Ned Heckling The Band – To Cover or Not to Cover

There has always been one facet of popular music that has annoyed me: The cover song. In my humble opinion, if a song has been written by an artist and then performed to a level where they deem it ‘releasable’, then why do some unoriginal artists feel it necessary to try and ‘improve’ the already great original song by covering it in either a different style or god forbid, REMIXING it.

Genuinely, the thought of these things happening makes me so uncontrollably mad, I just might do something I’ll regret.

Now, as the obsession for techno music slowly took hold of my friends during high school, I was subject to some undeniably heinous covers and remixes. Such were the abhorrent quality of these tracks that I have made it my life’s work to forget the name of them.

However, the other day I was subjected to one of the most harrowing experiences of my life:

I had to listen to a remix of Guns’N’Roses’ classic Sweet Child O’ Mine. The bastard responsible for this musical atrocity is DJ Ali Payami, who is based in Sweden according to his myspace. Now, I’m not against dance music, but seriously, this remix is so bad. So, so bad. If there was an all-seeing, all-controlling god of the Internets I should hope his first order of business would be to have the relevant youtube page destroyed in the most violent and fastest way possible.

Since I decided to write this hate-piece on horrible remixes and covers I did my due diligence and researched the topic thoroughly. What I found was deeply, deeply disturbing. I found a number of AC/DC Back In Black remixes, including one track where the ‘pioneering DJ’ had (so cleverly) blended 50 Cent’s In Da Club and the aforementioned AC/DC track. Ahhh yeah… nice work.

Also, and I found this particularly dismaying, I found a remix of Imogen Heap’s Hide And Seek by Glasses Malone ft. Lil Wayne. I find the remixing of this song literally offensive. The best thing about the delicate original version of the song is Heap’s use of harmonization. Putting a ‘phat beat’ behind the spacious and melodic chorus line does only one thing: it ruins it.

Much to my chagrin, during my research I also stumbled across young recording artist Jason DeRulo. I know you are going to forget this guy’s name, but if you listen to commercial radio you will hear a great deal of his debut single, the brilliantly named (and spelt), Watcha Say. The good news about this song is that it also samples Heap’s Hide and Seek. Why? For god sakes…

Okay, I’m starting to get emotional, so before I lose my cool I should move onto some of the positive aspects of covering music. Yes, some covers end up like Limp Bizkit’s ’emotional’ cover of The Who’s Behind Blue Eyes (WHY DID FRED DURST THINK HE COULD DO A BETTER JOB THAN PETE TOWNSHEND?? WHY?!?!?!?!) but for every few failures there are some very well executed covers. Some of these include Red Hot Chili Pepper’s cover of Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground, as well as Jimi Hendrix’s cover of Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower and Jeff Buckley’s breathtaking cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. These cover success stories prove that there is still hope that a song can be covered in a way which helps improve the image of the song, whilst still offering the original the respect that it deserves.

Obviously, this column wouldn’t be complete without the usual segue into jazz, and I shan’t disappoint you this week. After writing the aforementioned rant on my hatred for most covers and remixes, I decided to look through my jazz CD collection to see if there were any parallels to be made. Fortunately, I discovered an old favourite of mine – the Oscar Peterson Trio’s West Side Story. As you might have guessed, the CD entails the Oscar Peterson Trio (OPT) slamming out seven tunes from the famous musical. Consisting of Oscar Peterson on piano, Ray Brown on bass and Ed Thigpen on drums, the Oscar Peterson Trio deliberately avoided the less jazzy tunes within the musical and their fusion of Peterson’s unpredictable bebop style into the music is a feat which cannot go unrecognized.

Originally released on January 24, 1962, West Side Story is, according to the liner notes, “a jazz version of the score.” Therefore, before you have heard one note you can be assured that the re-making of these songs will be done in a way that captures the emotion and essence of the original pieces, while adding a Peterson-esque jazz-flavor to it – a far cry from the tasteless covers and remixes of today.

Beginning with Something’s Coming, the OPT launch into an electric mixture of rapid-firing piano phrases, juxtaposed over an epileptic snare drum pattern and highly syncopated bass-line. This, littered with seemingly random tutti sections, continues until Peterson takes control and enters his one-of-many soothing piano solos. The piece then moves into a solid swing section where “the man with ten fingers on each hand” struts his stuff within a marvellous solo – complete with glissando and all – before the song comes to a sudden yet appropriate stop. This song delivers a perfect mixture of the original feel and tempo, mixed in with a typically-Peterson style of jazz. Great stuff.

The next track, Somewhere, is home to some incredibly appropriate orchestration, as Thigpen’s delicate brush work and crescendo-ing cymbal roles help to capture the deep-seeded intensity within the piece, whilst Brown’s bowed bass playing allows for the soft underbelly to shine through. Peterson typically captures the romantic feel of the piece expertly and uses his sublime technique to help create the necessary atmosphere.

