror

See, I'm funny in some ways.

Not necessarily funny in a "ha-ha" way, although, well, I like to think that I am? ("Not to brag, but Reader's Digest is considering publishing two of my jokes.")

Anyway. I'm funny sometimes in what I like and what I don't like. More to the point, I'm funny how I seemingly have the ability to like and dislike things at the same time. Like David Lynch movies, mayhap? I really like what he does but really don't like watching it? Does that make sense?

Dan...please...can you just get on with it?


Here's what I'm talking about today. The song "I'll Be Your Mirror." Written by Lou Reed and produced by Andy Warhol for Velvet Underground's seminal first album with Nico in 1967. This is such a gorgeous song and one of my favorite pieces of music. It is such a lovely little tune. I mean, look at these spare, delicate and oh-so-lovingly intricate lyrics.

I'll be your mirror
Reflect what you are, in case you don't know
I'll be the wind, the rain and the sunset
The light on your door that shows that you're home.

When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you're twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
'Cause I see you.

I find it hard 
To believe you don't know the beauty you are
But if you don't, let me be your eyes,
A hand in your darkness, so you won't be afraid.

When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you're twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
'Cause I see you.

I'll be your mirror.

That is just so unceasingly beautiful, isn't it? Lou sure knew how to be a poet, how to channel his inner William Blake and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, when he wanted to.

But. Then, on that amazing first record, Nico sings it. It's one of the three spectacular songs that she sings (along with "Femme Fatale" and "All Tomorrow's Parties") and, I'm sorry and others may disagree with me, but she butchers them all. I just cannot listen to her angular, toneless voice and be entertained. Or moved. And I don't think that I'm alone here.

So. One of my favorite songs ever and I can't listen to it. Dammit.

But maybe I can! Like here:

I believe that's Doug Yule singing lead and Lou on the harmonies from the classic Max's Kansas City show that I used to actually have on a double-sided cassette tape back in college. It's not perfect, but it gets to a little more of a delicate nature of the song.

Then there's this from the alt-country corner, which is getting warmer:

Now, I think it could use a bit more range on the vocal side, and could really benefit from a harmony over the chorus, but there's more of an earnestness here than I hear on the original or even the VU 1972 version, so I appreciate that.

Moving on, now we hit the sweet spot on all levels:

There are quite a few words I could use to describe this. "Stunning" comes to mind - my God, those angelic harmonies! "Near-perfect" is another. This version is so faithful to the original yet also, somehow, so Beck's own. I love it more and more every time I hear it. And could not imagine a version I adore more.

Only then my girl Susie shows up and changes the game once more:

I mean. I MEAN.

Funny thing is (there's that word again) I didn't even know this version existed until a few days ago. Apparently it's not even technically a Susanna Hoffs song, but rather a guest vocal she did on some pre-Bangled early 80s project. And it leaves me breathless each time I hear it. Yes, I am aware that Beck's version is likely the definitive one here, but my blind spot for Susie will never ever go away.

So. To hell with the original. May the great covers of this great tune keep coming. And get better every time.