From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were–I have not seen
As others saw–I could not bring
My passions from a common spring–
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow–I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone–
And all I lov’d–I lov’d alone–
Then–in my childhood–in the dawn
Of a most stormy life–was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still–
From the torrent, or the fountain–
From the red cliff of the mountain–
From the sun that ‘round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold–
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by–
From the thunder, and the storm–
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view–
-Edgar Allan Poe, 1875
Bruce Springsteen has acquired a certain Dylan-level ability to reflect on and reimagine his own work. His time with the E-Street Band prepared him perfectly for this moment, just as Dylan’s endless tour affords his evolving musical and lyrical ideas regular venue in front of gatherings worldwide of his most devoted fans.
This 2014 reimagining of the song ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad” –the opening track on Springsteen’s 1995 solo release of the same name– is as much Tom Morello’s as Springsteen’s. It takes the dark, finely-honed menace of the original recording and plugs it into Morello’s amp head, allowing it to transcend the limitations of solo performance in hard-fighting guitar leads and the biting harmonies he and Springsteen find around the vocal mic together (especially the chorus “Well the highway is alive tonight…”). Springsteen’s insane vocal range and power features throughout. I honestly can’t say enough good about this recording.
Listening to this and knowing what a music geek Morello is I had to smile in the realization that this project must’ve given him the biggest contact high of all time.
Waitin’ for when the last shall be first and the first shall be last
In a cardboard box ‘neath the underpass
A lot of reggae covers (including some on this site) come off as bound to or hindered by the original recording in an almost postcolonial sense. This artist however takes the slow-danceable, heavily-orchestrated original released to US audiences in 1967 and turns it into a whole new piece of art: one that preserves the essentials of the song (melody & lyrics) but turns them up for the hip-shaking audiences of 1969 Trenchtown.
Say you wanna be loved
But you won’t let me love you
Say you want someone to trust in you, baby
Can’t you see that’s what I’m tryin’ to do?
With a backing band like The Upsetters there’s no way this 1971 cover of the 1970 King Floyd original wouldn’t have a world-class skank. Journeyman reggae vocalist Dave Barker (perhaps better known as half of the duo of Dave & Ansell Collins) does a creditable job recreating the bright, evocative vocals of the original track.
You’ve become a sweet taste in my mouth, now
And I want you to be my spouse
So that we can live happily, nah-nah
In a great big ol’ roomy house
And I know you’re gonna groove me, baby
Gonna’ make a man if it takes all night
A plaintive, slow-rolling version of the 1975 original by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, this cover lacks a lot of the typical punch & urgency of Big Youth’s music but the message is spot-on with the original.
The world won’t get no better
if we just let it be