Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published June 17th 2020
Good music from a bad situation
This started in an odd way. I was looking for the videos to go with the tracks I selected for my 'Forever Young' column. When I found the last one, while I merrily typed away my closing and did my editing, I let YouTube continue to play the videos because the music sounded fine and I like listening to music.
Anyway, on came a song I knew by an artist I knew, but this was not the version I knew. It wasn't live, but it was certainly different. So I looked back at the YouTube screen and found myself watching a clip from the One World Together At Home concert series: artists performing from home.
Now, I know quite a few bands and artists have made music from home during the global pandemic, but I really had not had any reason to seek them out. But this track made me go for a bit of a deep dive into home and zoom-style recordings.
Wow! What a lot of music has been created! I spent a day doing this, and every time I found a song I liked, I set it aside, thinking I'd find a dozen or so and make a list. At fifty I stopped and started the culling process. And so we have these twenty here.
First, a digression (sorry). I think this is something quite incredible. Music has gone back to the early days of rock, and gone back to the DIY days of punk in the 70s. All these million-dollar studios and all the multi-tracking and all that – it's been proven yet again that it is not necessary to make good music. Anyone can do it anywhere and it can sound awesome. And very few modern singers feature, showing that too many rely on studio trickery to sound like they know how to sing. And, truth be told, it feels like they are not needed. These songs are popular, getting heaps of hits and the modern performers… meh. Not all – Taylor Swift, Jessi G, Brendan Urie and Little Mix all have some great home-recorded stuff that did not make this list. But there were a lot fewer than I think I had been expecting.
So, rules for this list:
Recorded between March 1 and June 15, 2020.
An artist can appear more than once.
No studio trickery.
Do not have to be famous people doing the recording.
All music styles are up for grabs.
Re-recordings of songs already known.
This last rule is because of a couple of reasons. First, I don't know about you, but I like something to sing along to when I'm doing these lists. Second, I did not want to wade through the dozens upon dozens of coronavirus parody tracks that have grown like a… well, virus on YouTube.
So, by order of song title. I hope. Get ready for some greatness!
'Classical Gas' by 'Weird Al' Yankovic
No, not a comedy song, but a magnificent accordion version of the old Mason Williams instrumental piece. Remember, Al first and foremost is a musician, and this shows that. He couldn't do what he does without being good at music. One man and his instrument on a roof. Does it get much better than this?
'Dancing With Myself' by Jimmy Fallon, Billy Idol and The Roots
Jimmy Fallon doing his show from home, with his house band The Roots doing the same thing often with home-sourced instruments, and getting guest musicians in to join him – that is the perfect way to do these. And with this version of the song we have videos of people dancing alone at home… this is so cool. And Billy Idol seems to be having some fun as well.
'Don't Dream it's Over' by Crowded House
This song was always a great one, and there is little difference to it being done in this format. It is still as good, and Neil Finn's voice is still as awesome as ever. Just a beautiful version. Simple.
'Don't Stand So Close To Me' by Jimmy Fallon, Sting and The Roots
And we're with Jimmy and The Roots again, this time with Sting of The Police (as opposed to the wrestler) involved. And, again, Sting looks like he is in on the joke. The music from the home instruments works really well with this track.
Fogerty's Factory – John Fogerty, with his kids Tyler, Shane and Kelsy
This might be a bit of a cheat, because this is a 15 minute mini-concert featuring a few songs, but I love this. Fogerty and 3 of his kids just tearing it up on some of his classics: 'Centerfield', 'Down On The Corner', 'Long As I Can See The Light' and 'Proud Mary'. Sometimes you have to wonder if there is something to artistic ability being genetic and not just because of exposure/environment. But this is hardly the place for a nurture v nature argument. Mind you, as we go through this list… Yeah. You'll see.
'I Still Call Australia Home' by Tomas Dalton and Tom Hamilton
The only impromptu one on my list – two opera singers decide to entertain their neighbours from their balcony. Now, I am not a huge fan of this song, but the way these two sing it sent shivers up my spine.
