Friday, February 22, 2008

Weekend Listomania (Special Guided by Voices Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental amanuensis Hop-Sing and I are off to the Austin Alps for a ski weekend and more with a certain Swiss fashion model/nuclear physicist whose name I won't mention but whose initials are mimi. (I'm bringing her a year's supply of dipilatory, but let's try not to actually think about that).

In any case, as a result posting by moi will necessarily be somewhat fitful for a few days.

But until then, as always, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:

Best a cappella Pop/Rock Song (either totally a cappella, or with a cool a cappella section of whatever length!!!)

And I don't just mean doo-wop. Group harmony is group harmony, okay?

That said, here's my totally top of my head top seven:

7. Petra Haden -- I Can See For Miles



The Who's power pop classic done solely with mouths turned to eleven. Utterly mind-boggling....

6. Fairport Convention -- Percy's Song



Fairport's 1969 studio version of the great Dylan song starts with an absolutely stunning a cappella verse; on this live version, alas, it's just Sandy Denny solo, but when the rest of the group comes in with the harmonies you get the idea.

5. The Beatles -- Nowhere Man



One of my all-time fave Beatles moments: The Fabs start this one off with absolutely thrilling unaccompanied three-part vocals -- and they still sound great when the band kicks in.

4. Big Daddy -- Eye of the Tiger

There is, alas, no video of this startling re-imagining of the Rocky soundtrack classic, but you can find some fun info about the band (and some links to hilarious audio clips) here.

3. Crosby Stills and Nash -- Find the Cost of Freedom



The a cappella at the end is pretty spine-tingling, I think. One of their better songs, although the a-side -- "Ohio" -- sent the same message somewhat more forcefully with loud guitars.

2. The Beach Boys -- Their Hearts Were Full of Spring



A straight cover of the Four Freshmen's original, but if it doesn't bring a tear to your eye, I probably don't want to know you.

And the number one all-time top acapella pop/rock madrigal is ----

1. Imogen Heap -- Hide and Seek



I first heard this in late 2006 when it was used in a montage at the end of an episode of the short-lived Ray Liotta TV crime show Smith, although I'm told it had also figured earlier on The O.C. In any case, I remember practically falling off the couch at the time and thinking it's the most bizarrely haunting thing I'd ever encountered. It's almost a whole new genre -- Android Doo-Wop, anybody?

Alrighty now -- what would your choices be?

31 comments:

Brooklyn Girl said...

I shoulda known ...

Anyway, C,S,N & Y's "Carry On" has a great a capella break. Their harmonies and voices are wonderful.

PhilDutra said...

Holy Crap! I thought I was grasping! I will treasure the no prize forever...OK, that's pushing it!

I started singing in an A-capella group at NYU. We sang under the Washington Square Arch because the Acoustics were great! I have always loved big harmonies, both listening to and singing!

Mike said...

I gotta mention:

Our Prayer - Beach Boys (Which leads into Heroes & Villains, which contains another awesome a capella section)

Paperback Writer - Beatles (Ditto what you said about Nowhere Man, too)

And how could I leave out Uncorrected Personality Traits by Robyn Hitchcock?

peter spencer said...

Steelete Span had some gorgeous Brit-folk a cappellas, including "The Blacksmith" and "Gaudete."

And didn't Todd Rundgren do a whole album of a cappella tunes? I really liked "Born to Synthesize," a precursor to that Imogen Heap treated-vocals-as-keyboard thing.

The Mama's and the Papa's did a very short close-harmony song on their second album. I forget the title but the last line is "Somebody must have lied to me."

Mister Pleasant said...

Now here is list I can really chew on. Hats off to Peter Spencer for mentioning the awesome "Gaudete" by Steeleye Span. Maddy Prior, where are ye?

The Move had several spine tingling a capella moments. My favorite is the coda to "Message from the Country".

The final twenty second of the Zombies "Maybe After He's Gone" is transplendant.

Although not technically a capella, the bridge in the Raspberries "Overnight Sensation" at 3:00 where the stereo drops out and an AM radio mono chorus starts a crescendo never fails to bring on waves of joy for me.

In additional to "Our Prayer" the Beach Boys list goes on forever. For me the vocal harmonies in "'Til I Die" are Brian Wilson at his most god-like. :)

Speaking of Mr. Wilson, The Dukes of Stratosphear nail his Smile-era sound with "Pale and Precious", and they very nearly pull of the concluding vocal counterpoint in finest Beach Boys fashion.

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steve simels said...


peter spencer said...
Steelete Span had some gorgeous Brit-folk a cappellas, including "The Blacksmith" and "Gaudete."

Pete --

I don't know if Steeleye Span qualifies as pop/rock -- I guess it does, considering David Bowie played sax with them -- but "Gaudete" is in fact one of the most gorgeous things in the history of gorgeousness....

Good call!!!

MBowen said...

The Tymes - So Much In Love

Anonymous said...

I would have to add the Anthology mix of the Beatles' Because -- it showcases those beautiful harmonies for what would be one of the last times.

According to George Martin, they triple-tracked the 3-part harmonies, so what you end up with is a nine-voice Beatles choir.

Gummo
Luscious and lovely.

TMink said...

Petra Haden also did a great version of Don't Stop Believing.

I know, I know, I loathe the Journey original too. But her acapella version is killer and is on the Guilty Pleasures cd.

And most Beach Boys songs have that wonderful harmony that is so fine! Surfer Girl takes me to a place every time I hear it, a very nice place indeed.

On a making of dvd I heard just the harmony vocals from a Fleetwood Mac hit, it was stunning! So much can be done with the voice if the person singing has the creativity and passion to use it.

