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Tom Tobben

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Brian Wilson has written (and co-written) tons of wonderful songs throughout his career, for the Beach Boys, for his own solo career, and in some cases for other artists. We normally first learn and hear Brian's songs as he recorded them, but this week we are going to feature a group of Brian's songs as covered by other artists. While hardly any of the cover versions of Brian Wilson songs have become hits in their own right, there are tons of cover recordings of Brian's songs by other artists over the decades. Many are quite lovely, some quite unusually or creatively interpreted, and some outright stinkers. The genesis of my idea for this week's battle goes back a decade or so ago, when a fellow blueboarder undertook a project identifying literally hundreds of such cover versions recorded by artists over the decades, which has continued right up to the present.

This week our battle will feature four of my favorite recordings/performances of Brian's music by other artists whose music I also admire. With so many excellent cover versions of Brian's music, it was difficult for me to narrow the list to only four songs and artists. I'll be sure to post more of my favorites throughout the week. Here are this week's battle contestants. I hope you  all enjoy them as much as I do, and have fun ranking them.

First up is Vince Gill's moving interpretation of "The Warmth of the Sun", taken from his memorable live performance at the "All-Star Tribute to Brian Wilson" concert, held in New York City's Radio City Music Hall on March 29, 2001, and subsequently released as a DVD. The backing band and vocal harmonies are Brian's own band, so they are quite faithful to Brian's original Beach Boys version. By the way, If you don't have that DVD, you owe it to yourself to go get it! Christmas is coming soon, so a perfect stocking stuffer!

Next, Brian wrote and produced "Time To Get Alone" which was first recorded by the fledgling young three-lead vocalist group Redwood in October 1967  but not released at that time. It was subsequently recorded by the Beach Boys in October 1968 and was first released commercially in 1969 on the Beach Boys' 20/20 album and was produced by Carl Wilson.  The original Redwood version was finally commercially released in 1993 on the excellent career-spanning, double-CD compilation  by Three Dog Night, Celebrate: The Three Dog Night Story, 1965-1975. Without further ado, here are Danny Hutton, Chuck Negron, Cory Wells and company with their original recording of Brian's lovely waltz, "Time To Get Alone":

Third,  in 2002, the late legendary soul singer Solomon Burke released a powerfully soulful version of Brian's "Soul Searchin'" on his excellent album Don't Give Up on Me, which won Burke a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album in 2003.  Brian originally co-wrote the song in the early 1990s with Andy Paley as part of what became known as the Andy Paley sessions, and an unfinished version of it was recorded with the Beach Boys in 1996 with what was to be Carl Wilson's final lead vocal recorded with the Beach Boys. The Beach Boys session was never finished or released, but "Soul Searchin'" did eventually appear on Brian's Getting in Over My Head album in 2004, in an updated version containing Carl's original vocals as a duet with Brian's newly recorded vocals and arrangement.  At any rate, Solomon Burke became aware of the unreleased song and recorded his own soulful version in 2002:

Our final competitor this week is the Fendertones, a group that is particularly known for their stellar, nearly note- and vocal- perfect cover versions of Beach Boys music. According to their Facebook page, "The Fendertones are a network of musicians who get together for occasional projects and do not play live venues or tour. No commercial recordings are currently available." Here they are with their gorgeous home-recorded version of "Kiss Me Baby", first posted to YouTube in 2014, where you can also find a number of their other fine covers of Brian Wilson / Beach Boys songs:

 

As you listen to and evaluate this week's four battle songs, please add your own favorite cover versions of Brian Wilson's songs, in order to further celebrate Brian's large and impressive body of work over the past 55 years and the large number of artists who have been influenced by Brian's music and have chosen to interpret his songs in their own particular manner.

And for those erstwhile critics of the BOTBs who reside elsewhere on Brian's website, this week's battle is entirely focused on Brian's music and the wide influence it has had on many other artists over many decades. Brian, this week's battle is ALL about you and your music!

For those of you who prefer to cut and paste this week's battle songs when voting, here they are:

Vince Gill, "The Warmth of the Sun"

Redwood, "Time To Get Alone"

Solomon Burke, "Soul Searchin'"

Fendertones, "Kiss Me Baby"

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t bedford

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Reply with quote  #2 
I'll have to listen for a day or 2 before voting...

...but this cover of a Paul Peterson single that was written & produced by Brian got local airplay in CLE back in 1965. Then the same recording was re-released in 1966 as by the G.T.O.'s (not to be confused with Frank Zappa's Girls Together Outrageously).

Joey & the Continentals - She Rides with Me


Here's a cover in German! Michael Holm - Kein Alibi:

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Darren J. Ray

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Reply with quote  #3 
Great battle, Tom. 

I'm really looking forward to playing these a lot this week. 

It'll be fascinating to see the results. 

The Solomon Burke version of 'Soul Searchin'' won a Gold in Week 44 of Season IV (Al Forsyth). 

Not sure it will this time. 

