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"..I'm not in it for the money..


marvin

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"..I just want a hit record.."

It's probably idealistic of me to think that if everything goes ok, the hit record will usually lead to the money, but it seems that these days there aren't many artists willing to draw a line and put their musical integrity before the money and the hit record.

Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow are only the most recent examples. Over the course of his career, Stewart has consistently included a cover song on his albums. His recent string of "Classic American Songbook" cd's resulted in his first #1 in decades. Same with Barry and his cd "Songs of the 1950's." As a follow-up to these successes, Rod has released "Great Rock Classics of Our Time", and Barry has returned with, "Classic Songs of the 1960's." Say what you will about the quality of the music, but why have artists become so complacent that they would rather choose the 'trite and true' over writing new music? Has the almighty dollar and the glory of the hit record taken the place of artist integrity? In Stewart's case, with these releases he's lost much of the respect he had garnered in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Both Stewart and Manilow have found a formula and an audience that is willing to buy into it. Call me naïve but I believe that it's not impossible to get that #1 record while still retaining your musical integrity.

On the other side of the coin you have Vince Gill who has written so prolifically, he's releasing 4 discs (43 songs) of new music this week. Commercial suicide maybe, but on the other hand it is certainly encouraging to see that there are some artists who are inspired to write new music rather than playing it safe (lazy?).

Marv

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Hmmmm, I think the American Idol phenomenum has something to do with these old geezer icons recording these CDs. Let them if they want to. If the new cover sounds as good or better than the original, I'll buy it.

Like I said before, Eric's cover of "Walk Away Renee" for me is better than the original because of the tighter vocals and harmonies, plus much more punch in the instruments. it gave me more appreciation for that well-written tune, above the fact that "McDreamy Eric" is singing it...

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I don't mind some of the cover albums coming out. I think money does have something to do with it - It's their own personal retirement plan! I think that Tony is correct, every so often the cover is better than the original. I go to lots of concerts, and I have also noticed that most bands are adding cover songs to their set list. I just saw Heart perform in Vegas a few weeks ago, and they did an amazing version of The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me"! I've seen The Who perform it in concert, and the Heart version was as good or better. I thought the Raspberries covers that they performed in Chicago were awesome!

Tim

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I also have no problem with covers, but the point I’m trying to make is, when you do four consecutive albums of covers, that tells me that you’re more interested in chart position than anything else. We’re seeing this trend more and more especially from artists who once had no problem getting their songs on the charts (Stewart, Manilow, M McDonald, D Parton, Def Lepperd etc.). Is this what it takes to get your song on the radio?

Re “WYSLMTâ€, if you listen to Carole King’s original version on “Tapestryâ€, it’s very much like Dave Mason’s version – and totally unlike the Shirelles hit version. I would guess that Carole wrote it as a ballad and it was sped up to make it more radio-friendly.

Marv

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I can tell you, personally, Marvin, that one of Rod's Standards Albums is the favorite of a 23 year-old friend of mine. And I gave her six CD's, of several music styles, for her Christmas present, plus Rod's live DVD of Standards and his hits. Remember too, there are several artists singing The Standards, now. Steve Tyrell (The singer/producer on an award-winning CD for Rod Stewart), 16 year-old Renee Olstead(recorded Standards at 15), Michael Buble, etc. With Rod Stewart, the reason for each new album was because there is so much to bring out to the public. That era, that nostalgia, that respect for the lyric. For people, places, and everything else. He recorded the songs he truly loved from his heart. Those songs from The Great American Songbook are his favorite songs, he has said. He found himself singing songs, often, realizing they were from an era that could be brought back. For years and years, he said, he had recorded a few songs(The Standards), now and then. And, literally, put on the shelf- Surprise! His first album was supposed to be a "labor of love", meaning that nothing great was expected, including much, if any profits at all. The money was put up, really, to bring this music to a new audience, and especially to bring back those incredibly crafted songs. But, hold on, over 10 million copies sold by the fourth album was the biggest surprise of all. Those songs are great, because of the lyric and music.

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Two words. "Clive Davis" He pushing these guys on selling as many units as possible by having them record generic sounding covers. In Rod's case it comes off as sounding like he's doing Karoke.

On the other hand you have Elton who, after disappointing sales for last years "Peachtree road" was told by his record label they wanted him to do a Motown or Christmas album. He emphatically told them no, left the label and released one of his strongest albums in years. "The Captain and the Kid"

Jeff

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I agree, Marvin, that new songs can be great. Country Music has been popular. Look at the popular Enya, back when, with a different style from Everything that's heard on radio. And, a new album, now. Oh, Sting, too, did a Standards song, too, and I think Peter Cetera.

Rod commented last week that it's better for him to do covers, because he has noticed that new songs might not get played. Paul McCartney with a great album, and the radio stations weren't playing much of any of his songs. And he was voted one of the best albums of-the-year, months back!!

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Again I have no problem with Rod's choice of cover songs. It's the fact that he's done so many in a row that bothers me. I guess if there's someone willing to buy the product, might as well do it until the idea goes stale. Unfortunately what was supposed to be a lark for Rod has turned out to be the boom of the industry - and that says everything about the state of current music and the fact that even established artists can't get their songs heard.

Marv

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I agree Marvin, it has nothing to do with them covering songs but to do it for almost a decade. I think Stewart and Minilow are just trying to hang in there. They arn't getting the twenty, thirty or maybe even forty year olds anymore. I bet the crowds they are playing in front of are in their 50's. I just don't think songwriter's give them songs anymore and without the crowd these guys will simply die.

