Monday, December 21, 2009


Once again, a fellow blogger provides inspiration when I'm in the mood to write but not quite devoted to a topic. Random topics go through my head all the time and I forget them or they get placed on a list of things to write about that I forget to consult.

One of the blogs I frequently read is that of Banjo Jones at Banjo's Place where you can read his latest post about Heart covers a Lez Zeppelin song. No, seriously. "Evermore" . I'm assuming he likes it, because as a band Heart has been known to rock. I'd have loved to hear the first 70's incarnation of Heart playing Led Zep covers other than the much covered "Rock and Roll". It would have been rocking. Likewise, when Jimmy Page did his short stint with The Black Crowes, there were some excellent Zep covers coming out of that band.

Which leads me to my subject, the fact that I am fascinated, and often very entertained, by cover versions of hit songs or other folks music as done by others than the original artists. I have been known to seek out and buy cd's and albums with bands doing cover versions of songs I was either doing or wanted to do with bands I played with.

For example, one band I was playing with wanted to do a cover of the song "Brandy" by the one hit wonders Looking Glass. It was an incredibly hard song to play, as all of the musicians were talented jazzers and there are just all kinds of licks and flourishes and little add on parts that are very difficult to play and add subtle and necessary parts to the song, but these parts mostly escape the conscious ear until one trys to learn to play the song on an instrument.

Quite frankly, although good musicians all, we were having a hard time hitting a groove with the song trying to do these VERY DIFFICULT PARTS (for us, anyway) that these very talented jazzers had laid down in the original version.

So anyway, in seeking other bands that had played perhaps a simpler version of the song as a cover, I discovered that the Red Hot Chili Peppers had covered that song extensively in concerts. Finding that they had laid down one performance on a live CD gave us the tools to adapt the song to a much simpler version that didn't lose the groove and feeling of the song but was much easier to play.

We didn't sound like the Red Hots when we played our version, but folks recognized what it was and it was a big hit the night we played it.

For years, I've enjoyed listening to late 60's and early 70' instrumental jazz versions of some of the hit pop and rock songs of the day. Back in those days, jazzers were getting into loud electric guitars and sort of a rock band groove, while the rockers were sort of trying to be a bit jazzy and technical in their playing. Rock bands like Steely Dan and Yes featured highly technical and complex pop hit music played by virtuoso musicians.

I particularly liked Buddy Rich's treatment of one of the songs from the hit musical Jesus Christ Superstar. The young hotshot stars of his early seventies big band are blazing in their rendition of "Heaven on their Minds". The horns carry the vocal lines of the song, while the melody is covered as well. There is a guitar and electric bass, but the guitar is way down in the mix as compared to rock bands. These were the days when Buddy Rich was like royalty, appearing on Johnny Carson every few months it seemed.

From a later era, another favorite cover of mine was the late Hiram Bullock's cover of Steely Dan's Pretzel Logic

on Bullock's 1987 "Give it what you got" album. Hiram, as you may recall, was a mega-talented guitarist who was the first guitarist for the groundbreaking David Letterman Show Band in the early 1980's. Back in those days, lots of my musician friends used to watch Letterman if for no other reason than to catch the band intro's and outro's during breaks, playing instrumental and excellently arranged versions of various pop songs past and present.

I bought my first vcr in the early 1980's with one of the primary justifications being to tape the Letterman show so I could hear the songs the band was doing. Several of my musician friends did this as well, and we didn't think it at all odd at the time. We just liked hearing some fresh ideas on old songs that we sometimes played ourselves or would like to play.

So I like really good cover tunes. Sure, I've bought the various and sundry tribute CD's to artists like Led Zep, Clapton, Rolling Stongs and others.

But in recent years I became a big fan of several cover band projects of famous guitarist Micheal Schenker and Pat Travers. Both are known as "rock star" metal rock guitarists, albeit of different "metal genres", and there are things that both artists have done in their younger days that I really like. I've always enjoyed their work over the years in various bands, but earlier this decade they had several projects I really liked.

Both Schenker and Travers assembled legendary sidemen and released two cd's each with their bands playing cover tunes in their separate projects, and being a child of the sixties and seventies, I was familiar with most of the material they covered. Both of their CD's were released by Schrapnel Records with Mike Varney producing. Mike also played some tracks, I believe. What a rocking job Mike Varney has!

Pat Travers had the Pat Travers Power Trio, which issued the self-titled first CD in 2003 with a follow up entitled "Power Trio 2" in 2006. His back was rocking, and I highly recommend these cd's even if you do not think you were a big Pat Travers fan, as I thought before I heard them. Legendary rock drummer Aynsley Dunbar plays the skins and Gunter Nezhoda rocks the bass on both projects, laying down a serious rock and blues beat throughout both cd's.

Micheal Schenker had the Schenker-Pattison Summit. Their first 2004 CD, "The Endless Jam", also featured Aynsley Dunbar on drums and Gunter Nezhoda on bass and featured Davey Pattison on Vocals. Great singer, Pattison.

In 2005, they released "The Endless Jam Continues" which featured Pattison, Dunbar and Schenker from the previous effort and adding legendary bassist Tim Bogart. They cover a plethora of great tunes on this CD, such as Bad Company's "Rock Steady", Trower's "Too Rolling Stoned" and Clapton's "Layla", amongst others.

You can find the Pat Travers Power Trio cd's and the Schenker-Pattison Summit at Guitar 9 records online or at your favorite independent CD store that sells quality products. Interestingly, I bought several of these back in the day at an FYE store at the Katy Mills Mall. I have not been there for some time, but they used to stock an astonishingly diverse amount of music on CD.

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