Battle of the Bands RESULTS: Spooky by Classic IV

Hope all of you had a fabulous Thanksgiving and fun celebrating the holiday weekend with family and friends. It was a crazy busy time here for me with a zillion dogs boarding for the holiday and in fact I completely forgot to post the battle results so my apologies for being so tardy.

This is going to be short and sweet: my computer is acting up and I have to take it in to clear off whatever is making it stall and move so sluggishly. I’m getting irritated seeing “Not Responding” in every single program, and productivity is only a pipe-dream at this point.

Anyway, this month’s battle featured the Classics IV classic “Spooky” with Joan Osborne and Deana Martin both vying for the win.

JOAN OSBORNE steamrolled Deana Martin. Voters most definitely preferred Osborne’s smoky vocal style over Deana’s swing approach, myself included. I liked Deana’s version and enjoyed it very much. Her style set a whole new tone for the song, whereas I think Joan’s version is more fitting for the overall context of “Spooky.”

FINAL TALLY:

JOAN OSBORNE – 10 votes

DEANA MARTIN – 3 votes 

Another female vocal version that I considered using in this battle was a cover by Dusty Springfield. For those not familiar with Dusty, here’s the opening paragraph from her Wikipedia bio page:

Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien, OBE (16 April 1939 – 2 March 1999), professionally known as Dusty Springfield, was an English pop singer and record producer whose career extended from the late 1950s to the 1990s. With her distinctive sensual mezzo-soprano sound, she was an important blue-eyed soul singer and at her peak was one of the most successful British female performers, with six top 20 singles on the US Billboard Hot 100 and sixteen on the UK Singles Chart from 1963 to 1989. She is a member of the US Rock and Roll and UK Music Halls of Fame. International polls have named Springfield among the best female rock artists of all time. Her image, supported by a peroxide blonde bouffant hairstyle, evening gowns, and heavy make-up, as well as her flamboyant performances made her an icon of the Swinging Sixties.

To close this battle out, here is another fine cover of the classic “Spooky”. I really like the video of this particular performance: the set is really cool, love the colors and the overall style of the time period. I don’t know the date of this recording or the setting but I think you’ll like it. Here is Dusty Springfield’s version:

 

As always, thanks for participating in my battle. See you next month on December 15th for the final battle of 2017. Until then, rock on…

 

 

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Battle of the Bands – “Spooky” by Classics IV

It’s mid-November and that means it’s time for another Battle of the Bands. I’ll present two covers of a song that I choose and you guys listen to both and vote which one you like better. What does the winner get? Nothing but a slot on my BOTB Excel spreadsheet, but hey, it’s fun. So play along, will ya?

I had fun putting together my Halloween playlist for the other music bloghop in which I participate, Monday’s Music Moves Me (which I unfortunately missed the last two weeks because my greyhound Picasso had major surgery and he had a very rough recovery…and then my other greyhound Luca got sick too and I think I spent more time staying up all night with my dogs and hanging at the vet’s office than doing anything else). Anyway, one of the songs I featured on my Halloween playlist (which you should really check out because it’s good!) was “Spooky”. There I showcased two of the most popular versions, one from 1968 by the group Classics IV and the other from 1979 when it was covered by the Atlantic Rhythm Section.

Here’s a little backstory on the song with a mini-playlist including the two versions just mentioned plus the original for your enjoyment. But don’t vote on any of these! Below the Spooky song facts I’m posting two unique covers by female artists and therein lies today’s battle.

Spooky – “Spooky” was originally an instrumental song performed by saxophonist Mike Sharpe (Shapiro), written by Shapiro and Harry Middlebrooks, Jr., which first charted in 1967 hitting #57 on the US pop charts. Its best-known version was created by James Cobb and producer Buddy Buie for the group Classics IV when they added lyrics about a “spooky little girl”. In 1968, the vocal version of the song reached #3 in the U.S. (Billboard Hot 100) and #46 in the UK.

This was one of the first songs to get a lot of airplay on the Album Oriented Rock (AOR) format. FM was relatively new, and AOR was a great format for people who wanted to hear songs on rock albums that weren’t necessarily hits.

The Classics IV is a band formed in Jacksonville, Florida, United States, in 1965. The band is often credited for establishing the “soft southern rock” sound. The band, led by singer Dennis Yost, is known mainly for the hits “Spooky”, “Stormy” and “Traces”, released 1967 to 1969, which have become cover standards.

