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Hootie and The Blowfish – “Let Her Cry” (live acoustic)

I remember when Hootie and the Blowfish were bigger than sliced bread. It was a simpler time when robots did our bidding… when I could leave my front door not only unlocked, but wide frikkin’ open whenever I wanted to and nobody would think of robbing me… when I could walk out of a store with my arms full of stuff I didn’t pay for and after eluding the police for 5 hours, I’d be able to go home without a hitch…

Hootie and the BlowfishYes, it was a simpler time.

Hootie and the Blowfish‘s 1994 debut album, Cracked Rear View, has gone platinum 19 times and is currently the 15th best selling album in the USA. I have to admit that I wasn’t too into the album as a whole, but loved the second single, “Let Her Cry.”

The song hit #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and in 1996 it helped the band win the Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

My history with “Let Her Cry” dates back to 1999 when an ex-girlfriend of mine claimed it as her “favorite song EVER.” I remember where I was when she told me that… I was right in the middle of explaining to her why The Allman Brothers Band kicked ass while playing her “Black Hearted Woman.” She seemed disinterested even though I was doing one hell of a job playing air guitar.

So out of the blue, she shouts out that her favorite song EVER is “Let Her Cry.”

“Excuse me?” I said.

“You heard me. I didn’t stutter.”

“That’s it… either the song goes, or I go.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s never to bet against Hootie.

Anyhow, I grew to like “Let Her Cry,” and this live acoustic performance demonstrates how well written the song is. I can’t help but sing along when the chorus comes around… which brings me to singer Darius Rucker‘s enunciation in this live acoustic recording. Even though I know the lyrics to the song, I could have sworn that Rucker sings “See the low buy lampost” in the first line of the verse.

Yes, I know that doesn’t make sense, but that’s a LOT better than what I originally thought he said: “Sidallo by lamb host.”

I often wonder if “Let Her Cry” is still my ex-girlfriend’s favorite song. I also wonder if my hand will burn if I stick it in a bonfire.

Those are two things I don’t care to know the answers to.

Your Dig-It Download:

Download: Let Her Cry (acoustic)

Hootie and The Blowfish on: [Amazon] [iTunes]

Robert Plant Alison Kraus

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – “Black Dog” (acoustic)

I’ve been listening more and more to Robert Plant this last weekend, most likely because of my excitement for his upcoming album, Band of Joy. It’s one of those albums that I simply cannot wait to hear, as Plant’s output in the last decade has been consistently impressive.

So in my quest for more Plant music, I come across an acoustic version of Led Zeppelin‘s classic song, “Black Dog,” as performed by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss on CMT’s Crossroads program.

I remember watching this for the first time and marveling at how different the song sounded… how much it fit what Plant and Krauss were doing with their Raising Sand record, and how much I absolutely love Led Zeppelin.

“Black Dog” should be familiar to most all of you here. It’s off Zeppelin’s fourth album (call it “Zoso” or “Zeppelin IV” or “Four Symbols”“) and currently ranks as #294 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The opening guitar doodle is so instantly recognizable that I bet you most people could name the tune even before Plant starts to sing… and once the riff kicks in… well, if you can’t name it by then… I’m afraid I’ll have to hunt you down and destroy you like you destroyed The Death Star – in a brilliant flash of light that even the Ewoks could see.

That riff was written by bassist John Paul Jones, and in the liner notes to The Complete Recordings box set, Jones explains his inspiration:

I wanted to try an electric blues with a rolling bass part. But it couldn’t be too simple. I wanted it to turn back on itself. I showed it to the guys, and we fell into it. We struggled with the turn-around, until [John] Bonham figured out that you just four-time as if there’s no turn-around. That was the secret.

I’ve tried playing that riff on various instruments and these are the results:

– That riff sounds awesome on the guitar (acoustic or electric)
– That riff sounds AWFUL on the piano
– That riff sounds surprisingly ok on an accordian
– That riff sounds horrendous on an Erhu
– That riff sounds like crap on the “choir” setting on my Kurzweil keyboard
– That riff sounds pretty decent on the Oberheim patch on my synth
– That riff sounds cool on my Rhodes, especially if the signal goes through a wah pedal
– That riff sounds incredibly incredible when I sing it as an electric guitar would sound… you know… like this… “Byar byar byar byar byar byar byar byarner byarnernerbyarbyar byar byar…”

So there you have it… if you’d like more tests done, just let me know what instrument you’re curious about and I’ll take it from there.

