It’s never quite the same as the real one

I finally listened to the Revisited & Beyond CD from the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 40th Anniversary Super Deluxe set. Let me preface my comments by noting that I am (unapologetically) a purist…I don’t often like other people covering Sir Elton’s songs.

On a recent road trip, though, I decided to take the CD for a ride with me.  After a few listens, I must say that I actually liked some of the other artists’ versions. Quelle surprise!

Here are the 9 tracks and my impressions:

  • Candle in the Wind (Ed Sheeran): Love, love, love this one! WOW. Nice one to start off with. If you have 3:20 (and even if you don’t), listen to it here. It’s well worth your time. Definitely a keeper.
  • Bennie and the Jets (Miguel featuring Wale): I don’t mind it, but it’s just not my style. It’s not bad, it’s just not that good, imho. I do like it when he says “Now where do you get a mohair suit?”
  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Hunter Hayes): Meh. Nothing special about this version. Frankly, they should’ve included Sarah Bareilles version. She blew me away with her interpretation.
  • Grey Seal (The Band Perry): I really like Kimberly Perry’s voice, and I think this is a pretty good cover of Grey Seal. I wasn’t thrilled with the twangy, banjo-y lead in, but it grows on you (and it fits The Band Perry). I would listen to this again.
  • Sweet Painted Lady (John Grant): I’m not familiar with John Grant, but his voice carries this song well. (At first I mistakingly thought it was Harry Connick Jr – now wouldn’t that have been nice?). Melancholy and dark. I’m ok with that.
  • All the Young Girls Love Alice (Emile Sandé): Beautiful voice, but blah rendition of this tune. Sorry, Emile, but this needs to be a rocker.
  • Your Sister Can’t Twist But She Can Rock ‘n Roll (Imelda May): A respectable version. I am not familiar with Imelda, either, but I do like her voice. She did a good job with this song.
  • Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting (Fall Out Boy): Not bad, I like it. Needs to be listened to very loud (just like the original version).
  • Harmony (Zac Brown Band): This one gave me goosebumps as they started the second verse. They took the harmony theme literally, and it works.

So there you have it. It seems like the versions I’m drawn to are those that stay pretty true to the original tone/intention but add their own flair and personal style.

Some other thoughts:

Wouldn’t it have been cool to package Elton’s version along side each of the other versions, so you could compare and contrast?  The producers include 2 earlier versions of Grey Seal on the CD, but I think it would have been a better CD to include the originals as well.

I would’ve thought they could’ve gotten a lot more than 9 people/groups to record versions of the songs on GBYBR – there are 17 songs on the original album, for crying out loud.

I was wondering how the artists were chosen, and found this interview with Peter Asher, the producer of Revisited & Beyond, who was asked that very question:

In conversation with Elton and Tony King [Elton’s creative director], we would bounce ideas around and then approach the artist. In most cases Elton or I would have a good idea specifically who could cover the song. I know Ed Sheeran has said in interviews that he wouldn’t have picked “Candle in the Wind” because it’s such an iconic song. Elton just said to Ed, “I think you should do this song”, and luckily Ed said yes.

However, in the case of “Grey Seal”, that was one I was a bit stuck on. That piano lick is such a crucial element of the song and I didn’t want someone just copying Elton. Then I suddenly had an epiphany and decided it could be a banjo lick. I called up a friend of mine who plays banjo and asked, “Am I crazy?” But he agreed it could become a banjo lick, and that’s why I went to the Band Perry, who I love.

So it was a different process in each case, and there was a lot of consulting. We ended up with a list that everyone was extremely happy with.

I’m guessing that this CD will go back in the box and likely not be opened again. Like I said, I am a purist (and, as Bernie so aptly put it in Grey Seal, “it’s never quite the same as the real one”).