Battle of the Bands – CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND of Stuck in the Middle with You!

Last month I did my first FOUR-WAY BATTLE using the Stealers Wheel song Stuck in the Middle with You. I featured two Jazz covers and two Country covers and folks cast two votes, voting for their favorite in each genre. The winners in that Playoff Round were Michael Bublé as the Jazz contender and Keith Urban as the Country contender. That battle has lead us up to this month’s battle:

The “Stuck in the Middle with You” Championship!

For today’s battle, voters will be choosing ONE WINNER who will walk away with the Championship title (and maybe even a SuperBattle Ring).

The contenders are last month’s winners: Michael Bublé vs Keith Urban. Give a listen and choose your favorite.

Jazz Contender:  Michael Bublé – Michael Bublé (born September 9, 1975) is a Canadian singer, songwriter, actor and record producer. He has won several awards, including four Grammy Awards and multiple Juno Awards.

Here’s his jazzy take on Stuck in the Middle with You, the winning Jazz cover version in my battle last month:

 

Country Contender:  Keith Urban – As mentioned last month, Keith Lionel Urban (born 26 October 1967) is a New Zealand born country musician (singer, songwriter, guitarist, TV show judge and record producer) with an impressive award-winning career.

His cover version of Stuck in the Middle with You is from the 2004 re-release of The Ranch’s self-titled album. The Ranch was a country music trio, which formed in 1997 by Peter Clarke on drums and percussion, Jerry Flowers on harmony vocals and bass guitar, and Keith Urban on lead vocals, guitar, ganjo, and keyboards. Most of the group’s material was co-written by Urban and Vernon Rust. Self-titled album The Ranch is the band’s only album. It was released by Capitol Nashville in 1997. After disbanding the group The Ranch, Urban resumed his solo career. Due to his solo success, The Ranch’s album was re-issued in February 2004 on Capitol/EMI as Keith Urban in The Ranch with two bonus tracks: “Billy” and “Stuck in the Middle with You“. Here is that bonus track and the winner in the Country genre in last month’s battle:

 

So, who is going to reign supreme in my first SuperBattle Championship? Please cast your vote in the Comment section and let me know why you are choosing that artist for this song.

And when you’re done voting, please visit these other BOTB participants and check out their cool battles:

I’ll be back on August 21st declaring the winner of this Stuck in the Middle with You Championship. It will probably take me that long to clean up the parking lot: the tailgate parties leading up to this championship got a little rowdy…

As always, thanks so much for participating.

BATTLE OF THE BANDS: Stuck in the Middle with You by Stealers Wheel

It’s July 15th so not only are we halfway through summer but it’s also time for another Battle of the Bands. This month’s battle features a hit song by Stealers Wheel. Stealers Wheel was a Scottish folk rock/rock band formed in Paisley, Scotland, in 1972 by former school friends Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty. Their best-known hit is “Stuck in the Middle with You“, a Dylan-esque pop favorite recorded in April, 1974. The band broke up in 1975 and re-formed briefly in 2008.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about the song: “Stuck in the Middle with You” (sometimes known as “Stuck in the Middle”) was released on Stealers Wheel’s 1972 eponymous debut album. Gerry Rafferty provided the lead vocals, with Joe Egan singing harmony. Rafferty’s lyrics are a dismissive tale of a music industry cocktail party written and performed as a pastiche of Bob Dylan. (I didn’t know what a pastiche was and had to look it up. In case you’re wondering too, it’s an artistic work in a style that imitates that of another artist).

The band was surprised by the single’s chart success. The single sold over one million copies, eventually peaking at number 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, number 8 in the UK, and number 2 in Canada.