Trey

bill said...

Don't shoot me...


Ther's an a cappella remix of "Leave It" off Yes' 90125 that's breathtaking, really.

nd though it's off a seriously flawed album, there's also an a capella remix of "Your Imagination" off Brian Wilson's 1998 album. Brings tears to my eyes every time...dunno why.

And I can't believe nobody's mentioend the intro to "A Quick One" by The Who. Brilliant.

FeralLiberal said...

Some of my faves...

Humble Pie's intro to "30 Days in the Hole"

Crosby & Nash's intro to "Wind on the Water"

The Who at the beginning of "A Quick One While He's Away"

Joni Mitchell's "The Fiddle and the Drum", haunting...

Cleveland Bob said...

Petra Hayden is great. Saw her sit in with the Decemberists a few years ago.

Probably better known for their AC version of The Hallelujah Chorus, I nominate a great a capella version of Cole Porter's It's Bad For Me by The Roches.

Love those girls.

emma said...

Love, love, love Don McLean's "Babylon", which I had on 8-track back in the day.... was sure it was a capella - until I found a download and listened after all these years. It's not. There is one delicate banjo accompanying the simple, pure vocal. So I got nothin'.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if I'd count that Imogen Heap song as a cappella, as there's clearly a voice synthesizer involved and I suspect it's only her singing. (By that measurement, you'd have to allow Peter Frampton's schtick and the Todd Rundgren album which gave us "Bang the Drum All Day," which is actually pretty good.)

Anyway, like phildutra, I was in a R&B/doo-wop group called Instant Pleasure that played under the WSP arch back in the early 1980s (and which I suspect inspired Rufus's song by the same title). Anyway, those guys did an a capella version of "Danny Boy" that was to die for. As far as released tracks go, I've always been partial to the Persuasions' version of the Dead's "He's Gone."

TJWood said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TJWood said...

Anonymous mentioned the Persuasions, I've enjoyed just about everything I've heard from them. I haven't heard their Beatles and Zappa covers albums, however, and I believe they have an album of U2 covers as well. My pick will be their version of Paul Simon's "Love Me Like A Rock", which they give a gospel treatment its author most likely intended.

I'll also throw in the Beach Boys' "Mama Says" (from Wild Honey) and Sinead O'Connor's "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got" from the album of the same name.

agitpropre said...

Zappa and the Mothers Live at the Fillmore with Flo and Eddie reprising Happy Together from their Turtles days. There is an a cappella section (bah-bah, ba ba ba ba ba bahhhh) that seems to have everyone in the band on their own harmony part...with a fabulous falsetto over the top.

steve simels said...

bill said...
though it's off a seriously flawed album, there's also an a capella remix of "Your Imagination" off Brian Wilson's 1998 album. Brings tears to my eyes every time...dunno why.



I've heard that -- it's absolutely astounding. Brian, not at his best, but he might as well be...
:-)

steve simels said...

FeralLiberal said...

Some of my faves...

The Who at the beginning of "A Quick One While He's Away"


Her man's been gone..for nigh on a year...
:-)

MBowen said...

The Bangles - More Than Meets The Eye, from "All Over The Place"

dSmith said...

The Bobs doing "Helter Skelter"

peter spencer said...

I'm with Mr. Pleasant. Pretty much anything by Brian Wilson is the greatest harmony singing of our lifetime.

'Til I Die, o! yes.

My favorite Smile track: "Wonderful."

"Do it Again" I know there's accompaniment but the singing is so great you don't even hear it.

And a Beach Boys song redone on the "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" soundtrack - a fabulous album, BTW - "This Whole Whole World," with the repeating a cappella motive "Om Bop Diddy."

Brian Wilson is our Mozart.

steve simels said...

peter spencer said...

And a Beach Boys song redone on the "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" soundtrack - a fabulous album, BTW - "This Whole Whole World," with the repeating a cappella motive "Om Bop Diddy."

Brian Wilson is our Mozart.


"This Whole World" is like a great symphony in under three minutes. My god, it's gorgeous.

Good call....

LP Steve said...

If this is a whole new genre called Android Do-Wop... should we now call Laurie Anderson "Elvis"?

TMink said...

Brian Wilson on a really bad day is still a very good gift from God.

Trey

FeralLiberal said...

Listening to some tunes today brought a couple of others to mind, rather obscure but good.

Marc Cohn's "29 Ways"

Joe Firstman's "Devil's Bed"

Mister Pleasant said...

MBowen said
The Bangles - More Than Meets The Eye, from "All Over The Place"

Agreed, that one is goosebumps territory for me. Most Bangles' fans I know hate it for some bizzare reason. I think it is a little piece of heaven.

MBowen said...

On the Kirsty MacColl box set, there's a lovely version of the Beach Boys' "You Still Believe In Me" with Kirsty singing all the parts in a Brian Wilson chorale.

ISTR reading somewhere that she could knock out a five-part harmony in five, maybe six takes, with only a pause for a cup of tea or glass of wine in between.

virgotex said...

Damn Steve, I've lost at least three Imogen Heap arguments with Insufferable Music Snobs(™ Amanda M).

Wish I could have just pulled up this page and said, "See? Steve Simels finds her "bizarrely haunting. So there."

Anonymous said...

Todd Rundgren album which gave us "Bang the Drum All Day,"

Nope. Bang is from "The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect", Born to Synthesize was from Initiation and the a capella album was called, cleverly enough, A Capella. FWIW, the lounge version of Born to Synthesize he did as part of his Tiki tour in the late 90s is quite a treat if you can find a recording of it.