Jet Song is the next track, and a perfect example of the OPT’s ability to capture the original piece’s feel, yet manufacture a completely different dynamic. While the original Jet Song was a short, rigid and dissonant piece, the OPT’s version is an extended and soothing piece. It maintains the dissonance of the original through similar melodic ideas, but Thigpen and Brown’s soothing accompaniment set the tone for Peterson to explore the entire scope of his piano during his sublime soloing, while Brown has a memorable solo as well. The piece ends in a climactic rousing of all three members, as they move to a far more substantial sound while maintaining the original idea at the heart of the song. Brilliant stuff.

The next song, Tonight, seeks to capture the rousing duet of the original. Instead, Peterson chooses to briefly visit these ideas at the beginning and end of the piece and fill the middle with a simply mind-blowing solo. The first time I heard this album I had it playing in the background and I was quietly enjoying listening to it until this song came on. When it did, I dropped everything and sat there struggling to comprehend the way in which Peterson plays his piano. He attacks the keyboard with a confidence and panache that is truly one-of-a kind. This song simply has to be heard, if only for the piano solo.

The next two songs come with great anticipation – Maria and I Feel Pretty. Maria, the standard vocal epic of the original musical, is performed over a Latin feel that transforms into a more traditional four/four time signature over the bridge. Here we see Peterson truly allow his piano to embrace the role of the voice, as the traditional vocal line is clearly heard. I Feel Pretty is an up-tempo bebop tune which once again sees Peterson’s piano switch roles between playing the traditional melodic voice and playing a typically over-the-top solo. It is also home to some sophisticated tutti sections within the solo, which serve to demonstrate the innate understanding each performer has of each other’s playing styles.

The final song Reprise is Peterson’s all-encompassing general perspective of the score. Home to shifting moods and sounds, this track allows the album to finish in a way which demonstrates just how impressive the OPT’s performance of the musical score is. They have true command over it and never seem to put a foot wrong.

In the albums linear notes it reads, “This is the Trio making jazz. Listen.” This truth is all the more impressive considering they are constructing jazz tunes from conventional musical-style songs. My definition of a ‘good cover song’ is one that encapsulates the original idea, whilst building on it in a way that adds to its value and maintains respect for it. When considering this definition, the OPT’s performance on this album is nothing short of spectacular. The OPT successfully transforms Leonard Bernstein’s classic conventional songs into pieces that even to the trained listener seem as if they have been jazz tunes since the beginning.

Upcoming Jazz Events

Tuesday 29th September, 9:30pm

Charlie Musselwhite & Band w/ Candye Kane & Band @ The Basement.

Early Bird Gen. Admission tix $38.50 (plus booking fee)/Gen. Admission tix $45.00 (plus booking fee)/Early Bird Dinner & Show Tix $87.30 per person/Dinner & Show Tix $93.80 per person @ & (612) 9251 2797 (Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:30pm)

Wednesday 30th September, 9:30pm

The 10 Guitar Project @ The Basement.

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Friday 2nd October, 8:30pm – 11:00pm

Dale Barlow with George Coleman Jr @ The Sound Lounge.

Tix $25/$15 @ or at the door if not sold out.

Saturday 3rd October, 8:30pm – 11:00pm

Dale Barlow with George Coleman Jr @ The Sound Lounge.

Tix $25/$15 @ or at the door if not sold out.

Saturday 3rd October, 9:00pm – 11:00pm

Son Veneno + Merenia + DJ K-Beza + Latino After Party Sessions ft. Soul Sacrifice & Special Guests @ The Basement.

Gen. Admission tix $25.00 (plus booking fee)/Dinner & Show Tix $73.80 per person @ & (612) 9251 2797 (Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:30pm)

Monday 5th October, 9:30pm

Afro Cuban Sessions presents Bailatino (Venezuela) Farewell Party @ The Basement.

Gen. Admission tix $40 (plus booking fee)/Dinner & Show Tix $93.80 per person @ & (612) 9251 2797 (Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:30pm)

Tuesday 6th October, 9:00pm

The Piano Shakin’ Daddies, whippin’ up some Mothbox Quakin’ Mayhem ft. Pugsley Buzzard and Bob Malone @ The Basement.

Early Bird Gen. Admission tix $28.00 (plus booking fee)/Gen. Admission tix $34.00 (plus booking fee)/Early Bird Dinner & Show Tix $74.80 per person/Dinner & Show Tix $80.80 per person @ & (612) 9251 2797 (Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:30pm)

Every Friday Night @ 8:00pm

Marsala @ Waverly Bowling Club.

Free entrance! Free car parking for 100 cars!

Tuesday 13th October & Tuesday 10th November, 7:30pm

Robert Green’s Cabaret Hour w/ Alexander Sussman @ Bar Me.

Tix $10.00 @ The door; Doors open @ 7:00pm. For More info check out

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