Any Tarrantino fans out there? The song is used in Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 debut film Reservoir Dogs, during the scene in which the character Mr. Blonde (played by Michael Madsen) taunts and tortures bound policeman Marvin Nash (Kirk Baltz) while singing and dancing to the song. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Tarantino recalled:

“That was one of those things where I thought [the song] would work really well, and [during] auditions, I told the actors that I wanted them to do the torture scene, and I’m gonna use ‘Stuck in the Middle With You,’ but they could pick anything they wanted, they didn’t have to use that song. And a couple people picked another one, but almost everyone came in with ‘Stuck in the Middle With You’ and they were saying that they tried to come up with something else, but that’s the one. The first time somebody actually did the torture scene to that song, the guy didn’t even have a great audition, but it was like watching the movie. I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is gonna be awesome!'”

The Reservoir Dogs: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was the first soundtrack for a Quentin Tarantino film and set the structure his later soundtracks would follow. This includes the extensive use of snippets of dialogue from the film. The soundtrack has selections of songs from the 1960s to ’80s. (Only the group Bedlam recorded original songs for the film). Reasoning that the film takes place over a weekend, Tarantino decided to set it to a fictional radio station ‘K-Billy’ (presumably KBLY)’s show “K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies Weekend”, a themed weekend show of broadcasts of songs from the seventies. The radio station played a prominent role in the film. The DJ for the radio was chosen to be Steven Wright, a comedian known for his deadpan delivery of jokes.

An unusual feature of the soundtrack was the choice of songs; Tarantino has said that he feels the music to be a counterpoint to the on-screen violence and action. He also stated that he wished for the film to have a 1950s feel while using ’70s music. A prominent instance of this is the torture scene to the tune of “Stuck in the Middle with You“. (Source: Wikipedia)

The Stealer’s Wheel music video is quite strange, in my opinion. Even the explanation of it didn’t make sense: “The video portrays the band performing in a corner of a large, empty building. Their performance is intercut with shots of Egan (who is miming to the by-then-departed Rafferty’s vocal track, although Gerry Rafferty did not die until January 2011) at a small banquet table with a number of garishly-dressed and made-up supper guests. These include an actual clown, a bespectacled bowler-hatted gent devouring spaghetti and a lavishly dressed woman eating cream cakes and grapes. The clown, who has difficulty eating a plastic chicken, continually squeezes Egan out whenever he tries to take food from the table. The guitar solo is played on a guitar played flat with an empty beer bottle used as a slide. Eventually, the other band members appear, driving off the strange characters so that Egan can sit down at last.”

HUH??? Whatever. It’s a good song. Enjoy! (and remember, this version is presented as the original source only; don’t vote for this one):

 

Now for my Battle: In searching for covers of this song I found four that I really liked and ironically two of them were by Jazz artists and the other two by Country artists. I couldn’t decide which two to pick, so with a little input from Stephen, I’m going to do my first FOUR-WAY BATTLE in which you’ll place TWO votes: one for your Jazz favorite and one for your Country favorite. Then next month I’ll have the two winners from each genre battle it out for a championship win in August. Hope you guys are okay with this.

Jazzy covers

Jazz Contender #1:  Michael Bublé – Micheal Bublé (born September 9, 1975) is a Canadian singer, songwriter, actor and record producer. He has won several awards, including four Grammy Awards and multiple Juno Awards. Bublé’s interest in jazz music began around age five when his family played Bing Crosby’s White Christmas album at Christmastime.

Here’s his jazzy take on Stuck in the Middle with You:

 

Jazz Contender #2:  Nicole Henry – Nicole Henry is an American jazz singer. She has performed in the world’s most acclaimed jazz venues, including clubs such as the Tokyo’s famed Cotton Club and Blue Note NYC. She has performed at numerous festivals including the Festival Miami and the San Jose Summer Jazz Fest (2014).

In 2013, she sang new renditions of hits from the 1970s for her album So Good, So Right: Nicole Henry Live recorded in front of sold-out crowds at Feinstein’s in New York. Stuck in the Middle with You is on that album:

 

Country covers

Country Contender #1:  Keith Urban – Keith Lionel Urban (born 26 October 1967) is a New Zealand born country musician (singer, songwriter, guitarist, TV show judge and record producer) with an impressive award-winning career.