One instrument that I did not test was the banjo, but you can hear for yourself here in the CMT performance:

That’s just awesome, and there’s no other way to put it.

On a side note, I’ve read that Plant and Krauss had apparently already tried recording a follow up to Raising Sand (AceShowBiz.com, August 2010). No word on whether they’re going to try again, but rest assured that if and when it drops, I’ll be there to catch it.

Your Dig-It Download:

Download: Black Dog (acoustic)

Robert Plant and Allison Krauss on: [Amazon] [iTunes]

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Soft Shock

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It’s another late night here. I can’t say that today was good day for Ol’ Swap and I suppose I can’t sleep because I keep replaying the events over and over in my head. Nobody likes bad days… they seem to last forever and in the end they generally to amount to nothing.

But tomorrow is another day and I get another stab at it. I guess that’s all we can ever ask for.

Anyhow, while I was mellowing out before bed, my iPod (set on shuffle) played this acoustic version of “Soft Shock” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I had forgotten how much I not only enjoy this song but the album it’s off of, It’s Blitz!. This record was nominated for a Best Alternative Album Grammy and made it to many a “best of 2009” lists and for good reason. I was initially hesitant on listening to it because I felt that they had changed their sound too much, but in the end it came down to the fact that there are some excellent songs there, “Soft Shock” included.

I must admit that I don’t know which version I like better. My guess is that I prefer the acoustic performance because of the mood I’m currently in… ask me another day and I’ll tell you the album version destroys the acoustic one. “Soft Shock” is a beautiful song, however you play it.

Take a listen below and let me know which one you favor. While you’re at it, I’d be most interested to know which you prefer in general – acoustic or electric. I do understand that it all depends on your mood, but surely one outweighs the other? For the past few years I’ve chosen the acoustic version because I feel the true song appears that way… which makes me wonder why I can’t decide between these two versions of “Soft Shock.”

Maybe because they’re both good… sometimes I should just enjoy the music and stop making things so complicated.

Your Dig-It Downloads:

Download: Soft Shock (original version)
Download: Soft Shock (acoustic)

[Amazon] [iTunesicon]

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PJ Harvey: Down by the Water

PJ Harvey - To Bring You My LoveTo this day I can’t recall why I picked up PJ Harvey‘s To Bring You My Love album… it might have been because the cover looked so cool, or perhaps it was because Flood produced it. It must have been because of Flood, because I was a huge fan of his coming off of U2‘s Achtung Baby record. I probably figured that this PJ Harvey has GOT to be good because now Flood could afford to work with artists that he WANTS to work with.

At the time, I had no idea what kind of music PJ Harvey sang… all I knew was that I had heard of her before.

Turns out that I chose wisely because To Bring You My Love impressed the bazonkers out of me, and I became a PJ Harvey fan for life.

“Down by the Water” was the first single off To Bring You My Love and it climbed all the way to #2 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart. The single gave Harvey a nomination for the Best Female Vocal Performance Grammy, but I believe she lost to Sheryl Crow‘s “All I Wanna Do.”

PJ Harvey - To Bring You My LoveI was freaked out the first time I heard “Down by the Water,” mainly because of the whisper-voiced ending. I don’t know why recorded whispers give me the chills… maybe the same reason why clowns scared the bejeesuz out of me: because of Steven Spielberg. Remember that clown from Poltergeist? Well, now imagine that that clown is a whisper. Pre-e-e-e-e-ty freaky, huh?

Anyhow, “Down by the Water” is freaky for another reason, though – it’s about a woman drowning her daughter. At least that’s my take on it. I think the song’s about a mother who discovers something awful about her daughter… she can’t handle it and eventually drowns the daughter. In the end, the mother is undoubtedly tortured by her deed and begs for her daughter’s return, only to realize she’s just playing a piano to a cow (cow doesn’t give a flying rat’s ass about the piano playing, no matter how beautiful it may be).

