Saturday, February 18, 2012

Four versions of Paint It Black

      There's not much to say in regards to this posting.  I recently came across the Marc Almond recording of the song, and was reminded of some of the other remarkable covers of the old Rolling Stones classic.  What's remarkable about this set of songs is their ability to bring out different elements of the song that are implicit in the original song, and reveal a number of different ways of listening to the song.  Needless to say, the original is one of my favorite songs by The Rolling Stones, one of a select set of singles by the band that I can listen to repeatedly.  The first cover of the song that I heard was The Avengers cover.  It increased the tempo of the song, taking the paranoiac and self-destructive anger of the original even farther.  The Penelope Houston vocal is also really great.  The Firewater version reverses that, slowing down the tempo, and bringing the sitar to the front.  Rather than frenetic energy, the slowness of the song is used to create tension, which is relieved by the shift in tempo at the end of the cover.  Curiously enough, the only reason I bought the single was because I mistakenly confused Firewater with the alternative country band Freakwater, who I heard through the Rough Trade country compilation.  As accidents go, it was one of my better purchases.  Finally, the Marc Almond version, put together by Mike Batt with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra brings out a dimension of the song that I hadn't previously considered until I heard this cover, a kind of cinematic grandeur contained in the song.  It's really remarkable how well the song translates to orchestral arrangement.  While credit is certainly due to the work of the Orchestra and Batt, who I presume arranged it, the song also seems to invite this interpretation.  Almond's vocal is also good.  I might write something on his work sometime in the future, work that is considerably more interesting and varied than his official status as a one hit wonder with the Soft Cell cover of "Tainted Love" might indicate.  In any case, enjoy.

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