A new and different way

I’ve written a few times about “covers” — new recordings of songs already made famous by someone else.

I used to hate the whole concept.  My thinking was, why record a song that’s already identified with another artist?  Why not attempt a hit with something never tried before?

Here’s why:  People LOVE them.  In the ’40s and ’50s, most singers covered the big hits of the times.  In 1955, there were three versions of “Unchained Melody” in the Top Ten simultaneously.  The Beatles and The Stones got their start doing renditions of Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly tunes.

In every decade since, the pop charts have been full of popular cover versions of hit Untitled-1songs:  “The Letter” (The Box Tops in 1967, Joe Cocker in 1971), “Sea of Love” (Phil Phillips in 1959, The Honeydrippers in 1984), “Proud Mary” (Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969, Ike and Tina Turner in 1971), “Killing Me Softly With His Song” (Roberta Flack in 1973, The Fugees in 1996).

Today I’m exploring 20 cover versions of hit songs you may not have heard before.  I’ve selected renditions that usually differ significantly from the hit versions but still have a great deal of appeal on their own merits.  Please follow along with the Spotify playlist found at the end of the column.  No doubt my readers can name other great unknown cover versions worthy of our attention, and I’d love to hear about them!  Please scroll to the very bottom and look for the “comment” box…

And here we go:

b84f97aa5c8e566fda4e73479a8ec731“Imagine,” a hit single by John Lennon in 1971, and covered by Keb’ Mo’ in 2004

In 2004, using slide guitar, acoustic guitar and harmonium, blues stylist Keb’ Mo’ put together a superb cover of John Lennon’s anthem “Imagine” for his wonderful “Peace: Back By Popular Demand” collection of anti-war songs.  Lennon’s original, which had been a #3 hit in the US in 1971, went on to become a larger-than-life signature song following Lennon’s murder in 1980.  Of the many covers of this simple song, I’m partial to this one for its down-home instrumentation.

Fleetwood-Mac_Mystery-to-Me“For Your Love,” a hit single by The Yardbirds in 1965, and covered by Fleetwood Mac in 1973

Eric Clapton joined The Yardbirds because of the group members’ mutual love for the blues, so when their manager persuaded them to record the pop song “For Your Love,” Clapton bailed, despite the fact that it became the group’s first Top Ten single.  Almost ten years later, a struggling Fleetwood Mac (prior to Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joining) did a fine cover version of “For Your Love,” featuring the late great Bob Welch on vocals and guitar.  It appears on the third of Welch’s four albums with the band, 1973’s “Mystery to Me.”

51QaQzuujBL._SX355_“Classical Gas,” a hit single by Mason Williams in 1968, and covered by Tommy Emmanuel in 2005

Mason Williams had gifts as both a songwriter and a comedy writer — he was head writer for “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” and also worked at “Saturday Night Live.” He came up with the wondrous instrumental tour-de-force “Classical Gas” in 1968, and against all odds, it became a pop hit that year, peaking at #2.  It has been covered by more than two dozen other artists through the years, and the one that really floors me is this live recording by virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel from a 2005 live album recorded in Australia, complete with orchestra.  Wow!

Bayou-Country-cover“Good Golly Miss Molly,” a hit single by Little Richard in 1958, and covered by Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969

Little Richard’s flamboyant appearance and performances were complemented by a repertoire laced with lyrics that offered sexually suggestive double-entendres.  (“Tutti Frutti, oh Rudy” was originally “Tutti frutti, good booty”…). “Good Golly Miss Molly,” written in 1956 by John Marascalco and Robert Blackwell, was spiced up by Little Richard to include “she sure likes to ball” (which somehow slipped past the censors).  It became a #4 hit in 1958.  In 1969, Creedence Clearwater Revival recorded a ferocious rock version on its breakthrough LP “Bayou Country” which, for me, is arguably better than the original.  John Fogerty’s vocal growl is perfect here.