The video for “Down by the Water” recreates the feeling of the album cover for To Bring You My Love. PJ Harvey is dressed in red, and she appears to be drowning in green water for most of it… I don’t recall being too thrilled about this video when it first came out because I thought it was pretty boring, but I guess everyone else felt differently because of how popular it became. That’s why I’m not a music video producer. If I were a music video producer, I’d call myself “Dijon.”

Here’s the video:

This acoustic version of “Down by the Water” features Harvey on an autoharp and even though there are drums and a synth pad in the background, it’s actually a solo performance. She doesn’t whisper the end lines in this version, but I love the way she pronounces “water” and “daughter.” European accents are cool.

If you don’t have To Bring You My Love in your music collection, I would highly recommend checking it out. It is one of my best “blind-finds” and remains a unique listening experience for me whenever I spin it.

Your Dig-It Downloads:

Download: Down by the Water (original version)
Download: Down by the Water (live studio acoustic performance)

[Amazon] [iTunesicon]

Night Ranger Midnight Madness

Night Ranger: Sister Christian

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There are very few songs out there that hit you deep in the soul harder than Night Ranger‘s “Sister Christian.” Yeah, I know that it’s a song about Kelly Keagy’s (drummer/singer/songwriter for the band) sister, but man alive, when the chorus comes around, I cannot help but sing at the the top of my lungs because at that moment, I have a little sister and I am trying to tell her to PLEASE don’t go “motoring” for boys.

How can anyone resist belting out “You’re motorin’… what’s your price for flight?” at the top of your lungs? I surely can’t. And neither can my grandma. ‘Course, she sings it differently…

“Ni zai kai hen kuai. Ni wei shenme kai na me kuai?”

Yeah, it’s not exactly the right lyric, but it’s my grandma so I’m not gonna correct her. Are you?

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“Sister Christian” is off their sophomore release, Midnight Madness. The song hit #5 on the Billboard charts and is #32 on VH-1’s Greatest Songs of the 80’s list. I always thought it was so cool that the drummer (Keagy) sang the song whilst playing them skins.

I’m kind of irritated that I can’t embed the music video for “Sister Christian” here. Just an aside… I don’t understand why bands/labels disable this because can only help them spread the word. If anyone here has any economical reason for disabling this feature, please let me know and I’ll shut up. Until then, WTF????

Anyhow, the video always made me laugh. It shows a girl that faces some pretty difficult decisions… like whether to go the way of the nuns or to go the way of the rock n’ roll boys. In the end, she sheds her conservative look, goes to the bathroom to get all gussied up, and chooses the rock star boys. WOW. Big shocker there. I still don’t quite get what made her change her ways. She suddenly sees the rock star boys and decides to be saucy? I don’t quite get it.

Now, I’m not saying that ALL girls will choose that path because hey – there are plenty of nuns in the world who did NOT go “motorin’,” but are you surprised at the girl’s decision in the video? I’m certainly not… it’s a MUSIC VIDEO for Pete’s sake. Would MTV play a video that ended with an attractive young girl choosing to be a NUN?

And doesn’t Keagy scream “Quit your motorin,’ YEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH motorin'” at the end WHILE the girl jumps into the car with the boys??? Obviously she can’t hear his heart-wrenching plea.

Since I’m unable to embed the official music video here, I have no choice but to put a live performance of the song from ’83, when the song hit… which is still pretty awesome in it’s own right. Hmmmm… Keagy’s a lefty.

GAH! The opening of the song uses that bloomin’ Rhodes patch off the DX-7 synthesizer… I HATE that patch but it defined the 80’s so I’d better shut-up about it.

You know, one lyric I’ll never understand is “you know those boys don’t wanna play no more with you, it’s true.” I mean, isn’t it the fact that the boys DID want to “play” with her that made Keagy write the song? I don’t get it. Unless he’s talking about playing Jenga, which I never thought of doing with girls when I was in high school.

So I present to you the original and acoustic versions of this Night Ranger classic song. The acoustic version is actually very cool. I really like the vocal phrasing in this performance better than the original. It just seems more natural to me for some reason.

Night Ranger‘s “Sister Christian” will forever be most every jukebox in the world… it’s just one of those songs that had the perfect blending of melody, lyric, and meaning. The music of the 80’s had GREAT melodies… regardless of what you think of the production, the songs were there, and if the true test of a song is to strip it down to it’s bare bones, then this acoustic version shows that it passes quite decisively.

