Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Songs #348 & 349 - It's TWOsday!

Song #348 of 9999                                   Song #349 of 9999

Title: Good Vibrations                              Title: Good Vibrations
Artist: Beach Boys                                    Artist: Todd Rundgren
Year: 1966                                               Year: 1976
Album: Smiley Smile                                Album: Faithful

Disclaimer: It's been a long day, I'm tired and I have baseball to watch. This is less about analyzing tonight than it is about sharing something interesting. No deep insights. Fifteen minutes of blog time, max.

In 1998, Gus Van Sant set out to make a shot-by-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. It wasn't well-received and many people were somewhat confounded by Van Sant's exercise. Why remake a film in the exact way as the originator, with the same camera angles, same music, etc., essentially co-opting someone else's artistic vision?

I actually had no problem with the concept (although I didn't see the film) and have had similar thoughts of remaking a record such as The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, with a goal of making it sound as identical to the original recording as possible. The reasons are simple: you learn the songs and gain insight from them, you figure out how certain sounds are made and recorded, and you hone your mixing skills in an effort to match the sound of the original. It is all about learning a craft, or more succinctly, learning.

I have to figure that's what Todd Rundgren had in mind when he made Faithful, a record that features an A side of cover tunes written by The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and The Beach Boys. Rundgren regarded these songs as "classics" and set out to perform them in the way classical music is performed: faithful reproductions of the original scores. Particularly adept at getting his voice to sound like Mike Love of The Beach Boys, the cover of "Good Vibrations" is so good that radio stations held on-air contests to see if listeners could distinguish the cover from the original. As an aside, the B-side features original material and I think it's some of Rundgren's best. Check out "Cliché."

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