'Join Together' by various Canadian and Italian artists
One of the many brilliant songs by The Who, this strange mixture of artists from two countries came together to produce a version that works really well. This is a song that asks for a big group to sing it, and that's why this just works. For the record, I recognise exactly none of the artists…
'Lay It On Me' by Vance Joy with Band and Guests
I love this song, and have since I first heard it. I had access to a drum kit at the time, and with me on drums and two guys on guitar and another singing, we managed to get a pretty good approximation of this song. And this version is awesome. The glass rim playing? Wow!
'Mad World ' by Curt and Diva Smith
Curt Smith is one of the two singers from Tears For Fears who did this song originally. Here he does a stunning acoustic version (in the style of the version done by Gary Jules) with his daughter Diva. She is still a teenager and she already has the chops. She could be a star in a few years. But this is such a beautiful version of this song no matter what. Nature… nurture?
'Mr. Brightside' by The Killers
From the One World Together At Home concert. While the guitar does get lost in the mix, this is a fine version of a song I have always loved, and still use when I work out at the gym. They do a great version, just the two of them, showing just how good they really are.
'Stand By Me' by John Legend and Sam Smith
From the One World Together At Home concert. Smith is too far from his microphone, but these two still put in mighty vocal performances. Modern singers who can actually sing! They do a very impressive job here with an all-time classic.
'Symphony No. 9 (Opening, Final Movement) (Beethoven) by Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest
I've said it before, I'll say it again – the absolute timing of doing this over zoom or whatever they were using is just amazing. And I love this piece of music so very much. It is hard to believe they are not in the same place, but there you are. The chorus being a taped one does detract a little, but only a little.
'The Gambler' by Keith Urban
A tribute to Kenny Rogers, recorded in Urban's home studio with his wife Nicole Kidman an enthusiastic audience of one. This is a pretty good version of the song – one man and his acoustic guitar. Urban has been doing some country-pop cross-over songs of late; when he sticks with the country, he is superb.
'There Must Be An Angel' by Annie and Lola Lennox
From the One World Together At Home concert. While Annie's voice is not recorded brilliantly, you can still hear the power… and then Lola starts and again, the apple does not fall far from the tree. Parents and children doing this so well – there is a generation of younger stars coming up who do not need computers to sound good.
'Thus Spake Zarathustra (Introduction)' by The Orchestra of Opera North
How they managed to get themselves together to get the timing of this so spot-on I will never know. Mind you, they even had a conductor, and now, more than ever, I can see the value of the man with the baton. And I do like how they all got dressed up for this. And take a look at the cymbal player's kids…
'What A Wonderful World' Aussie Pops Orchestra with guest vocalists
Getting a bunch of Australian singers from across the generations and the Pops Orchestra conducted by John Foreman to do the old Louis Armstrong hit could have missed… but it did not. Not at all. None of the singers took it over the top, and the orchestra is right on song. And the shivers when Casey Donovan hits her notes…
'When The War Is Over' by Jimmy Barnes, Ian Moss, Mahalia Barnes and Band
Cold Chisel bandmates getting together with friends and family to produce a magnificent acoustic version of the track. And Barnes' gentle crooning from 1:10 is stunning. I could listen to this for hours. So good.
An abridged version of The Who's classic is just so amazing. They recorded a heap of songs from their various locations and so many of them are great, but this one is just awesome. Just imagine being the neighbours of any of these guys… Well, I'd enjoy it.
A slowed down version of Barnes' break-through solo single, but it works so well. Outside with a microphone and a computer and Barnes' voice sounds like that? Just incredible. And Diesel's guitar playing is stunning.
'You'll Never Walk Alone' by a bunch of Internet singers
The artist? Yeah – basically, a heap of people gave themselves the opportunity to sing this classic. And they were merged together to form a chorus and orchestra the likes of which is possibly only possible online. They sing it as the original song version from Carousel, not the way Gerry And The Pacemakers did it. But there had to be a Liverpool scarf in there…
And there you have it, 20 (well, 23) songs recorded at home during a lockdown period and doing so successfully. I occasionally rail against where modern technology is leading us, but then it enables stuff like this to happen and I think maybe there are some incredible positives.
And, for the record, my regular reader asked about that version of 'Imagine' the celebrities did at the start of lockdown. Sorry. Half could not sing, were out of tune and tried to make it about themselves. It was a terrible version. And why would you want that when you've got these 20 (well, 23) tracks to listen to?