Hope you get lots of fans jumping on board this one. 
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Lee Marshall

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This is  W A Y  tougher to judge than I thought it was going to be Tom.  I mean   W A Y   tougher.  I figured...just lookin' at the choices that I knew where I'd go with it but...HOLD YER HORSES Lee!!!!

3 songs here deserve to be gold.  The 4th...silver.  But of course that wouldn't add up. 

I'm going with The Fendertones who just blew me away with how close they came to nailing their take to the original.  Unbelievably excellent.  And GOLDEN. The human metronome was funny too.

I was going to go with Vince for first place but I figured that he had an unfair advantage by virtue of having THAT specific backing band helping out so I gave him a .00000000000000000000000000000000000000001 penalty and so he places the strongest 2nd I have ever handed out with this week's SILVER 'meddle'.

3rd or BRONZE goes to Solomon Burke who was a great talent but who also got edged out by a microscopic hair due to the expertise of the Fendertones and Vince.  Many weeks...I'd have given him 1st place... ... ...

3 Dogs whizzing on the Redwood only managed a One ...the loneliest number in this week's poll...due to the fact that they hadn't quite honed their skills to perfection at that specific juncture in the festivities, that the recording techniques back then were dated by comparison and thirdly by virtue of the fact that the 20/20 version eats this one for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  So sorry to Danny and Chuck...and I sure do miss Cory.  They also recorded a bunch of songs written by Canadians and their first drummer, as they began to 'hunt' internationally, was Calgary's Floyd Sneed.  Couple that with their association with Brian and the 'boys' and I've always been a gigantic fan.  It was tough to bring 'em in in a tin. 

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Al Forsyth

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Reply with quote  #5 
The only way that Tom could have totally caused this to be even tougher would be to insert Kayla into this:


Darren, I was actually going to use Brian's Soul Searchin' next week BUT looks like I go with plan B or C  or make up a new one.  Now I'm on the bubble, thanks Tom!  Cursed by the Beatle ban last go-round and now by Tm T. - what is a battler to do? 

Of course the Fendertones' videos aren't live but give that homey appearance that they are.  But this is:

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bonnie bella

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Tom, what an incredible selection.  You always seem to find somethings special and I always look forward to your week.  

A true example of a week in which you couldn't guess the outcome.

This lovely teaser that Dan posted a few weeks ago from Bic Runga, who is classy enough to cover a BW song for her new album, "Close Your Eyes".  One minute and eleven seconds of "The Lonely Sea".



And a cover from Gazelle Twin (Elizabeth Bernholz) of "Love and Mercy", used in the final of season five of The Walking Dead.  Beautiful.


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David W

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Reply with quote  #7 

Tough choices this week but I'll go with :

Gold: Vince Gill, "The Warmth of the Sun"

Silver:Fendertones, "Kiss Me Baby"

Bronze:Solomon Burke, "Soul Searchin'"

Tin: Redwood, "Time To Get Alone"

How about Sting and Lulu and Sail On Sailor :


 

 

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kds

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Reply with quote  #8 
This version of Sail On Sailor doesn't seem to be popular amongst BB/BW fans, but I really like it.  From Mr. Jimmy Buffett



And just in time for Christmas, here's The Muppets' Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem doing Little Saint Nick

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Popeye (not the sailor)

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Caroline Now! is an excellent album of Brian Wilson songs performed by other artists.

I always gravitate to this beauty whenever I play it.

Stevie/My Diane


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Cindy Hood

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Reply with quote  #10 
Nice sleuthing, Sherlock Tobben!  I have never heard any of these or even knew that they existed.  But, you've certainly found some buried treasure this week.  The downside is that they are all superb, so giving these gems a ranking is going to be quite a feat!

With each song I listened to, i was blown away and thought it was just an incredible song.  I've come up with this ranking. 

GOLD:  Kiss Me Baby by the Pendertones.  Breathtaking!

SILVER:  Warmth of the Sun by Vince Gill.  Stunning!

BRONZE:  Time To Get Alone by Redwood/Three Dog Night.  Brilliant!

TIN/PEWTER:  Soul Searchin' by Solomon Burke.  Excellent!

Superb week, Tom!  As sure as I can possibly be, this is my final answer.

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Al Forsyth

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Reply with quote  #11 
Was it a cover or was it the FIRST version?

Which version of Soul Searchin' came FIRST?

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Popeye (not the sailor)

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Reply with quote  #12 
Great songs all around!!!

My undercovered votes:

Gold: Time To Get Alone - 3 Dogs whizzing on the Redwood (thanks Lee, that was funny)

Silver: Warmth of The Sun - Vince Gill - Willie would have wrangled my gold.

Bronze: Soul Searchin' - Solomon Burke - Not Carl but not bad.

Tin: Kiss Me Baby - Fendertones - These talented guys are amazing.

Thanks Tom!
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Peter Simpson

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Reply with quote  #13 
Excellent week, Tom and very hard to place them. Any of them could be gold really.