This cover version of Stuck in the Middle with You is from the 2004 re-release of The Ranch’s self-titled album. The Ranch was a country music trio, which formed in 1997 by Peter Clarke on drums and percussion, Jerry Flowers on harmony vocals and bass guitar, and Keith Urban on lead vocals, guitar, ganjo, and keyboards. Most of the group’s material was co-written by Urban and Vernon Rust. Self-titled album The Ranch is the band’s only album. It was released by Capitol Nashville in 1997. After disbanding the group The Ranch, Urban resumed his solo career. Due to his solo success, The Ranch’s album was re-issued in February 2004 on Capitol/EMI as Keith Urban in The Ranch with two bonus tracks: “Billy” and “Stuck in the Middle with You“. Here is that bonus track:

 

Country Contender #2:  Juice Newton – Judy Kay “Juice” Newton (born February 18, 1952) is an American pop and country singer, songwriter, and musician. To date, Newton has received five Grammy Award nominations in the Pop and Country Best Female Vocalist categories (winning once in 1983), as well as an ACM Award for Top New Female Artist and two Billboard Female Album Artist of the Year awards (won consecutively).

Juice Newton did this cover of Stuck in the Middle with You in 1985 on her tenth studio album Old Flame (released in November 1985).

Old Flame was recorded after Newton signed a new recording contract with RCA. It peaked at number fifteen on the Billboard album chart. In his review of the album music critic Thom Owens notes that “out of all of Juice Newton’s albums, Old Flame has the strongest country roots and influences”. Featured on the album were cover versions of Del Shannon’s “Cheap Love”, Roy Hamilton’s “Hurt”, The Byrds’s “Feel a Whole Lot Better” and Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle with You”.

 

TIME TO VOTE! Which two versions do you like better and why? Please pick one from the Jazz group battle and one from the Country group battle. When you’re done voting, please visit these other BOTB participants and check out their cool battles:

Thanks for your participation and your votes! I’ll be back next month, on August 15th, for the Stuck in the Middle with You Championship, pitting the winners from today’s battle against each other. Until then, rock on…

 

 

Battle of the Bands RESULTS: Doctor My Eyes

Hi guys. I’m three days late getting my Results post up. Sorry ’bout that.

The battle was with the Jackson Browne song Doctor My Eyes and the contenders were Wilson Phillips and Gretchen Wilson.

Well, Stephen’s Magic 8-Ball was right on the money on this one: Wilson Phillips took the title in this battle. Voting had a low turnout though so I wouldn’t really call it a landslide ending, as he predicted. Wilson Phillips came in with 7 votes and Gretchen Wilson with 3 votes, including mine.

Honestly, I was at a loss as to who to choose. I listened to each version several times, like 5 or 6 times each while I’ve been working on something else here, and I just had a hard time deciding on how to cast my vote. I absolutely love the vocal harmonies in the Wilson Phillips version and then I really like Gretchen’s voice and the music in her version, it being very close to the original in strength and tempo. In the end, I tossed my vote to Gretchen.

I’m going to leave you all with a fun song by Gretchen: Redneck Woman. If you haven’t heard it before, give a listen and pay attention to the lyrics (I’m posting a video with the lyrics on screen so they’ll be easy to follow). I love the lyrics. Living in Texas for the past 25 years, I’m very well acquainted with the redneck lifestyle! This is a fun song. Enjoy.

As always, thanks for your participation. I’ll be back next month, on July 15th, with a new battle.

Battle of the Bands: Doctor My Eyes by Jackson Browne

It’s June 15th and the official kickoff to Battle of the Bands going monthly. From here on out, Battles will be held once a month, on the 15th of every month. (Note: some BOTB participants will still post two battles per month, on the 1st and the 15th).

My mid-month battle is featuring the song Doctor My Eyes by Jackson Browne.

“Doctor My Eyes” is a 1972 song written and performed by Jackson Browne and included on his debut album Jackson Browne. Featuring a combination of an upbeat piano riff coupled, somewhat ironically, with lyric about feeling world-weary, the song was a surprise hit, reaching #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in spring 1972, after debuting on the chart at #80. In Canada, the song peaked at #4.

