BATTLE OF THE BANDS – Valentine’s Edition: I WANT TO KNOW WHAT LOVE IS by Foreigner

Hope you all had a great Valentine’s Day! I’m keeping the Love theme going with today’s Battle of the Bands featuring “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner. 

A quick refresher because it’s been since (yikes!) November that I had a battle here. I’ll introduce the song and feature two contenders doing cover versions. You give a listen and then vote in the Comments section on which cover version you like better (and if you care to share, let me know why you made that choice). Then I’ll be back in 6 days to post the battle results. Stephen McCarthy pretty much runs the battle hop (although he denies that) so if you’re interested in participating, get in touch with him over at his place.

Now, let’s get started:

This amazing Foreigner power ballad is one of my all-time favorite love songs. The very nature of power ballads are that they are an emotional style of music that often deal with romantic and intimate relationships, and to a lesser extent, war (protest songs), loneliness, death, drug abuse, politics and religion, usually in a poignant but solemn manner. (Example: Wind of Change by the Scorpions and several U2 songs). Ballads are generally melodic enough to get the listener’s attention.

“I Want to Know What Love Is” is plenty melodic. It was one of the several songs I featured in my Monday’s Music Moves Me post of favorite Rock Love Songs. But I didn’t share all that I learned about the song in that post. Here’s another interesting tidbit relayed by Mick Jones, who in 1976 formed Foreigner with Ian McDonald and recruited lead singer Lou Gramm; he also co-produced all of the band’s albums and co-wrote most of their songs with Gramm. And Jones wrote the band’s most successful single, “I Want to Know What Love Is”:

Foreigner recorded for Atlantic Records, and their 1981 album 4 spent more weeks at #1 than any album released by the label. Ahmet Ertegun, who was the head of Atlantic, cried when he first heard this song. Mick Jones explains: “Part of my dream at the beginning was to be on Atlantic Records, because of the heritage: all the R&B stars of the ’50s, people like Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. It meant so much to me and my growing up in music. So it meant a lot to have Ahmet Ertegun, who had been a part of that magical era and a person who I respected and looked up to, come into the studio. I took him aside and I said, ‘I have a song to play you, Ahmet.’ I took him into the studio, and we just sat there in two chairs, and I put the song on. Halfway through I looked over and indeed, there were tears coming out of his eyes. I thought, Whoa, this is a major moment for me. I’ve been able to impress this man who has heard some of the best, and produced some of the best music in the world. And here he is, and I’ve reached him emotionally. By the end of the song we were both in tears. Wonderful moments like that, they’re just very meaningful.”

Indeed, Foreigner’s song is meaningful. Here is their #1 hit “I Want to Know What Love Is” for your enjoyment only; Don’t vote on this one. The battle contenders are below. Foreigner’s song features backing vocals from the New Jersey Mass Choir affiliated with the Gospel Music Workshop of America, Dreamgirls star Jennifer Holliday, and featured keyboard work by Thompson Twins frontman Tom Bailey. The choir also appears in the song’s music video. You can read more about the choir’s moving involvement in the making of the music video at my Best Rock Love Songs post.

Now, on to today’s battle:

Battle Contenders:

Tina Arena – “I Want to Know What Love Is” was covered by Australian singer Tina Arena and her recording was released as a single in 1998 from her album In Deep. Arena’s version of the song was produced by Foreigner band member Mick Jones, who wrote the song. This version of the song includes a previously unrecorded bridge between the second and third choruses, specifically written for Tina Arena by Mick Jones.

The song peaked at #13 in France and finished 60th on the end-of-year chart of 1999.

This is a magnificent cover:

 

Another fabulous cover by:

Wynonna Judd – “I Want to Know What Love Is” was covered by American country singer Wynonna Judd and her recording was released in August 24, 2004 from her album What the World Needs Now Is Love as fourth single. Wynonna’s version of the song was produced by Narada Michael Walden, known for his work with Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin and George Michael, and Wynonna. This version of the song was included in a popular Brazilian soap opera, Senhora do Destino.

In the US, Wynonna’s version peaked at #14 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. On the Hot Dance Club Songs of Billboard, it debuted at #50 and peaked at #12. It is also her first single to chart in Sweden, where it debuted at #67 and peaked at #15.

 

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 21st to post the results. Until then, let us know if you know what love is

 

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Battle of the Bands RESULTS: To Sir With Love

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It’s Results time for my latest battle and an interesting battle it was! The song was Lulu’s To Sir With Love. Contenders were 10,000 Maniacs (Natalie Merchant, with a little help from R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe) and Australia’s Tina Arena.

Well, I wish one more vote would’ve been cast because as it stands now we have a Tie! Natalie Merchant received 8 votes and when I cast mine for Tina Arena, she ended up with 8 votes. So this battle ends in an 8 to 8 tie.

I really like Tina Arena’s strong voice and I liked the musical arrangement presented in her version. I really didn’t know anything about Tina Arena before finding her version of To Sir With Love but I’ve learned that she is pretty close to being Australia’s sweetheart.

She is a singer-songwriter, musician, musical theater actress, and record producer. She is one of Australia’s highest selling female artists who, as of July 2014, has sold over 10 million records worldwide.

I’ll close this post with a Tina Arena original. Her album Don’t Ask was the highest selling album of 1995 and this is the lead single from that album, Chains:

 

As always, thanks for participating in my battle. See you on February 1st when I present a very different battle! See you then…

Battle of the Bands – To Sir, With Love

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It’s time for another Battle of the Bands and today I’m featuring a well-loved classic from the 60s.

“To Sir With Love” is the theme from James Clavell’s 1967 film To Sir, with Love. The film, one of my favorites, is a 1967 Technicolor British drama film that deals with social and racial issues in an inner-city school. It stars Sidney Poitier and features Christian Roberts, Judy Geeson, Suzy Kendall and singer Lulu making her film debut. James Clavell directed from his own screenplay, which was based on E. R. Braithwaite’s semi-autobiographical 1959 novel To Sir, With Love.

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The song, performed by Lulu (Lulu Kennedy-Cairns, best known by her stage name Lulu, a Scottish singer, actress, and television personality who has been successful in the entertainment business since the 1960s and renowned for her powerful singing voice), was written by Don Black and Mark London (husband of Lulu’s longtime manager Marion Massey).

“To Sir With Love” was initially recorded by Lulu (with The Mindbenders, who also acted in the film). It was released as a single in the United States in 1967 and in October reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it remained for five weeks. The single ranked No. 1 in Billboard’s year-end chart. Canada’s RPM Magazine put the song at No. 2 for the year 1967. “To Sir with Love” has the distinction of being the only record by a British artist to reach No. 1 on the US charts while not charting in the UK, where it appeared only as a B-side to “Let’s Pretend.”

Here is Lulu’s version but it’s not a contender in this battle. It is presented here for your enjoyment only.

 

Now for today’s battle, here are the two contenders. Give a listen to each and vote on which one you like better. Let me know why you voted the way you did and I’ll post the results in 6 days!

 

CONTENDER #1:  10,000 Maniacs (Natalie Merchant) featuring Michael Stipe (R.E.M.)

This version is the performance at the MTV inaugural ball for Bill Clinton in 1993:

 

If that video isn’t available in your country, please check this one out:

 

CONTENDER #2:  Tina Arena

Australian singer Tina Arena released her version of the song as the first single from her 2007 album Songs of Love & Loss.

 

If that video isn’t available in your country, please check out this one:

 

Thanks Debbie for the alternative videos! Much appreciated.

 

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