Between the Covers, Travel Edition: Counting Crows, Grateful Dead, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Frankie Goes to Hollywood, the Counting Crows, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole and the Grateful Dead cover songs by Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, Judy Garland, Louis Armstrong and Dylan
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In the just under ten years that my wife and I have been married, we have lived in nine different abodes within six different cities. There are some distinct advantages to moving on a regular basis. We never get bored with one place as there are always new things to explore. We've met lots of interesting people and experience some fascinating cultures. We've now got a great big box of stories to tell and those I shall treasure until the end of my days.

Of course there are also various disadvantages, too. Our lives are continually torn up at the roots leaving us with no real place to call home. While we meet lots of interesting people, its been hard to make any real friends as just about the time we start to really get to know people we move. While my friends are paying off their houses and developing nice retirement accounts, we're still scraping by, constantly paying deposits down and signing new contracts. It has also created massive havoc on my resume and instead of being in my mid 30s with an established career, I look more like a bum constantly being blown by the wind.

Still, I wouldn't trade my life for the world. It's been one great adventure. With that in mind, today's cover songs all have something to do with travelling.

"Born to Run" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood
From the album Bang!
Original by Bruce Springsteen

Best known for their classic bit '80s sleeze known as "Relax," Frankie Goes to Hollywood take the Bruce Springsteen paeon to youth and cars and the desire to get out, grow up, and find oneself into peppier, poppier bits. They stick to the original pretty closely though its full of that classic '80s glittery sheen and they add in a bit of sex with some "ughs" and "ahs" and they change the lyrics from "Just wrap your legs around these velvet rims" to "Just wrap your legs around these velvet hips." Holly Johnson's vocals lose all of Springsteen's yearning and pain. Its a sevicable version but mostly makes me want to put on the original or possibly a nice bootleg.

"Big Yellow Taxi by the Counting Crows
From the album Hard Candy
Original by Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell wrote this song after her first trip to Hawaii.She woke up one morning, threw back her curtains saw the majestic mountains and big blue sea in the distance and then looked down and saw a giant parking lot. The original is a bouncy, delightful folk ditty about environmentalism and love lost. The Counting Crows made a very un-Crows like version of with big synth beats that give it a more dancehall feel. The normally folk conscious Crows must have decided they needed to make it edgier than the orignal, or maybe they only know the Amy Grant version, I don't know. The results are decidedly non-great except for the lovely back up vocals by Vanessa Carlton, which singlehandedly save it.

Wow, that's two covers in this post that I've complained about not living up to the original, so let's find one that I absolutely adore.

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
From the album Facing Future
Original by Judy Garland and Louis Armstrong

Hawaiian born Israel Kamakawiwo'ole takes two sentimental yet beautiful early pop classics and combines them in a way that creates an entirely new and gorgeous song. His vocals are haunting and the sole instrument - a ukelele - eliminates all the cheese inherent in the originals creating something simple and wholly effective. It's no wonder his version has been used in countless movies and TV shows.

"When I Paint My Masterpiece" by the Grateful Dead
From the album Poscard of the Hanging
Original by Bob Dylan

I'll try not to include a Bob Dylan cover in every post I do, but that's a hard promise not to break regularly.

I've always loved the Dead's version of this song over the Dylan original.T hat's probably because I heard their version first, but they really do manage to capture a a killer groove on it every time. This is a live version that comes from a concert recorded in 1989 which means it features some strong keyboard playng from Brent Mydland and a killer lead from Bob Weir. Though not the guitar player he was a decade earlier, Jerry Garcia puts in a very nice solo right in the middle.

As something of a European traveller I love the lyrics to this song with its long list of that contenent's attractions and theres a unique sense of pleasure having been to its tourist's list of cool sites.