Jesse Ed Davis played the electric guitar while David Crosby and Graham Nash sang backing vocals, and Russ Kunkel played drums.

I’ve always loved this song. It’s interesting in that the upbeat music doesn’t match the lyrics. Here’s some history of the song from Wikipedia: William Ruhlmann on Allmusic.com elaborated on the development of the song: “Browne first recorded a demo of ‘Doctor My Eyes’ for the Criterion Music publishing company in early 1971, and despite its striking imagery and carefully crafted writing, it was a bleak song… By the time he came to record the song for his first album in the summer of 1971, however, Browne had revised the lyric, tossing out the most pessimistic lines. Now, ‘Doctor My Eyes’ was the statement of a man who had stoically endured life’s hardships, but having done so, now worried that he had been rendered unable to feel anything. It still wasn’t an optimistic song, but the unhappy ending had been rendered ambiguous.” Ruhlmann addresses the final recorded version’s “paradoxical sense” between the music and the lyrics: “Working with other musicians, Browne drastically altered the sound of the song on record. A lively 4/4 beat, played on drums and congas, and supported by piano, set up a catchy underlying riff before the lyrics even began. Browne’s singing was supported by Graham Nash and David Crosby’s harmonies, giving the lyrics an emotional edge. On the whole, the arrangement and performance worked against the still desperate message contained in the words.” There was originally a third verse to the song, but it was not retained when Browne recorded the song for his debut album. The lost verse, however, can be found on circulating bootlegs of the song’s original demo.

In part 1 of the 2013 documentary History of the Eagles, JD Souther and Glenn Frey discuss at some length the process of Browne’s work methods while Browne was working on the song over a period of some months. The three lived in adjacent downmarket apartments; the future Eagles would hear Browne, through the walls, at work on his piano every morning.

On the song’s reception: Jeff Walker, in his review of Browne’s debut album for Phonograph Record magazine in 1972, wrote that “Doctor My Eyes” is one of a number of tracks on the album that “deal with a spiritual search; no preaching, no conclusions, just searching.”

Ruhlmann on Allmusic called it “a rollicking pop/rock song about being almost terminally burnt out.”

Here’s a terrific live performance of Jackson Browne’s appearance on Rockpalast (Rock Palace), a German music television show, in 1986. Don’t vote for this version: it’s here for your enjoyment only.

 

THE BATTLE, featuring female vocals:

CONTENDER #1: Wilson Phillips 

Wilson Phillips covered the song on their 2004 album “California”.  Wilson Phillips is an American vocal group consisting of Carnie Wilson, Wendy Wilson, and Chynna Phillips, the daughters, respectively, of Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys and of John and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas. (If the video doesn’t play for some reason, you can hear the version here)

 

CONTENDER #2: Gretchen Wilson

Gretchen Frances Wilson (born June 26, 1973) is an American country music artist. She made her debut in 2004 with the Grammy Award-winning single “Redneck Woman,” a number-one hit on the Billboard country charts. She covered the song for the 2013 album “Under the Covers“.

 

TIME TO VOTE! Which version do you like better and why? When you’re done voting, please visit these other BOTB participants and check out their cool battles:

Thanks for your participation and your votes! I’ll be back next month, on July 15th, for another battle. Until then, rock on…

Battle of the Bands RESULTS: Losing My Religion

Here are the results from my latest Battle of the Bands, which featured R.E.M.’s 1991 hit Losing My Religion. The battle was between Passenger and Jacqui Naylor.

Well, Jacqui Naylor sure didn’t fare well in this battle! She only managed to pull in one vote..and it wasn’t mine. I voted with the majority and went with Passenger.

Final Tally:

Passenger:  9 votes

Jacqui Naylor:  1 vote

I’ll be back on June 15th for another battle. Until then, I’ll leave you with a few Passenger originals. First up is Let Her Go from Passenger’s third album All the Little Lights, released in 2012:

Next up is Somebody’s Love, the lead single from his most recent album Young as the Morning, Old as the Sea, released late last year:

 

See ya on the 15th!