220px-Eric_Carmen_(1975_Eric_Carmen_album_-_cover_art)“On Broadway,” a hit single by The Drifters in 1963, and covered by Eric Carmen in 1975

Brill Building songwriting duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil wrote this fabulous tune as a shuffle in 1963 for the girl group The Cookies.  Then they offered it to The Drifters, who changed it to a bluesier tempo and made it a huge #9 hit.  Fifteen years later, jazz guitarist/singer George Benson’s version (used to dramatic effect in the opening moments of the 1979 film “All That Jazz”) went to #7 on the pop charts.  In between those two versions, former Raspberries leader Eric Carmen included a potent rendition on his solo debut LP in 1975, and I’ve always enjoyed his treatment.

zaqhj4ujtqj5a_600“You Don’t Know How It Feels,” a hit single by Tom Petty in 1994, and covered by Liz Huett in 2018

The rock world was shaken by the sudden death of Tom Petty in 2017, one of the biggest American rock stars of the past 40 years.  I was recently turned on to the work of Liz Huett, a former backup singer for Taylor Swift now establishing her own credentials as an L.A.-based pop artist, who considers Petty one of her important early influences.  She wanted to record one of his tracks as a tribute, and selected “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” a #13 hit in 1994.  Huett’s version offers some alluring vocal nuances to Petty’s classic.

MI0000087322“All Along the Watchtower,” a hit single by Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1968, and covered by Dave Mason in 1974

Bob Dylan’s spare, brief, original version of “Watchtower” from his “John Wesley Harding” album (1967) was immediately and forever overshadowed the following year by Jimi Hendrix’s incendiary cover version from his “Electric Ladyland” double LP.  Many other renditions now exist, but the one I’ve always been very fond of is Dave Mason’s superb cover from his “Dave Mason” LP in 1974.  Such excellent guitar work and vocals!

220px-FateOfNations“If I Were a Carpenter,” a hit single by Bobby Darin in 1966, and covered by Robert Plant in 1993

Folk singer Tim Hardin wrote this gentle tune in 1965, and Bobby Darin made it a #8 hit in 1966.  Hardin himself performed it at Woodstock in 1969.  It’s also been recorded by The Four Tops, Johnny Cash and Bob Seger, among many others; the one that grabs me is this one by ex-Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, who recorded a lush version for his “Fate of Nations” LP in 1993.

Bryan_Ferry-These_Foolish_Things_(album_cover)“It’s My Party,” a hit single by Lesley Gore in 1963, and covered by Bryan Ferry in 1973

While still the lead singer of the new avant-garde British band Roxy Music, Ferry showed his love for the music of previous decades with his first solo LP, 1973’s “These Foolish Things.”  Among an eclectic song list that included “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Piece of My Heart,” “You Won’t See Me” and “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” you can find his loving tribute to Lesley Gore’s iconic tearjerker from 1963, “It’s My Party.”  Ferry’s voice is admittedly an acquired taste, but ultimately, his covers are great fun.

tiger“Eye of the Tiger,” a hit single by Survivor in 1982, and covered by The Rural Alberta Advantage in 2010

Sylvester Stallone was denied the use of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” as the theme song to his “Rocky III” film, so he opted instead for “Eye of the Tiger,” which US rock group Survivor had written for “The Karate Kid” but was rejected.  The song held the #1 spot on the pop charts for six weeks and has sold more than eight million copies.  (Several Republican presidential campaigns have tried to co-opt the track for use at rallies but were forced to stop by court orders.)  A Canadian indie pop-rock band called The Rural Alberta Advantage, still struggling to make it after a dozen years in the business, recorded a much gentler cover version of “Eye of the Tiger” in 2010 that I find very appealing.

4151N2S26PL“Groovin’,” a hit single by The Rascals in 1967, and covered by Kenny Rankin in 1976

One of the best vibes from the 1967 “Summer of Love” playlist can be found on this serene track by The Rascals, the New York-based group known more for high-energy tunes like “Good Lovin’.”  Mid-’70s folk crooner Kenny Rankin, known for his low-key covers of Beatles standards as well as his own originals, did a nice job covering “Groovin'” on the 1976 LP “The Kenny Rankin Album,” which, although a bit over-arranged with strings by Don Costa, still soothes the ears without getting too saccharine.

black-tie-white-noise-cover“I Feel Free,” a hit single by Cream in 1966, and covered by David Bowie in 1993

Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker exploded on the British music scene in 1966 with their “Fresh Cream” LP, highlighted by the vibrant UK single “I Feel Free.”  Although it didn’t chart in the US, the record paved the way for future US hits like “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room,” which helped cement Cream’s place in the rock pantheon.  More than 25 years later, another British rock titan, David Bowie, couldn’t resist offering his own distinctive take on “I Feel Free” as an intriguing deep track on his overlooked 1993 LP “Black Tie White Noise.”

