"You Can't Do That" - The Bobs (Songs for Tomorrow Morning)
Back in the '80s, long before the whole Glee thing built up a capella music into a big thing, there were the Bobs. Everybody in the band was named "Bob", like Gunnar "Bob" Madsen. Aside from their off-kilter originals, they arranged a host of covers. Their versions of "Psycho Killer" and "Purple Haze" are my favorites, but this Beatles cover is another strong version. The verses are fairly straight forward, with the band emphasizing a doo-wop groove. But the solo section features Janie "Bob" Scott riffing off the melody of "Within You Without You" before drifting into spacier realms.
"Get Ready" - Rare Earth (single)
Rare Earth stood out at Motown, in part because they were the biggest blue-eyed soul band out there. They stirred up funk, soul, and rock and had a number of hits in the early '70s: ""(I Know) I'm Losin' You", "Born to Wander", and "I Just Want to Celebrate". But their biggest hit was their cover of Smoky Robinson's classic, "Get Ready". A staple of their live shows, the album version took up a whole record side where 21+ minutes gave everyone in the band their chance to solo. The single version edits that down to a tight, three minute, radio-friendly gem. The tempo steamrolls over the pace of the original, with a solid rhythm section anchored by the instantly recognizable bass line.
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" - The Beatles (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band)
Ahh, the classics. The opening punch of the guitar riff, the orchestral embellishments, and the role-playing conceit -- it's a great piece of experimental music that blends a live rock sound with studio trickery, while offering a broad wink to the audience. It's hard for anyone today to hear it in historical context, so a lot of the revolutionary craziness is lost in translation. The weirdest aspect of having it turn up in my shuffle is the frustrating cut as the song sets up the flow to "With a Little Help From My Friends". Still, it brings a smile to my face.
"Revolverlution" - The Kleptones (From Detroit To J.A.)
I've covered the Kleptones, reviewing their amazing mashup album 24 Hours (review here). "Revolverlution" is less of a straight ahead mashup than a pastiche. It's a parody of Gil Scot-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised", backed with music from Michael Jackson's "Ben". The vocals get Scot-Heron's cadence down as they twist his assertions:
The revolution will always come with friesProducer Eric Kleptone manages to make a similar social commentary as his target material. His inclusion of Neo's closing monologue from The Matrix extends the point, but I'm still confused by the Italian version of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious".
Because the revolution will be televised
"Tomorrow Never Knows" - 801 (801 Live)
Phil Manzanera's side project from Roxy Music was organized to cover a small number of live shows. With Brian Eno and a number of other progressive rock musicians, 801 pulled material from several members' back catalogs as well as a couple of interesting covers. Their version of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me" shows a lot of Eno influence, but their jam on "Tomorrow Never Knows" takes a lesser known Beatles track into new territory. Synthesizers mutate the song away from some of its Indian roots, while maintaining the core psychedelic feel. Bill MacCormick's bass playing is phenomenal.
"Take Care of Yourself" - The Posies (Blood/Candy)
Finally, a more recent track. Compared to the other selections this time, 2010 is almost yesterday. The Posies deliver the alt-rock/power pop punch of their earlier material on "Take Care of Yourself", leaving little gap between their heyday of the late '90s and their new work. The loud-soft-loud shifts, sweet harmonies, and wordy lyrics all sound familiar. The drums stand out in particular: on the verses, Darius Minwalla leaves a couple of sweet holes that make the song stumble forward and the ending builds up just to collapse into resolution.