Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cover jam of the day: "I'm Set Free"

Artists: Woodpigeon & Weathered Hand, and Yo La Tengo (covering the Velvet Underground)
Song: "I'm Set Free"

A big part of the reason I love the VU is that they can play a song like "Sister Ray", a 17-minute hard-rockin' jam of a tune about a busted drug-addled orgy in a NYC hotel room, but they can also play a gorgeous, flowery tune like "Sunday Morning". It's almost not fair that they had the talent and wherewithal to flip-flop like that from song to song on their recorded output, but sobeit. The reason I bring this up is that it is Sunday morn-.... well, it's Sunday afternoon, but I started thinking about this while it was still technically morning, and I was out late last night to see Deerhoof and then hang out drinking with some friends, so cut me some slack. But I was just sitting here sipping coffee and scanning Google reader and Facebook and I saw that Daytrotter had posted the VU song "Sunday Morning" on their Facebook page, appropriately enough, and then I starting thinking about similar sweet-sounding songs of theirs and then I remembered I found this Woodpigeon cover on their blog a few weeks ago and have been meaning to share it, and then I found this YLT version when I typed "I'm Set Free" in Banshee since I forgot they even recorded this one! Yikes, that's a lot of thinking, but the conclusion is that you get to hear/see three different versions of this song.

The original has some nice, soft, melodious guitar strumming from Lou and Sterling, plus Lou's lead vocals and some backing "oohs" and "aahs" leading into the choruses (from Doug Yule, I'm guessing), and all the while Mo's metronomic drumming alternates from fast/loud to slow/quiet in just the right way to match the mood of the song. It's perfect and uniquely VU-ish.

The Woodpigeon & Weathered Hand version is even softer and quieter, played on acoustic guitar(s) and viola (I think), sans drums, but adding a little bit of electrified guitar during the solo. I've really enjoyed all of the Woodpigeon albums I've heard so far; they play wonderful folk-tinged pop songs and the singer's voice is lovely. I don't know anything about Weathered Hand, but I will be sure to investigate in the near future. Looks like they've combined forces here to create a wonderful cover version, brimming with wistful, ethereal vocals and folksy strumming and beautiful strings. It's also perfect for Sunday morning/afternoon listening. Check out a live version of them playing this song here.

The Yo La Tengo version is a bit more in line with the original version than the previous one, but just hearing Ira Kaplan sing these lyrics is pretty cool, in my book. I notice that they almost entirely scrapped the drums on this one; I can only hear some soft tapping every once in a while in the beginning and they build a little bit as the song progresses, but not by much. I like their take on the guitar part and solo, too, and Georgia's backing vocals wafting in from the background is lovely. Genius + Love = YLT, indeed, and here's your evidence.

Be sure to check out Woodpigeon and buy some albums, I highly recommend them (especially Die Stadt Muzikanten). And while you're at it, check out some other random cover versions of this song I happened to stumble on while writing this up: Beck & Thom Yorke [live], Terry Bickers & Bradleigh Smith, Arthur & Yu, Evan Dando (from the Lemonheads) [live]. I actually really like that last one by Evan Dando, especially how he starts to sing the guitar solo (haha) and then plays it.. I should have wrote about that, but I just found out. Anyway, there are tons more out there. Comment and share some good ones!

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