Steve_Winwood_-_Junction_Seven“Family Affair,” a hit single by Sly and the Family Stone in 1971, and covered by Steve Winwood in 1997

Sly Stone wrote this piece — somewhat darker than the more celebratory material he’d been known for up to that point — in 1971, and he and his band topped the charts for the third and final time.  This funky, electric piano-based tune is the first hit to ever feature a “rhythm box” (precursor to the drum machine).  It has been covered by at least a dozen R&B artists, and I’m partial to the glitzy rendition by Steve Winwood on his underrated 1997 LP, “Junction Seven.”  Winwood’s vocals and full arrangement are arguably superior to Sly’s original.

711TxEhDwYL._SY355_“Wichita Lineman,” a hit single by Glen Campbell in 1968, and covered by James Taylor in 2008

The great songwriter Jimmy Webb came up with this gem on very short notice for a Glen Campbell recording session, and it became, to my mind, Campbell’s finest recorded moment, peaking on the singles chart at #3 in late 1968.  Many smooth-voiced vocalists in the country and pop idioms have given the song a try since then, but my favorite cover, hands down, is James Taylor’s fine version, recorded in 2008 for his “Covers” LP, released during his writer’s block period (2002-2012).

61xwPT6oxPL._SY355_“Need You Tonight,” a hit single by INXS in 1987, and covered by Bonnie Raitt in 2016

Australia’s INXS had a run of four Top 20 LPs in the US between 1985-1992, thanks to their seven Top Ten singles, most notably 1987’s #1 smash, “Need You Tonight.”  Singer/lyricist Michael Hutchence and composer/keyboarist Andrew Farriss were responsible for the bulk of the band’s MTV-friendly material.  You wouldn’t guess that blues/funk artist Bonnie Raitt would be much of an INXS fan, but wow, check out her dynamic cover of “Need You Tonight” from her fun 2016 CD, “Dig in Deep.”

2292658e6ce30dcc0ca6282f85e6ba70.600x600x1“The Boxer,” a hit single by Simon and Garfunkel in 1969, and covered by Mumford and Sons with Jerry Douglas and Paul Simon in 2012

I would rank “The Boxer” as not only in my top five Simon and Garfunkel songs, but in the top five of Paul Simon’s entire catalog.  The stunning melody, the story-song structure, the “lie-la-lie” chorus, the precision harmonies all combine to create a near-perfect track, and it peaked at #3 in the spring of 1969.  More than 40 years later, British group Mumford and Sons enlisted the great lap-steel guitar player Jerry Douglas to sit in on their studio recording of “The Boxer,” which appeared as a bonus track on the 2012 chart-topping album “Babel.”  Very sweet cover indeed.

220px-Annie_Lennox_-_Medusa_Album_Cover“I Can’t Get Next to You,” a hit single by The Temptations in 1969, and covered by Annie Lennox in 1995

Lennox, formerly with the British sensations The Eurythmics, has one of those phenomenal voices that sounds great singing any genre you name.  In 1995, she assembled a dozen tracks she had always loved and recorded loving cover versions of them for her “Medusa” album that year.  There’s nary a weak cut here, but my favorite is her take on the Motown classic, “I Can’t Get Next to You,” which The Temptations had made into a #1 hit in the fall of 1969.  If you play these two versions back to back, it’s hard to decide which one is superior.

62fdfba38ee3f31e3d09b3fdaf61b59b“How Deep is Your Love,” a hit single by The Bee Gees in 1977, and covered by The Bird and The Bee in 2007

This huge #1 hit ballad from the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack LP was written by Barry Gibb and keyboard player Blue Weaver, and was intended for The Bee Gees’ next studio LP.  But when film producer Robert Stigwood asked for songs for his upcoming movie about the world of disco, the group gladly contributed this one and four others, and the rest is multi-platinum history.  An LA-based duo called The Bird and The Bee did a thoroughly engaging cover version of the song on a 2007 EP entitled “Please Clap Your Hands” that’s worthy of your attention.

APphoto_Music Review Eric Clapton“Call Me the Breeze,” an FM favorite by Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1974, and covered by Eric Clapton in 2014

J J Cale wrote and recorded the original as a slow shuffle on his 1972 debut “Naturally,” and while he never made much of a dent in the charts as a performing artist, he has been widely praised as a songwriter.  Lynyrd Skynyrd were big Cale fans, and recorded a seriously rockin’ rendition of “Call Me the Breeze” on their 1974 LP, “Second Helping.”  There was no bigger Cale devotee than Eric Clapton, who had hits with Cale’s songs “After Midnight” and “Cocaine.”  Upon Cale’s death in 2013, Clapton released a tribute album of Cale-penned tracks featuring collaborations with numerous artists, and he titled the collection “The Breeze:  An Appreciation of J J Cale.”

