Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cover Me Impressed: 'God Only Knows'

It's no secret 'Pet Sounds' is my favorite album of all time. If you're going to cover any song from Brian Wilson's magnum opus, you had better have the goods. Here are four covers that, to varying degrees, successfully pay homage to this beautiful pop song.

In 1997, Elvis Costello performed this one live at the BBC with the Brodsky Quartet. The show, called 'A Case for Song', was released on DVD in 2007 and is still in print.

David Bowie's cover appeared on 'Tonight'. The 1984 album is generally considered one of his worst, and I won't argue. I thought the verse-to-verse build up and deep vocals were cool. I was only 13 when I got hooked on it. So, this could be a case of nostalgia. As is usually the case, I didn't like the sax.

Quite a few people have asked who covered "Let Your Love Flow" on that Toyota Prius commercial earlier this year. Well, Petra Haden was a vocalist and violinist in the underrated '90s band That Dog. Since then, she has been releasing these really interesting a capella pieces, including the entire 'The Who Sell Out' album. If you end up enjoying her cover of "God Only Knows", you will probably like all of her work. This song is available as a free download on her site.

The Langley Schools Music Project was a chorus of 60 children from a rural school in western Canada, circa 1976 and 1977. The music teacher there, Hans Fenger, used a simple two-track tape deck in the gym to record songs by the likes of The Beatles, Wings, The Beach Boys and David Bowie. Sometimes outsider music can be strange, creepy or just plain bad for the sake of being bad. I think the songs, culled from the two 12" LPs Fenger made for the kids and later released as a collection called 'Innocence & Despair', are full of charm and beauty.

The Beach Boys - God Only Knows (mp3)
Elvis Costello - God Only Knows (mp3)
David Bowie - God Only Knows (mp3)
Petra Haden - God Only Knows (mp3)
The Langley Schools Music Project - God Only Knows (mp3)

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