Your Dig-It Downloads: (right click links to download)

Download: Sister Christian (original version)
Download: Sister Christian (acoustic)

[Amazon] [iTunesicon]

Depeche Mode Black & White

Depeche Mode: Enjoy the Silence & A Question of Lust

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Depeche Mode will always be one of my favorite bands… they were the first band that I was literally obsessed over. My oldest brother, John, introduced me to them when I was but a lad. He said, “Swap, meet Depeche Mode. That’s David, Martin, Alan (back when he was with the band), and Andrew.” I was thrilled when I found out that they were going to hang out and play Atari 2600 with us.

After playing Kaboom! with them for a few hours, I finally opened my mouth and said, “What’s a De-Peachy Mode? And I really like your record Black Constipation.” They didn’t find it funny and we haven’t spoken since. I’ve tried calling them, but I keep getting this message: You have reached Depeche Mode. At the tone, please leave a message unless you’re Swap.

Yeah, it’s a bit of a blow to the ego, but hey… at least they remembered my name.

I cracked open some Depeche Mode music yesterday and strolled down memory lane. To me, their “golden years” are found between Construction Time Again and Songs of Faith and Devotion. They were unstoppable. The progression of not only songwriting but production between those albums was astronomical. If you’re not too familiar with their music, start with any record between those that I mentioned and you’ll be good to go.

While listening, I came across some stuff I hadn’t heard in a long time…. remixes, mostly, but there were two live recordings of interest: live acoustic versions of “Enjoy the Silence” and “A Question of Lust.” I have no idea where they were recorded, but they are a GREAT listen. For anyone that has ever questioned whether Depeche Mode is more flair than substance, I think these performances show the gorgeous songwriting that has always been their forte.

Take a listen to “Enjoy the Silence” immediately. The original recording is as lonely as an unanswered text, but this live performance takes the song to another realm. Even the part where David Gahan lets the crowd sing is lonely. Man, I wish the band would release an acoustic album full of stuff like this.

“Question of Lust” is beautiful here, but I can’t help but wonder if singer Martin Gore sang it wearing the outfit he had on in this video:

WOW. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Except to say that whoever told him “Dude, that’s AWESOME!” should be shot, quartered, beheaded, and THEN killed.

Along with these live recordings, I’ve also included a couple of remixes, and just for fun, there’s an acoustic “Personal Jesus” that I think I’ve posted before. I need to find more acoustic versions of Depeche Mode songs now. If anybody has any, please do not hesitate to pass them along.

[Amazon] [iTunesicon]

Your Dig-It Downloads: (right click links to download)

Download: Enjoy the Silence (original version)
Download: Enjoy the Silence (live acoustic)
Download: Enjoy the Silence (harmonium)
Download: A Question of Lust (original version)
Download: A Question of Lust (live acoustic)
Download: A Question of Lust (minimal)

Anna Nalick: Breathe (2am)

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It’s been a bit of a “rediscovery” period for me. I’ve collected some new music, but haven’t really spent much time with it because I’m finding so much solace and satisfaction in revisiting the past. Music never grows old as long as it still resonates inside of you. Man, I must really be into female artists right now because the last three posts have featured female singer/songwriters. Pretty cool.

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I first came across Anna Nalick through her music video for “Breathe (2am).” Her stunning looks grabbed me by the collar and shook me harder than a paint mixer at The Home Depot… and the song wasn’t bad, either. The album cover doesn’t do her justice… seriously… look at that pic… it’s awful. It looks like she’s got a mouth full of gravel and is thinking of why she HAS a mouth full of gravel. It always boggles my mind on the choices people make.

Sure, sure, some of you are probably saying to yourself “Swap, that’s a pretty shallow reason to become a fan of an artist,” and I’ll agree to that, but I doubt Nalick is complaining. She made her royalties when I bought her debut album, Wreck of the Day and I’m cool with that.