Santana2“While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” an FM classic by The Beatles in 1968, and covered by Carlos Santana with India.arie and Yo-Yo Ma in 2010

Many cover versions exist of George Harrison’s masterpiece from The Beatles “White Album,” but the one I’m currently crazy about is the collaboration recorded by Carlos Santana with help from singer India.arie and cellist Yo-Yo Ma for Santana’s 2010 concept LP, “Guitar Heaven,” on which he offers versions of 10 classic guitar tracks using 10 different vocalists.  The whole album is worth checking out, but this track in particular is extraordinary.

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Nice ‘n’ easy does it every time

Most fans of rock music, even those now in their ’50s and ’60s, have probably forgotten (or maybe never knew) what the pop music scene looked like before rock and roll arrived in the mid-’50s.

This blog purports to look at “Musical Milestones, 1955-1990,” and I have explored virtually every sub-group from those three-plus decades:  early rock and roll (Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley);  the blues (Howlin’ Wolf, The Allman Brothers);  surf music (The Beach Boys, The Rivieras);  Motown (Smokey Robinson, The Supremes);  the British Invasion (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones);  folk rock (The Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel);  garage rock (The Standells, The Troggs):  psychedelic rock (Jimi Hendrix, Cream);  singer-songwriter (James Taylor, Joni Mitchell);  country rock (The Eagles, Poco);  progressive rock (Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull);  disco (The Bee Bees, Donna Summer);  heavy metal (Black Sabbath, Kiss); reggae (Bob Marley, Peter Tosh); new wave (Blondie, Elvis Costello).

But up until now, I’ve neglected to explore the one genre that has endured, in one form maxresdefault-11or another, alongside all of these:  “Easy listening.”

The very name sends shudders up the spine of most rock music fans.  It conjures up images of straight-laced crooners singing saccharine-sweet love songs you might hear in medical building elevators or Vegas cabarets.

That generalization, like most generalizations, has truth in it, but it’s also quite unfair.  Let’s look at the record (or records).

FRANK_SINATRA_NICE+N+EASY-434057Before rock music arrived, almost everything on pop radio — or “the hit parade,” as it was called then — was what we eventually called Easy Listening.  It certainly wasn’t labeled as such, however; it was simply “popular music” — records that featured vocalists singing over orchestral arrangements, doing songs from the “Great American Songbook,” Broadway show tunes, jazzy ballads, romantic torch songs and post-Swing era standards.

The vocal stylings of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, Vic Damone, Doris Day, Perry Como, Dinah Shore, Mel Tormé, Frankie Laine and Rosemary Clooney ruled the roost in the early 1950s.  Even after Elvis Presley and other rock and rollers elbowed their way onto the charts in the latter half of the decade, Sinatra and company were still large and in charge, their ranks bolstered by a newer crop of crooners — Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Vic Damone, Vikki Carr, Dean Martin and Barbra Streisand — who came along in the late ’50s or early ’60s.

And, as we shall see, this music had serious staying power.  Here’s a tidbit that will rock the world of you stoners out there:  The Mathis collection “Johnny’s Greatest Hits,”

Singer Johnny Mahtis On Ed Sullivan 1967

Johnny Mathis

released in 1958, spent an unprecedented 490 consecutive weeks on the Billboard top 100 album charts (that’s more than nine years).  It held the record for the most number of weeks on the Top 200 album chart in the US until Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” LP reached 491 weeks in October 1983.

The term “Easy Listening” was coined by radio formatters who needed a way to distinguish vocalists singing in the style established in the 1930s and 1940s from singers who adopted a style closer to rock and roll.  If you look at the best-selling artists of the 1955-1959 period, Presley was the only rock star in the bunch.  The majority were singers of the Sinatra/Mathis variety, along with instrumental/choral maestros like Mantovani, Lawrence Welk, Jackie Gleason (!) and The Ray Conniff Singers.

 

Unknown-15Indeed, Gleason — a comedian who enjoyed a remarkably potent side career as a songwriter/arranger — struck upon a quintessential “easy listening” formula he felt was inherently marketable.  His goal was to make “musical wallpaper that should never be intrusive, but conducive to romance.”  He saw how love scenes in the movies were “magnified a thousand percent” by the background music, and concluded, “If Clark Gable needs music to get the job done, a guy in Brooklyn must be desperate for that kind of help!”

