Hey gang. I know we’ve been pretty sparse with the posts, and that the time between them seem to be growing and growing exponentially. Not sure if anyone is really paying attention anyway, but I’ve got my reasons for the downtime. I was recently on an amazing trip to Honduras working for an organization called Students Helping Honduras (for more information, go HERE), and other not-as-good excuses. Who knows what those jerks Charlotte, Matt and Lorddoctor have to say for themselves. Just kidding guys.
Anyway, I’ve been rethinking the site and the content a little bit, so there might be some more radio silence in the near future, followed immediately by MASSIVE CHANGES. Or no changes at all. Or minor changes. I dunno. Either way, here’s a post that’s been taking up room in my idea book for a little while.
Part of any obsession is the danger of taking it too far. I always think of the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons as a cautionary tale, for music as much as comic books/fantasy/etc. There’s a risk of looking close-to-Comic Book Guy-level obsession when talking about Original Versions of songs, especially when talking about them out loud in a group of people who don’t share the same level of brain matter devoted to musical trivia as you (otherwise known as “most people”). The conversations from the record store in High Fidelity might seem cute and funny in that context, but in real life, it gets old FAST.
No one should aspire to this.
But as it is, I consider this site my safe-zone for geeking out hardcore for music, and I thought of a few songs and their original versions I’d like to discuss a little bit. In these cases, the original versions of the songs are much much better to my ears than their remade and/or album counterparts.
First up, we’ve got “No Cars Go” by Arcade Fire. Back in college, Matt attempted to introduce me to Arcade Fire with their album Funeral, which I thought was boring and depressing with a couple fun moments. I gave up on the band, indifferent to all the fawning blog posts. I’m not sure how I ended up with a copy of the Arcade Fire EP, or why I listened to it (usually I’m not as open-minded as that, once I’ve disliked one album by a band), but I’m glad I did, because it was so much better than Funeral. My favorite song on the self-titled EP was “No Cars Go,” which, in addition to being a fantastic song, had the added benefit of the background shouts of “HEY!” and “LET’S GO!” (an excellent part of any song). The redone version, on AF’s most recent album Neon Bible seems shiny, new and completely unnecessary when listened to alongside the scrappy, energetic and genuine early version. It’s more up-tempo and the horns are sharper, but so what?
Arcade Fire – No Cars Go (Original S/T EP version) (Buy It)
Arcade Fire – No Cars Go (Neon Bible version) (Buy It)
On to everyone’s favorite Wu member, Ghostface Killah. I love Ghost’s seminal album Supreme Clientelle, which was the first album of his I ever got. But as good as that album is, one of the clear weak spots was the song “Ghost Deini.” That’s why I was so shocked when I found the original version on the Wu’s website and it blew me away, making me wonder whose decision it was to go with the inferior album version. The original version of “Ghost Deini” has a great piano sample, and when you’re listening to it, you think to yourself, “Ohhh, that’s why his singing sounds so OFF in the album version” — It matches that original piano line so much clearer than on Supreme Clientelle. Ghost can’t sing for beans; that’s part of his charm. But on the SC version of “Ghost Deini,” that singing section is so ridiculously off-key and weird that it sounds like it was cut and pasted from a completely different song. Which it was. You may not get the Iron Man cartoon dialogue on the original, but I’d say it’s a pretty easy trade for a clearly better beat and a better fit for the song.
Ghostface Killah – Ghost Deini (Original unreleased version) (Free tracks!)
Ghostface Killah – Ghost Deini (Supreme Clientelle version) (Buy It)
I’m trying to remember which version of “Living in Paradise” by Elvis Costello I heard first. There was a mix-tape of Costello songs that a friend of mine made me in middle school which had a bunch of songs from This Year’s Model on it, but I’m pretty sure that this song wasn’t one of them. It must have been the early version, which is on the bonus disc of My Aim is True, the first EC album I ever got on cd. So that may explain some of my affinity for the early version over the album version, but it’s definitely not the entire explanation. Sure, the album version is more concrete and sharp, especially in the lyrics, but the song itself sounds like a refugee from a New Wave factory, with the cute little keyboard squeaks and echo-y vocals. Don’t get me wrong, I like that version too, but the early version is one of those songs that I could listen to over and over and never get sick of it.
Elvis Costello – Living in Paradise (Early version) (Buy It)
Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Living in Paradise (This Year’s Model version) (Buy It)
posted by Adam