Check out the music video for the song:

And here’s an acoustic performance (not the same acoustic performance in the Dig-It section below)

“Breathe (2am)” is a gorgeous piece of music that put Nalick on the map. It hit #4 on the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks here in the states, and is still her most popular song. Fans of the TV show Grey’s Anatomy will remember it from the “As We Know It” episode where something REALLY frikkin’ dramatic happened to someone on the show while something almost just as dramatic happened to someone else on the show but luckily enough everyone overreacted so it all didn’t seem AS dramatic.

Check out the acoustic version below. I kind of wish it were done on piano (like the original), but Nalick still sounds smooth and the song’s still just as good.

I just realized that she reminds me of Sarah McLachlan. Man, that took me a long time to get there.

[Amazon] [iTunesicon]

Your Dig-It Downloads: (right click links to download)

Download: Breathe (original version)
Download: Breathe (acoustic)

The Alarm: Spirit of ’76

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Last month I started to listen to The Alarm again. I got hooked on Strength so much that I had to write about it. It’s been almost two decades since the original lineup of The Alarm split up, but their music still resonates inside of me and for a huge number of people. I attribute this to their timeless message of faith, hope, unity, and optimism. Plus, their music was simply incredible to hear and witness.

The Alarm is still going strong today, but the only remaining member from the original lineup is Mike Peters. He’s a fantastic singer/songwriter in his own right and I’m glad to see that he’s carrying on the traditions of the band. I think he possesses an honest voice, if that makes any sense. There doesn’t seem to be any pretentiousness in his delivery… he writes and sings what he feels, and you can tell it comes from the heart. One of my favorite (if not THE favorite) songs that he co-wrote with The Alarm is off of Strength called “Spirit of ’76.” This song deals with friendship, pure and simple. The message is clear, the story is poignant, and the presentation is nothing short of epic.

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“Spirit of ’76” lasts 7:05 on the original release, and it truly makes the best out of every second. There’s the beautiful acoustic opening, the rockin’ kick of the full band, the sadness of the bridge, and then the optimistic finish. It’s as if the entire gamut of emotions is run through here, and this structure supports the lyric like a good astrocyte would to a neuron (believe me, that makes sense). I’ve never grown tired of spinning this track, and I’ve been lucky enough to see it performed live twice. The power of it comes not only from the music and lyric, but from Peter’s singing as well.

But it’s the story within the song that grabs me still. Here’s what Peters has to say about the song (taken from Alarm Day 2000):

“At the time of writing it for the ‘Strength’ album, I sort of didn’t know if I was quite equipped to write the song, ’cause it was very autobiographical. At first it was just an idea for a song really. I talked to Eddie [bassist] about it and he really encouraged me to write it and keep it true, so it really is the story of me and my friends going to Liverpool and the whole experience and that kind of like optimism that that music gave to us

But somehow, when you live in a small town, unless that you’ve got an outlet for that optimism and all those hopes and those dreams, it can quite often turn inwards and be very destructive. I was lucky, I found a vehicle for all the things that I wanted to do through learning the guitar and joining a band and doing all that. But some of my friends there, the initial optimism didn’t see through. They ended up getting sucked into the whole sub-culture and drugs came into play as they do.

I still see them all and we’re still friends now, but their dreams didn’t work out like mine, and I felt kind of weird about discussing that in such an open manner in a song. But the band really encouraged me to have the conviction or whatever you want to call it to it. And I think because it’s a real story and I knew how to get it right, so that when I met them later in life I would be able to look them in the eye, knowing that I told the story as it was, that it wasn’t like a fabricated thing. You know I still see them, and they’ve been to gigs and while it might be painful to hear this song, I think they get it and know what it’s all about. Maybe, hopefully, it’s renewed their optimism in some sort of way. That’s what I’d like to think, anyway.”

Check out this video of an acoustic version of the song. You can see the sadness in his eyes.

I’m not sure which version I like better. Whereas the electric version has the dynamics I’ve come to know and love, the acoustic version has the pain that comes from the actual experience. After reading Peter’s words regarding the seeds of the song, I have come to realize that it’s the pain that really draws me to this song. We all have friends that have come and gone… we all have friends like Peter’s that have lost that youthful optimism. Knowing this pain and feeling this pain is just as important as changing this pain.

You gotta feel it to embrace it.