The song was also a hit when covered by the Atlanta Rhythm Section. The Classics IV member Cobb and bandmates Dean Daughtry and Robert Nix later became part of the Atlanta Rhythm Section and they re-recorded “Spooky” in 1979, also produced by Buie. It was the second of two singles released from their Underdog LP. Atlanta Rhythm Section’s version hit #17 in the US on Billboard and #15 on Cash Box. It also charted minorly (is that a word? If it is, I don’t believe I’ve ever used it before) internationally.

“Spooky” has also been covered by a number of artists including Dusty Springfield (whose gender-flipped version was featured prominently in the Guy Ritchie film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), Percy Sledge, Martha and the Vandellas, Michel Pagliaro (recorded song in French), Velvet Monkeys, R.E.M., Imogen Heap, Kid Montana, and jazz saxophonist David Sanborn, who released it as an instrumental.

For today’s battle, I’ve chosen two well-known female artists and their unique cover versions of this song.

CONTENDER #1:  Joan Osborne

Joan Elizabeth Osborne (born July 8, 1962) is an American singer, songwriter, and interpreter of music, having recorded and performed in various popular American musical genres including pop, soul, R&B, blues, and country. She is best known for her recording of the Eric Bazilian song “One of Us” (I love this song!). She has toured with Motown sidemen the Funk Brothers and was featured in the documentary film about them, Standing in the Shadows of Motown.

Joan Osborne performing in Wilmington, Delaware in November 2009

Originally from Anchorage, Kentucky, a suburb of Louisville, Osborne moved to New York City in the late 1980s, where she formed her own record label, Womanly Hips, to release a few independent recordings. She signed with other labels and released several albums over the years and had an interesting career journey along the way, including accompanying with her band the Dixie Chicks for a national tour in the summer of 2003. During that time she also joined veteran San Francisco jam-rockers The Dead (the American rock band composed of some of the former members of the Grateful Dead) as a vocalist, and released her fourth album, titled How Sweet It Is, a collection of classic rock and soul covers. Osborne is currently a member of Trigger Hippy, along with Steve Gorman, Tom Bukovac, Jackie Greene, and Nick Govrik. Trigger Hippy released their debut album on September 30, 2014.

Having grown up in New York City and lived there for many decades, Osborne has stated that she feels a particular attachment to the city, particularly the borough of Brooklyn. Her interest in her neighborhood’s culture, history, and society has multiple influences on her music. As well, she’s expressed admiration for American poetry, especially the works of Walt Whitman, and cited that as a major inspiration for her songwriting.

Here is Joan Osborne’s cover of Spooky:

 

CONTENDER #2:  Deana Martin

Deana Martin (born August 19, 1948) is an American singer, actress, author, performer and daughter of well-known entertainer, Dean Martin. Deana was born in Manhattan, New York, to Dean Martin and his first wife, Elizabeth (Betty) MacDonald. She moved to Beverly Hills, California with her family by the age of one. She later went to live with Dean and his second wife, Jeanne Biegger. During her childhood, it was not unusual for her dad’s Rat Pack friends, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr., to stop by for a visit. Being around her father and his friends led Deana to decide that she wanted a career in the entertainment industry.

She made her television debut in 1966, performing on The Dean Martin Show. She became a frequent guest, taking part in both musical and comedy numbers with a wide array of entertainers including Frank Sinatra. She trained professionally as an actress at the Dartington College of Arts in the United Kingdom and performed in theater productions in a variety of leading roles onstage and co-starred in several movies alongside some of Hollywood’s greatest actors.

Martin first established herself as a recording artist with producer Lee Hazlewood for the Reprise Records label. The recordings included her country hit, “Girl of the Month Club,” while she was still a teenager. Other tunes on the project were “When He Remembers Me,” “Baby I See You” and “The Bottom Of My Mind,” all recorded during the 1960s. Musicians from the famous Los Angeles group the Wrecking Crew, which included Glen Campbell on guitar, played on these recordings.

