Back in the days of pretending media piracy on the Internet wasn’t really piracy so much as… what the Internet was meant to do, I came across the Jon Brion-produced version of Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine. I had no idea what I’d gotten, because I was trying to get the two Beatles covers Apple did for the Pleasantville soundtrack. Because I am a sucker for cover versions. Started when I was a kid with Fine Young Cannibals covering “Suspicious Minds,” though probably earlier because, well, movie soundtracks. Nineties was really big on cover versions for movie soundtracks, even in the early nineties (right? I’m not checking).
And, of course, late eighties had, you know, Tiffany doing covers.
And there are differences between single song covers and tribute albums and so on. Leonard Cohen, for example, gets a lot of covers. So many it hasn’t even been a vague interest of mine. Other than some Vimeo-based web series with Greg Dulli doing a cover being taken down since Cohen’s death. But only then because I was sorting music files and trying to figure out where it had come from.
Around the same time I was cleaning up some other files, like the Twilight Zone: The Movie soundtrack and remembered that pop song from Jennifer Warnes (the auto-tagger didn’t put her name on it, instead just Jerry Goldsmith’s). I ended up on her wikipedia page and found out she did a Leonard Cohen cover album, Famous Blue Raincoat, with Cohen’s blessing and participation. She’d done some backup vocals for him on his own albums.
I just got around to listening to it today.
It’s out in a twentieth anniversary edition with four extra tracks (available streaming). So thirteen tracks total, twelve songs.
I’ve made it through one and a half of the songs. The first track, “First We Take Manhattan,” is so astoundingly bad I had to stop it to think about who I was going to share this terrible discovery with (lucky coworker). But I went through the entire cover of “Bird on a Wire” and apparently the entire album is Leonard Cohen songs done as inspirational movie songs from the eighties, complete with saxophones and Warnes going “mmmmmm” a lot. It’s Leonard Cohen… from the singer of the “Growing Pains” theme song. And it shows. Well, hears.
I’m not sure I recommend anyone listen to this… music unless it’s to tease someone near and dear. So near and dear this person won’t punch you for making them listen to it.
The eighties was a very, very, very dark time for music. The seventies was too. Every decade has its forgotten travesties no doubt, but this one… wow.
And Cohen signed off on it.
I’m honestly wondering if that ScarJo Tom Waits cover album can be much worse.