You’ll find the original and a couple of acoustic versions of “Spirit of ’76” below in the Dig-It section. For those new to this song, read Peter’s words above again before listening to the song. For those already familiar with it, read Peter’s words above again before listening to the song. Then I hope all of you reach out and contact an old friend to say hello.

I love this song.

[Amazon] [iTunesicon]

Your Dig-It Downloads: (right click links to download)

Download: Spirit of ’76 (original version)
Download: Spirit of ’76 (acoustic)
Download: Spirit of ’76 (acoustic – audio from video)

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The Black Crowes: Remedy

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I have a stack of Cds in my car that have no labels on them. They might as well be blank Cds as far as I can tell… but the other day I happened to grab one out of curiosity, and man alive am I glad I did. The disc was full of live Black Crowes… VERY cool. I totally forgot I had this collection, so I was extra extra crispy when a live acoustic performance of “Remedy” came on.

I pulled a Scooby-Doo and said, “Raggy?” to nobody when I heard Chris Robinson introduce the song, then I did an Eep-Op-Ork-Ah-Ah! when I heard Steve Gorman count it off.

“Remedy” was the first single off their second album, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. The song went on to hit #48 on the Billboard singles charts, and #1 on the Mainstream Rock charts, holding that top position for a staggering eleven weeks.

This song hit during what is considered to be the “height” of The Black Crowes, as Southern Harmony debuted in #1 position. The album that knocked it out of the top spot was Billy Ray Cyrus‘ monster album, Some Gave All.

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I have to be honest and say that I’ve never tried to interpret the lyrics to “Remedy.” Maybe a part of me didn’t want to because A) I’m lazy, and B) the lyrics are so cool to sing, that it’d be a shame if I found out the real meaning behind the song is something like, “I like popcorn.” Now, I highly doubt THAT is the meaning, but you know what I’m saying. As Nigel Tufnel once put so brilliantly, “It was really one of those things the authorities said… you know… well best leave it unsolved, really…you know.”

But just to let you know that I’m thinking of you, here’s what the song’s about. On the Crowes’ Vh-1 Storytellers show, singer Chris Robinson discusses the lyric. He first talks about actually seeing a bird dead on his hotel windowsill (there’s a direct reference to this in the song lyric), and then goes on to say, “I think it’s sometimes so strange they way people handle aids and HIV in a sense… not in the side of what you have to do for people who come down with any disease or anything that we really don’t know about, but in the fact that, what does it really do to our sexuality?”

Ok, that’s better than “I love popcorn.” I’m a happy boy.

Here’s that Vh-1 Storytellers performance of “Remedy.”

Very cool. I’ve always dug this performance because of (let’s be honest here) how sloppy it sounds. The backup vocals could have had a bit more pizzazz to them, though. Marc Ford and Rich Robinson sound like they’re about to keel over and die if they had to sing the chorus one more time.

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One thing that has always bothered me is the fact that Lenny Kravitz‘s song “Fly Away” uses the exact same chord progression and groove as the chorus of “Remedy.” Now, I’m a fan of Lenny Kravitz, but that was just a little too close for comfort in my book. I’m surprised that nobody ever called him on it.

As you can see, I’m very protective and very defensive when it comes to the Crowes. I even got annoyed when Jason Mraz hit the radio and charts with his song called, “The Remedy.” It’s a good song, but dude, come up with your own title!

In the Dig-It section below, I’ve posted the live acoustic version that was on that unlabeled Cd from my car. It’s not the Vh-1 performance (which I’ve included as well below)… it’s about 10,000 times better. Keyboardist Eddie Harsh steals the stage in this version with a rollicking piano performance that makes me wish he’d come back to the Crowes’ lineup. I have no idea where or when this performance was recorded, so if anyone has any info on it, please share!

“Remedy” is definitely one of the Crowes’ most popular songs. It never fails to bring the crowd to their feet, and is an absolute show-stopper. It has a groove that, for reasons unexplained, hits you in all the right places (including every inch of your femoral periosteum), and induces you into a head-bobbing frenzy. I always look forward to hearing “Remedy” at a Crowes show, and it always delivers. So dig on these acoustic versions and go get some more Crowes music.

That’s what Batman would do. And I’m Batman.