As a little bit of a musician myself though I have to give Gold to the Fendertones. I love what they do with this and so many other songs. In fact it's almost time to find their video of "Little Saint Nick"

Next in Silver position , Solomon Burke - Great song and a great soulful rendition

Bronze - Vince Gill - beautiful voice

Tin - Redwood

Cheers
Pete
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Tom Tobben

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Reply with quote  #14 

Thanks to all of you who have checked in with your comments or additional "under the covers" songs/videos (t, Darren, Lee, Al, bonnie, David, kds, Popeye, Pete) or who have already cast your votes (Lee, David, Cindy, Popeye, Pete) for this week. From most comments so far, it looks like we may have a close battle, which is a good thing.

t, thanks for surfacing your local GTO group's cover version of Brian's early "She Rides with Me". During those early years, Brian had a number of "pet projects" and songs he wrote or produced for other artists/groups, but surprisingly very few had any real chart impact, as compared to his major successes with the Beach Boys during those years.

Lee, glad to see you had to struggle a bit to rank your choices. While many of Brian's songs have interesting or unusual instrumental arrangements, one thing that stood out for me with this week's four battle songs was the quality of the vocals in each song -- Vince Gill, Solomon Burke, early Danny/Cory/Chuck working out their early shared lead vocal sound which later became so famous as Three Dog Night, and the nearly tone-perfect Fendertones.

Al, sorry about beating you to the punch with Solomon Burke's version of "Soul Searchin'" this week. Regarding your question about which version of "Soul Searchin'" came first, from the best information I could find here's my take: Brian apparently co-wrote the song with Andy Paley sometime in the early '90s, later recorded an unfinished take of the song with Carl and the Beach Boys in 1996, but then it was shelved and never finished. Then, it appears that Solomon Burke's recorded version may have been the first published version of the song in 2002. Brian's reworked version using some of Carl's earlier vocals blended with his own recording did not finally appear until the GIOMH album in 2004, though he had apparently performed "Soul Searchin'" live in concert a few times before that. Good find on the Victoria Hale cover of "The Summer Moon" (aka "The Surfer Moon"). I wasn't aware of that one at all.

Kayla Williams was definitely on my mind for this week's battle, because she has posted to YouTube a number of interesting and/or faithful covers of Brian's songs over the past decade or so, and her covers used to get a good deal of attention on this site some years ago. Your example of her relatively recent cover of Brian's sublime "'Til I Die" is lovely. I also recall a number of her earlier covers, such as her animated cover of "Darlin'":

bonnie, thanks as always for finding some interesting versions of songs. Bic Runga's snippet of "The Lonely Sea" was quite good, but unfortunately not complete. And I'd never heard the haunting version of "Love & Mercy" used in The Walking Dead TV series, an interesting interpretation of Brian's signature solo career song.

David, thanks for Sting and Lulu's "Sail On, Sailor". That duet cover version was new to me.

On the other hand, kds, I'm a fan of Jimmy Buffett's version of the same song. Seems to me, it's an excellent fit with Jimmy Buffett's body of work and a good fit on his Meet Me in Margaritaville 2CD compilation album.  By contrast, I've never been much of a John Denver or Muppets fan, so their take on Little St. Nick's custom sleigh never got airborne for me.

Popeye, thanks for reminding us of the Caroline Now covers album from back around 2000. It's one of the few BW/BB covers albums not in my CD collection, so I need to put that one on my wish list. Also from that compilation, here's Alex Chilton's recording of "I Wanna Pick You Up":

OK, Pete, since you mentioned the Fendertones' cover of "Little St. Nick", here it is from back in 2007, now that December is now officially upon us:

 

For those of you who enjoy classical music, the cover album titled The String Quartet Tribute to The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds on the Vitamin Records label from 2005 is a real delight! It's perfect to listen to with a cup of coffee or tea on a quiet, laid-back Sunday morning or to wind down with in the evening with your favorite glass of wine, or whenever you simply want to chill for a half hour or so. Here's one of my favorite sample selections, "That's Not Me":

And in a totally different vein, here's Rod Stewart and Faces' extended, rocked up version of Smiley Smile's "Gettin' Hungry", from their Five Guys Walk into A Bar career retrospective album from 2004:

 

Keep the additional interesting cover versions, comments, and votes coming throughout the rest of this week's battle, which looks to be a close one.  This week's battle is a good opportunity for all of us to hear and learn about additional interesting cover songs or cover/tribute albums of Brian's music, some of which some of us might also want to purchase to enhance our own personal collections of Brian Wilson and Beach Boys music.   

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Al Forsyth

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Reply with quote  #15 
Tom,  Summer Moon/Surfer Moon here sounds like an acetate but was it before the Beach Boys release of it in 63?  It's not the crickets' Bob and Sheri version (the worst audio choice by anything Brian Wilson).  Does anyone have The Big Beat album?  The Summer Moon then became The Surfer Moon.

Is this a great Brian vocal or what?


Votes:

Two ties!
First two tied are The Fendertones and Solomon Burke - two exquisite interpretations of two wonderful songs. 

Second tie is the Redwoods and Vince Gill.

Lotta .5's happening then. 

No real losers here, but I had to rank them this way. 

I'm working on a NEW battle then.  Not a problem. 

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