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Doris Day

By 1960, white-bread teen idols like Brenda Lee, Bobby Vee, Connie Francis and Paul Anka made a significant dent in the charts for a spell, sometimes blurring the line between genres by favoring schmaltz (Anka’s “Tonight My Love, Tonight”) over young heartache (Vee’s “Take Good Care of My Baby”).  But even as R&B artists from The Miracles and Ben E. King to Chubby Checker and Jackie Wilson began adding their earthy approach to the mix, and Broadway show tunes and themes from film soundtracks periodically topped the charts, the Easy Listening artists hung on strong.

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Andy Williams

It’s not hard to see why.  Most of the pop music audience at that time was from a generation that liked their music traditional, melodious, nostalgic, even sentimental.  Rock and roll, and all that followed in its wake, was, to them, unpleasant, harsh, even non-musical.  Give them “Moon River” and “Mona Lisa” any day.

In my family household in the early 1960s, I remember hearing a lot of pretty music coming from my dad’s “hi fi” — a lot of Sinatra and Nat King Cole, plus Como, Mathis, Williams, Jo Stafford and Jack Jones.  Now and then, Dad would also play big band and swing music by the orchestras

Perry_Como_2_1956

Perry Como

of Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman, but mostly I recall the gentle strains of romantic ballads with lush string arrangements.

But the burgeoning teen audience was on the rise, and when the arrival of the Beatles and the “British Invasion” in 1964 triggered a seismic shift toward rock in the makeup of the US Top 40, the Easy Listening crew began their inexorable downslide from chart success.

Although Easy Listening music waned as a dominant force, it was clear there remained a sizable audience for it.  The TV variety shows of that period — “The Dinah Shore Show,” “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “Hollywood Palace” — offered occasional

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Barbra Streisand

appearances by rock groups, but for the most part, they still featured plenty of Vic Damone and Robert Goulet, and Streisand, and Vegas duos like Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé.

By the late ’60s, all these artists had pretty much vanished from the mainstream charts, with a few exceptions.  Sinatra still managed two big hits in 1966 — “Strangers in the

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Engelbert Humperdinck

Night” and “That’s Life” — and new crooners like Englebert Humperdinck and Bobby Goldsboro topped the charts in 1967 and 1968 with the cringeworthy “Release Me” and “Honey,” respectively.  Some vocalists like Mathis and Williams evolved, and started capitalizing on the popularity of the singer-songwriter movement, releasing albums of covers of contemporary hits by the likes of James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot, Carole King and even The Beatles (together and solo).

As the variety of radio formats mushroomed in the 1970s to meet ever-broadening tastes, Easy Listening music took on other names, ranging from “Music of Your Life” and “adult standards” to “Unforgettable Favorites” or, eventually, “Adult Contemporary.”  Regardless of the moniker, it was considered by most rock music fans as hopelessly square and outdated.

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The Carpenters

By the late 1970s, Easy Listening as a radio format had split into two camps.  The diehards could tune into Adult Standard, or “Beautiful Music,” which kept the decades-old classics alive.  A newer version of the genre known as Adult Contemporary featured the music of softer-sounding current artists like The Carpenters, Bread, Barry Manilow, John Denver, Seals and Crofts, Air Supply, Christopher Cross, Lionel Richie and Olivia Newton John.  And stalwarts like Mathis found new life by collaborating with new singers like Deniece Williams on the Top Ten hit “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” in 1978.

No self-respecting rocker would ever admit at that point to liking this stuff, but in secret, the fortitude of these artists to forge ahead in the face of critical lambasting was admired.  Indeed, in 1988, Bob Dylan stopped Manilow at a party, hugged him and said,

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Barry Manilow

“Don’t stop what you’re doing, man. We’re all inspired by you.”

Adult Contemporary still exists today, although it has further fragmented into smaller niches like “hot AC” (includes electric guitar and drums) and “soft/smooth AC” (stresses vocals and acoustic instrumentation) and even “urban AC” (black artists doing mellow music).