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The Black Crowes on Amazon
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Your Dig-It Downloads: (right click links to download)

Remedy (original version)
Remedy (live acoustic)
Remedy (VH1 Storytellers)

Counting Crows: Mr. Jones

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When I think of Counting Crows, the first thing I think of is how they were trying to copy The Black Crowes by wanting to be “crows.” Let me just settle this right now… when people refer to “The Crow(e)s,” they’re talking about The Black Crowes, and nobody else. There. I said it.

The second thing I think about when I think of Counting Crows is their amazing debut record, August and Everything After. Originally released in 1993, this album remains their most popular because of the various hit singles off of it, “Rain King,” “Round Here,” and their biggest hit to date, “Mr. Jones.”

“Mr. Jones” hit the Top 10 in April of 1994 and helped push August and Everything After‘s climb into the Top 10. August and Everything After eventually went on to sell more than 4 million copies, a number that they haven’t reached again. I’m going to state for the record that I think their sophomore album, Recovering the Satellites, is their best record… that really doesn’t have anything to do with this article, I just thought I’d throw that in there.

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The meaning behind “Mr. Jones” has always brought up conversation. When I first heard about the song, I was under the impression that the song was about longing for fame and fortune because of the line, “When I look at the televison I want to see me staring right back at me.”

It wasn’t until I saw Counting Crows on VH-1’s Storytellers that I discovered the real meaning behind the song. I was close, but not exactly right… here’s what singer Adam Duritz said on the program (thanks to CountingCrowsFAQ for the transcription):

“It’s really a song about my friend Marty and I. We went out one night to watch his dad play, his dad was a flamenco guitar player who lived in Spain, and he was in San Francisco in the mission playing with his old flamenco troupe. And after the gig we all went to this bar called the New Amsterdam in San Francisco on Columbus and we got completely drunk. And Marty and I sat at the bar staring at these two girls, wishing there was *some* way we could go talk to them, but we were, we were too shy. And we thought, we kept joking with each other, that if we were big rock stars instead of such loser, low-budget musicians, we’d be able to, this would be easy. And I went home that night and I wrote a song about it.

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And I joke about what’s it about, that story. But it’s really a song about all the dreams and all the things that make you want to go in to , you know, doing whatever it is that like seizes your heart, whether it’s being a rock star or being a doctor or whatever it is, you know. And I mean, those things run from like ‘all this stuff I have pent up inside of me’ to , ‘I want to meet girls’ you know, because I’m tired of not being able to. And it is a lot of those things, it’s about all those dreams. But it’s also kind of cautionary because it’s about how misguided you may be about some of those things and how hollow they may be too. Like the character in the song keeps saying, ‘When everybody loves me I will never be lonely.’ And you’re supposed to know that that’s not the way it’s gonna be, probably. I knew that even then.

And this is a song about my dreams”

“What???” you say? “It’s not about his D**K?”

Yeah, that was another interpretation that was floating around. As Duritz explains in the Storytellers episode, “When we did the interview for Rolling Stone, I walked with David Wilde into the [Muse De Ce] in Paris one day and the first thing that happened was these two kids ran up to us and said, “Hey! You’re the guy from Counting Crows, right?” And I said, ‘yeah.’ And he said, “Is Mr. Jones about your dick?” I wanted to kill the guy because I knew where that was going to end up, which is the first paragraph of the article in Rolling Stone.”

Here’s the music video for the song. I always dug how Duritz wore his jeans inside his boots. And I’m gonna have him arrested because he stole all my dance moves.

I’ve posted the Storytellers performance in the Dig-It section below, along with an another acoustic version that starts with some funky Duritz falsetto-thing. I actually prefer this version to the Storytellers because of his vocal performance. He’s got more conviction here, which is great to hear.

The Storytellers version is really interesting, though. The song starts off with lyrics from The Byrds“So You Want to be a Rock and Roll Star?” and he changes up the bridge and last verse to reflect the effects of success. It’s funny to see what fame and fortunes does to you.

Makes you wonder if Duritz would still write a song like this if he knew then what he knows now.

But that’s the beauty of a snapshot… you can’t take it back.

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Your Dig-It Downloads:

Download: Mr. Jones (original version)

Download: Mr. Jones (acoustic)

Download: Mr. Jones (VH-1 Storytellers acoustic)