Today is August 15th -- that means it's time for the "Battle of the Bands (BOTB)." This is a fun blogging event that allows people to discover, discuss, and dissect music. It was originally started by Stephen T. McCarthy and FarAwayEyes back in August of 2013, and occurs twice every month -- on the 1st and the 15th. Each of the bloggers taking part offers their readers a choice of two (or occasionally more) versions of the same song, performed by different recording artists. And then the readers get to vote for their favorite rendition.
But -- as has been known to happen -- I haven't been able to post in a while, so before I go on to today's battle, I still have to give the results from my LAST Battle of the Bands post.
8/1/2014 BOTB Results
The last battle featured two versions of "Sensitive Kind" -- by Santana and by the original composer, JJ Cale. It started out looking like it was going to be a run-away by Santana, but eventually enough JJ Cale votes trickled in to make it competitive. I understand the appeal of Santana's version -- it's got a lot going for it, and I do enjoy it. It's a great rendition with powerful singing and Santana's powerful guitar playing.
But here's the thing -- in my opinion, this song isn't meant to be powerful. It's a song about sensitivity, compassion, and gently making a sensual connection with a woman who's been burned before. There's no call for screaming guitars or vocals in this song. I just think the song works so much better when it's soft and understated, and JJ's version delivers that.
So I vote for JJ, not that it matters. In the end, Santana's power overcomes, and he wins by a narrow majority, with 7 votes to JJ's 6.
However, if you're interested, HERE's a video of JJ Cale performing the song live at Carnegie Hall, during the band's tour in 1996. The video production is a little distracting, but this gives a great example of how sensual this song can be, and just how well JJ did it without all the studio orchestration.
Now Let the NEW Battle Begin!
Today again, I have another song that I like BOTH versions of -- I think these make for the best battles. And this is another bout where I'm eager to see what YOU think!
In 1973, Stevie Wonder released his 16th studio album, Innervisions, three days before he was nearly killed while riding in a car that collided with a log-carrying truck. The album had several hits, including "Living for the City", "Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing", and the first song released, "Higher Ground."
"Higher Ground" was preformed entirely by Stevie -- he sang and played all the instruments including drums, with a bass line done on an early Moog synthesizer. The beat is infectious and funky; the groove smooth and steady; the playing impeccable; and the lyrics spiritual and optimistic, seeking growth even amid lines of war and lying politicians. It is a song that gets you moving -- both dancing AND thinking.
Here's the original, as recorded by Stevie Wonder:
In 1989, The Red Hot Chili Peppers recovered from singer Anthony Kledis's rehab, the departure of drummer Jack Irons, and the overdose death of guitarist Hillel Slovak to record their fourth album, "Mother's Milk." With new drummer Chad Smith and guitarist John Frusciante, the album had much more commercial success than their previous ones, lifted in part by MTV's heavy rotation of their cover of "Higher Ground."
Where the Stevie Wonder version was smooth keyboard-driven funk, the Peppers took that funk, kicked it in the ass, and merged it with Punk attitude, Rock drums, hard-edged distorted guitars, and Flea's throbbing, pulsating bass playing. The Chili Peppers were no strangers to funk -- George Clinton had produced the band's second album, "Freaky Styley" in 1985. But while Stevie Wonder's funk tickled your heart, the Peppers punched you in the gut with it.
Here's the RHCP version of "Higher Ground:"
So which appeals to you more? Smooth and funky, or hard-edged and funky? Do you like your funk groove straight, or do you want it mixed with equal parts punk and rock?
I invite you to listen to each version and give them a chance. And try not to focus on the video images (close your eyes if you must) -- the battle is about the music, not the video production.
After listening, please vote in the comments as to which version you think is best, or which speaks to you the deepest. Feel free to also share as much as you would like about how any of the above recordings strike you, even if it's less than positive.
Then -- be sure to check out the other BOTB bloggers to vote on their battles:
- Far Away Series (FarAwayEyes)
- Stephen T. McCarthy's Battle of the Bands Blog
- Tossing it Out (Arlee Bird)
- Your Daily Dose (Robin)
- DiscConnected (DiscConnected)
- A Writer's Life in Progress (Donna Hole)
- Mike's Ramblings (Mike Pain)
- Curious as a Cathy (Cathy Kennedy)
Thank you very much for listening and for voting -- come back and visit again the end of next week to find out how the voting has gone. I'll make a post then with my own vote and also announce the winner.
And in the meantime -- be sure to keep on reachin' for that higher ground!