A personal aside:  I’m a rock music guy, with a fondness for blues and classic R&B, but I have a soft spot for some of these AC artists.  I consider some songs by The Carpenters, Bread and Christopher Cross (“Rainy Days and Mondays,” “Make It With You,” “Sailing”) to be guilty pleasures.  They’re melodic, well produced, and full of warm memories, and there have been times I have proudly cranked up the volume, and not just when I’m alone in my car.  Hey, even the most straight-laced artist has a great song or two in his/her repertoire.

In the mid-1980s, in the midst of New Wave and Madonna-type dance music, a curious thing happened.  As with fashion styles that make a comeback decades after they were 81wCLUf0TRL._SL1079_first popular, we witnessed a revival of the marvelous tunes of the ’40s and ’50s.  Country rock superstar Linda Ronstadt, who had been exposed to Sinatra’s music as a little girl and had always wanted to try singing the standards, rolled the dice.  She paired up with legendary orchestral arranger Nelson Riddle to release “What’s New,” the first of three albums featuring her luxurious covers of some of the best traditional songs of that bygone era — Gershwin classics like “I’ve Got a Crush on You” and “Someone to Watch Over Me” and Rodgers & Hart classics such as “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “It Never Entered My Mind.”

Ronstadt recalled in her 2013 memoir, “Rock ‘n roll diehards in the music press wondered why I had abandoned Buddy Holly for George Gershwin.  The answer is that there was so much more room for me to stretch and sing, to mix my head voice and my chest voice.  And besides, I couldn’t bear the idea that such beautifully crafted songs would be condemned to riding up and down in elevators.”

Her gamble paid off handsomely.  These revivals were not only an unqualified success — “What’s New” reached #3 and went triple-platinum — but also inspired quite a few other rock-era artists to release copycat collections of once-shunned material over the ensuing years.

41BT27CF6SL._SX300_QL70_The first to follow Ronstadt’s efforts was the spectacularly popular (7X platinum) “Unforgettable…With Love,” Natalie Cole’s 1991 Grammy-winning album of standards, capped by a spooky duet with her long-gone father Nat singing the title song “together” in a bit of remarkable studio trickery.

Cole’s success seemed to open the floodgates as at least a dozen singers tackled the standards, with varying results.  Some were quite good — Carly Simon’s “My Romance” (1990), Boz Scaggs’s “But Beautiful” (2003) and Art Garfunkel’s “Some Enchanted Evening” (2007) come to mind.  Others have fallen flat — Bryan Ferry’s “As Time Goes By” (1999), Michael Bolton’s “Vintage” (2002) and Cyndi Lauper’s “At Last” (2003).

a5-stewartRod Stewart has made an entire second career of it, pumping out five such albums since 2000 with erratic quality but plenty of sales.  Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan, two of the best songwriters of the past half-century, recently chose to offer their treatments of songs from their parents’ generation.  (McCartney had the voice to pull it off, but Dylan?  Not on your life.)

In the past 20 years, artists like Diana Krall, Harry Connick Jr. and Michael Bublé have become the the new millennium’s version of Sinatra and company, offering credible covers and even a few original tunes that have kept Easy Listening music alive.  Before 320px-Duets_An_American_Classic_album_coverhe died in 1998, Sinatra produced two albums of standards called “Duets” and “Duets II,” which paired “The Chairman of the Board” with major contemporary artists like Bono,Gloria Estefan, Anita Baker, Stevie Wonder and Chrissie Hynde.  More recently, the ageless Tony Bennett has done the same thing, singing his generation’s classics with 21st Century stars like John Legend, Carrie Underwood and John Mayer, and Lady Gaga, with whom he collaborated on an entire album.

So the way we view “our parents’ (or grandparents’) music” has come full circle, from derision and disrespect to admiration and appreciation.  Not all of it, mind you; some of it will always be dismissed as mushy and trite.

I guess there are two conclusions I want to make:

1) There are musical styles to suit every taste.   I don’t care for opera, or hard-core country-western, or gangsta rap, but there plenty of folks who do, and I say, to each his own.  I do enjoy a range of genres, and I try to keep my mind open.  But often, sometimes The_Very_Thought_of_You_(Nat_King_Cole_album)too often, I find myself leaning on “the songs of my youth” because, well, they’re familiar, and they remind me of childhood, or young adulthood, and they make me smile.

Which leads me to:  2) There is always a place for The Oldies.  What constitutes an “oldie,” anyway?  That depends, I suppose, on when it was released, and how old you were when you first heard it.

Easy Listening?  It might be rather safe, tame, non-threatening and old-fashioned…but damn, it can be comforting.  And, by the way, easy to listen to.