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As Jeff mentioned, it is indeed interesting that Clive Davis had a hand in Rod's latest "Classic" release and the two latest covers discs by Barry M. Clive knows a quick buck when he sees one.

I loved Rod's stuff right up to "Vagabond Heart", which showed that he could still write his own material effectively. Unfortunately that album from 1991 featured his last real hits ("The Motown Song" and "Rhythm of My Heart"), and now (imo) someone who used to be one of rock's great vocal talents simply comes across as selling out.

Marv

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You've got it right, Marvin. And, Foolin'Myself, alot of good songwriters are gone. The music industry looks back now, and realizes the greatness of the past with Rock, Blues, R&B, Standards, etc. It has been spectacular. I would like to see some different, and new, music. This is something those veteran artists could try. Like Rod's and other's popularity led to more artists wanting those famous Standards, some artist can start a new trend, and let others follow. Again, note the artist Enya. Experimental if you will. She's so different from the rest. But, she found a niche by doing that Celtic, folklorish style of centuries past.

And, Eric has written briefly about possibly doing experimental music. I think it's a good approach to try to sometimes be different vocally and musically, like Eric has done with his arrangements on his songs. I really admire Bob Dylan more now, because he was really trying to be different. And it worked for him. In my opinion, I think it's one of the greatest things an artist could do these days. It's quite possible to be on the forefront of change.

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The trouble is radio is so narrow margined now , that when an artist like Rod, Macca, Elton etc comes out with anything new radio won't play it. The other day for example a local station here mentioned that Seger had a new album out. Instead of playing "Wait for Me" (The new single) what did they play instead? "Night Moves"!

Some people on another board I frequent were chastising Elton for appearing on QVC last Friday night and playing songs from the new album. Unfortunetly, the way radio is, an artist has to use other means for his new material to be heard. Another example is U2 and Dylan doing iPod commercials to plug thier material.

Jeff

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I think its strictly marketing deal as you point out. In terms of dollars, theres already a market for those songs by the people that remember them. I think its much tougher to break a new song, and there certainly doesnt appear to be alot of top flight songwriters in abundance as there were years ago. People than can automatically write the type of song that will get noticed. Its likely a new Rod Stewart song gets a couple weeks of listening at best. I think the comment about radio is relevant. They can get Rod covers on both easy listening stations and light pop stations. They can cover two areas of listening audience if they are lucky. Just like television, the radio media ofcourse plays to splintered segments, not to the populus as a whole anymore. Bottom line, I certainly enjoyed The Faces more than the covers.

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I'm not a big fan of this trend of washed up singers doing an entire CD covering old hits. Nothing wrong with including one or two covers, but an entire CD??? If they can't do a decent original song, then at least cover some great obscure songs. Like with Rod Stewart covered "Downbound Train" (although I thought Patty Smyth did a much better version a couple of years before). Quite honestly though...I haven't like Rod the Mod since he left the Faces. IMO, he hasn't done anything that is even close to "Stay With Me."

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Raspberrwine you are correct: There is no doubt that established artists are finding it hard to get their music on the radio, so they resort to a 'can't lose' solution. I think that artists need to take a stand on the side of musical integrity instead of giving into a trend. Sort of like the tv networks all jumping on the game show or reality show bandwagon because of the initial success of "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?" and "Survivor."

In Rod's case five consecutive albums of covers just doesn't cut it for me. I'm sure that over the course of recording these albums he's had the opportunity to write original material or find songs from other songwriters. In my opinion, he's chosen to go with a formula that is working for him, probably garnering a lot of new fans, but at the same time alienating many others who used to view him as an original.

I remember when listening to AM radio in the 1970's was the 'be-all-to-end-all' for me. I religiously breathed-in every new song, each one creating an excitement beyond compare. The pulse of the music burned deeply in my soul and left marks that to this day still remain. Radio will never matter to me the way it once did. Will we ever get back to the point where it does matter? Not when artists choose to go the route of Stewart. If radio chooses to play cuts from the new Raspberries live, it would be a shame if they chose "Needles & Pins" (assuming it's on there) - because it's a recognizable track, over an original track.

Marv

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Hard to believe that the golden era of AM radio has been replaced by liberals screaming at conservatives and conservatives screaming at liberals. There was a beauty to the AM charts that you could find Johnny Cash, Alice Cooper, Glen Campbell, and the Stones all in the same top 20. There was more of a holisitc " music as music" approach where if a song was catchy or hot, that was the only justification. Just like television and politics, everything is so fragmented and contained within speccified sectors and domains in todays musical world.

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Nicely stated Raspberrywine. The days when radio would play "Back Stabbers" followed by "Go All the Way" and then "Alone Again (Naturally)", are only a memory. Today, the possibility of mixing musical formats is an un-mentionable act for radio programmers. So as a result, the music business is focused more on the word 'business' than on the word 'music', and instead of finding a solution, it's become easier to go with the flow than to go against the current.

The record companies are equally at fault. I'm sure that Stewart and Manilow were getting the push from their respective companies to continue their streak and stick to the formula. It's nice to see that there are some artists who buck conventional wisdom (Gill and his new 4-disc 43 song set; Sting releasing an album of music by 17th century lutist John Dowland) and put out music that doesn’t necessarily have one eye on the charts.

Marv

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