I Know I Need A Small Vacation...

Well, 2/3 of the Robot staff will be off to SF on a mini-vacation/record gathering mission, so it's gonna be purty quiet 'round these parts until Monday or Tuesday. I've decided to leave you with 3, er, interesting covers of a song I am obsessed with, Wichita Lineman. Penned by the amazing Jimmy Webb, made famous by the ornery Glen Campbell, and evidently...ruined by countless others. Even a bad rendition of it is tolerable for me, because it's such a damn fine pop song. You can't totally kill it. Well, maybe Laibach could.

The first version is by the venerable Tennesse Ernie Ford, who apparently spent the tail end of his career sterilizing perfectly good songs. To sound any whiter, you'd have to be Kraftwerk. He makes Pat Boone seem like Al Green. He...OK, you get the idea. This track appeared on a 1969 album that Phil picked up a while back, called The New Wave. He was kind enough to rip it for me, and here was the note he included with the mp3:
"I do like Ernie's voice, but he's just not built to sing any of these songs. They require that you have some semblence of a soul, and his dispassionate renderings are just plain uncomfortable. His cover of the Bee Gee's, "Words" is excruciatingly bland, and I had to turn it off by the time he finished gutting "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" of all feeling and spirit."

:: Tennessee Ernie Ford's take ::

The second version is from Mike's previously visited Nashville Moog album, and it's oddly charming and almost pastoral, as much as future moon music can be. Kind of makes we want to hear Gary Numan take a stab at it; it couldn't be any worse than his alien deconstruction of "On Broadway," could it?

:: Gil Trythall's take::

I saved the worst for last. I don't know who The Lonesome Valley Singers were. Given their name, ostensibly you'd think they'd want to at least hire a singer who could, you know, sing. Hearing this guy skitter his way in and out of correct notes on such a pretty song is either sacrilege or high hilarity, depending on who you are. This was from an LP that Mike gave me recently (since he knows how much I love this song), and actually has a picture of a lineman up on a telephone pole on the cover.

:: The Lonesome Valley Singers take::

In other ways to waste your time, I've learned that someone made a flash animation video for "The Big A = The Big M," a song that made it's way across the internets pretty fast after I posted it a few months back. I guess this is it's 15 minutes of fame? They don't mention where they got the song, but I'd like to think it was here.
Check it out.

Enjoy, and see ya next week.

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Thursday, October 06, 2005 1:01:00 PM

Appreciate this beyond measure. I love this song, too. Also Galveston & By the Time I Get to Phoenix. I collect versions of these three. Have you heard Wichita by The Lettermen, or Tartaglian Theorem, or Morty Lewis? You must have heard Sergio Mendes' version; it's killer. If you're interested in any of these, or a few others, e-mail me. I can send them. robertthomaswood@yahoo.com    

Friday, October 07, 2005 8:55:00 PM

Franken Beans, you know the way to my heart. (And my pants.) Other good versions include Ray Charles -no surprises, just a straightforward arrangement, heavy on the strings, and Optiganally Yours, who play all of their songs on a virtual orchestra of toy keyboards from the 70's and the results are heavenly.    

Friday, July 14, 2006 5:33:00 PM

Cliffie Stone, who was Tennessee Ernie Ford's manager in the halcyon years, once remarked about Ernie, "that was before he lost his soul". If I could destroy most of Ernie's records from his later years, it would be a gift to him. It is a shame these phoned in performances are out there. Ernie was a much better singer, listen to "Wayfaring Pilgrim", now that is soul.    

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