Thursday, May 7, 2009

Favorite Cover Song

Normally I’m not a big fan of cover songs; there are few I actually like. But it just so happens that my favorite cover song is one that I really love. It’s not like I dubbed it my favorite just because it’s the least crappy of the options. I really do love this cover song (did I already mention that?). Not surprisingly, the original and cover artists are two of my favorite bands, Led Zeppelin and TOOL (yes, I intend to use all caps when referencing TOOL, they’re that awesome).

I fell in love with Led Zeppelin when I was 11 years old. There was no courting period; it wasn't necessary - it was truly love at first listen. I was totally hooked, and have been ever since. During middle school and high school I always had trouble falling asleep at night, so I would lie in bed and listen to music through headphones for hours in the dark. It was during those nightly rendezvous that I became enamored with the many different compositions by the rock n’ roll heroes of a past generation. I listened to the songs so many times that I memorized every note and nuance, and even learned exactly where the slightest background studio noises occurred in the recordings.

I fell in love with TOOL just a couple years later. TOOL’s sound is described most often as progressive or industrial rock. I loved the band’s sound, loved their use of interesting time signatures, and loved Danny Carey’s unique and masterful drumming. But mostly I fell head over heels (instantly) for Maynard James Keenan’s voice. It bursts with emotion, and when I hear him sing I am impressed and inspired by his ability to so successfully communicate sentiment.

When I found out that TOOL had recorded a cover version of Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter, I was a little nervous (check out Led Zeppelin's recorded version and TOOL's recorded cover version). I loved both bands and the song so much that I was afraid I’d be hugely disappointed if the cover version didn’t meet my expectations. I would have been really bummed if one of my favorite bands had totally screwed up their cover of one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs. Not that the world would have stopped turning, but I would have been disillusioned by a No Quarter cover that was less than impressive, especially when I admire TOOL’s ability and have such high expectations of them.

Led Zeppelin and TOOL have decidedly different styles and sounds. But it’s amazing how TOOL was able to accurately capture the timbre and mood of the song while also imprinting it with their unique style. The piano and keyboards that aid in creating a psychedelic feel in the original are replaced by acoustic and electric guitars in the cover. At the beginning of TOOL’s version, effects are used on both the guitar and Keenan’s voice to mimic the synthesized instrumentation of the original version. The vital role of dynamics is beautifully reflected in the cover. TOOL also made some lyrical changes that I believe are in keeping with their comparably more intense style. Robert Plant’s lyrics, “Close the door, put out the light” are changed by Keenan to “Lock the door, kill the light.” Yet the cover version shows great reverence to the original, respecting its beauty and scope. I liked TOOL’s version the first time I heard it, but it took multiple listens before I was able to fully appreciate just how good it is.

I think TOOL’s version of this Led Zeppelin classic is the best-executed cover I have ever heard. I strongly recommend that you listen to both versions the way I listened to the original when I was 11 – in the dark, through headphones.


  © Free Blogger Templates Blogger Theme by 2008

Back to TOP