In 2009 the singer’s CD Volare was in both the Billboard Top Jazz Albums chart and the Billboard Heat Seekers chart. It was preceded by Memories Are Made of This in 2006. Deana’s 2013 release, Destination Moon, is a compilation of her favorite jazz and pop songs, plus a duet with her father, Dean Martin, on “True Love.” Martin returned in 2016 with Swing Street, an album of swing standards mixed with new songs soon to be classics. This is where you’ll find her cover version of “Spooky.”

The singer is also an author with her New York Times best-selling book, “Memories Are Made of This: Dean Martin Through His Daughter’s Eyes.” Deana performs her father’s songs as well as favorite classic pop hits in venues around the world including symphony halls, performing arts centers, blues venues, jazz clubs and festivals. She and her producer/husband, John Griffeth, divide their time between a home in Beverly Hills, California and Branson, Missouri.

From the Swing Street album, here is Deana Martin’s cover of “Spooky”:

If you can’t access the above video, here is a link to Spotify where you’ll be able to listen to Deana’s version of Spooky on her album there. She has some good songs on that album for anyone who may want to check out some more of her songs. (Thanks Debbie Doglady for pointing the problem out to me and providing the solution. You rock Sister!)

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 on the 26th to post the results. Until then, rock on…

 

Battle of the Bands: I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home) by Grand Funk Railroad

I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home)” is a 1970 song written by American musician Mark Farner and recorded by Grand Funk Railroad as the closing track to their album Closer to Home. Ten minutes in duration, it is the band’s longest studio recording. One of the group’s best-known songs, it is composed as two distinct but closely related movements. Its title has been rendered in various ways across many different Grand Funk albums, including “I’m Your Captain”, “I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home”, “Closer to Home/I’m Your Captain”, “Closer to Home (I’m Your Captain)”, and “Closer to Home”.

The song conveys the pleas of a captain on a troubled sea voyage and facing a mutiny from his crew. Its use of an orchestra during the long repeated refrains of the closing movement served to differentiate it from much of Grand Funk’s work. Several interpretations of the song have been given; most revolve around the Vietnam War, and “I’m Your Captain” is popular among veterans of that conflict.

A truncated version of the song was a modest hit single when first released, but the track achieved greater airplay on progressive rock radio stations. Decades later, “I’m Your Captain” remains a staple of many classic rock radio stations. It is considered to be the standout track on the Closer to Home album, and considered by both Farner and others to be his best work as a songwriter. And with its melodic strengths and dramatic feel it is often considered one of the best rock songs of all time.

THEMES & INTERPRETATIONS: Over the years many interpretations have been posed by listeners of “I’m Your Captain”, including the literal one of mutiny on a voyage, but also ones involving drug addiction and ones by those who see resonance in Homer’s Odyssey and themes of returning home, such as college students returning from a long semester. Authors have seen the song as an “epic of paranoia and disease” and as a tale of a man who had lost control of his life in a fashion strong enough to invoke childhood nightmares. It has been used as the subtitle for a chapter of a novel dealing with war and addictions. Comparisons have been made to Walt Whitman’s poem “O Captain! My Captain!” in its use of the rank to mean Abraham Lincoln.

Farner himself does not explicitly state what the song is about, and indeed prefers that listeners be able to use their own imaginations when listening to songs in general. Nor did the other band members have any real idea of what Farner was getting at; Brewer has said, “I think it can mean a lot of different things to a lot of people.”

But the most common interpretations and resonances of “I’m Your Captain” revolve around the Vietnam War. The VH1 program Behind the Music said the song “became a subtle anti-war anthem.” Lee Andresen, author of Battle Notes: Music of the Vietnam War, sees it as portraying President Richard Nixon as “captain” of the United States, losing popular support for continuing the war.  Fellow Flint native Michael Moore remembers hearing it on the radio the day he went to his draft board (where he would file as a conscientious objector), and hoping the I’m getting closer to my home refrains would never end, as he felt America was his home and not Vietnam.

The song also found a following among American personnel in Vietnam, in part because the band’s working-class Flint origins were similar to those of many Americans serving in the war. It resonated with them as they tried to stay alive while waiting for the time when they could get closer to home, and then when they were finally returning from the war. It remains quite popular among Vietnam veterans and Farner has played it at several veterans’ benefits. Farner visited and performed at The Wall in November 2007, on the 25th anniversary of the memorial’s dedication. He later said, “The gig was a great spiritual and emotional experience. The ‘Nam vets I had the privilege to speak to were so gracious and personal with me, as if we were relatives getting back together after a long time apart. As you could imagine, it was really hard for me to sing ‘I’m Your Captain’ because there was a softball stuck in my throat and I couldn’t swallow it!” In 2010, Farner sang the song accompanying himself on acoustic guitar at the Vietnam Veterans of America’s National Leadership Conference, where he received the organization’s President’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

This song one of my favorites of all time. Here is the Grand Funk version. However, don’t vote on this one; it’s here for your reference and enjoyment only. Be sure to put on your headphones and turn it up! Then take a listen to the two contenders below and let me know which cover version you prefer.

 

Contender #1:  HELLOWEEN – Helloween is a German power metal band founded in 1984 in Hamburg, Northern Germany. The band is a pioneering force in the power metal genre. Since its inception, Helloween has released fifteen studio albums, three live albums, three EPs, and twenty-seven singles, and has sold more than eight million records worldwide.

This cover is from their sixth studio album Master of the Rings, released in 1994:

 

Contender #2:  TOM LUM FOREST – Tom Forest, a computer programmer/software engineer living in Portland, Oregon is also a musician who has been making music since 1969 when he was a sixth-grader playing trombone in the school band. Some years later, in 1977, he bought a Pan guitar and taught himself to play. That started him on the path of a lifetime spent honing his craft, defining his style, networking with other musicians and creating music.

Regarding his music, Tom said, “I recorded my first album, “Rough but Pleasing,” in 2009. It and my second album, “Pretty as you Please,” were all covers. My third album, 2011’s “Roots of Happiness,” had a couple of originals. Subsequent albums have been mostly originals. My closest niche is probably folk-rock and/or singer-songwriter. I don’t have a band: I just hire musicians when I record an album. My leading influences are CSNY, Clapton, Santana, the Grateful Dead, Chicago, and the Allman Brothers.”

He recorded his version of “I’m Your Captain” in 2016. He arranged it as a duet with singer Sarah Billings, setting the arrangement apart from the original. As for the music, Tom said, “We lacked the strings, flute, and sea sounds of the original. But we added waves of guitars. I played the 12-string acoustic rhythm. Terry Robb is playing the six-string acoustic fills and early solo breaks. Both further set my version [apart] from the original, which has a six string acoustic rhythm and electric fills and leads. During the long instrumental break I add some 12-string leads and some more languid 6-string leads. Terry adds an acoustic slide part to the jam.”

I really like his version of the song. I’ve been listening to some of his music and it’s really quite good. You can find him here on SoundCloud or here on YouTube.

This cover of “I’m Your Captain” is from his album Pretty as You Please, released in June 2016:

 

 

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 on the 26th to post the results. Until then, rock on…

 

BATTLE RESULTS: The Stuck in the Middle with You CHAMPIONSHIP

Finally, I’m here to report the “Stuck in the Middle with You Championship” winner.

This was a battle that was especially hard for me when it came to casting a vote. Both contenders, Keith Urban, the Country winner from last month’s Playoff Battle, and Michael  Bublé, the Playoff Jazz winner, did incredible covers of this Stealers Wheel classic. I spent a lot of time listening to both versions, going back and forth, and I was so undecided that I even pushed the Results post a day later so I could sleep on my decision.

In the end, I truly couldn’t pick which one I liked better. They both are outstanding. And since it won’t matter to the overall battle results, I split my vote between these two great artists. It doesn’t happen often that I can’t make a decision but this battle proved to baffle me.

Battle participants were definitely more decided in their votes and it became clear early on who the Grand Champion was going to be. Keith Urban’s energetic rendition certainly won most hearts in this race. His gravelly voice and that twangy guitar hit a powerful beat and gave this version a really fun down-home sound.

Michael Bublé had a respectable showing though, as well he should have. His dynamic version had it all going on: a vibrant orchestral sound coupled with his spirited vocals produced an absolutely fantastic experience for the listener.

In the end, Keith Urban reigned supreme in this Championship battle.

Including my split votes, the results tallied like this:

Michael Bublé:   5-1/2 

Keith Urban:      9-1/2

Thanks to all who participated in my first two-part four-way battle. You all made it a really fun event! Stay tuned for next month’s battle. See you on September 15th.

 

 

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.