Unusual Takes On Others' Songs, Part Four

Unusual Takes On Others' Songs, Part Four

Written by Rich Isaacs

This edition of Complete Recovery includes more than a few novelty acts and parodies. Here are some more of my favorites that are distinctly different from the originals:

Abbatoir (not the original Death Metal band) – “Voulez-Vous” (Abba)

Admit it, you do want to hear Abba songs done Death Metal style.

Peter Bence – “Thunderstruck” (AC/DC)

Hungarian pianist Peter Bence is wild and supremely talented. He once held the title of “World’s Fastest Pianist” according to Guinness World Records, but that should be tempered by the fact that the record is achieved not by playing music, but by the rapid two-handed hammering of a single key. In his case, it was a staggering 765 key hits in 60 seconds.

AC/DC meets Beethoven in this performance on the grand piano augmented with a bit of looped synthesizer and a bass drum pedal.

Boiling Point – “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (written by Julia Ward Howe)

This is not a song that comes to mind when I think “jazz,” and I was surprised to find that there are actually quite a number of jazz versions. This one comes from a Japanese direct-to-disc recording of guitarist Shoji Yokouchi’s ensemble, Boiling Point. The instrumental work is credible, and the sound is quite good, but if you listen beyond this first track, you’ll hear a couple of, shall we say, “less satisfying” vocal outings (“My Funny Valentine” and “Misty”) by singer Mari Nakamoto.

Broken Peach – “Tainted Love” (Soft Cell)

A friend turned me on to this wild Spanish outfit doing covers of mostly ’80s hits. They performed on Spain’s version of the Got Talent franchise in 2016. This one comes from a Halloween special that also included a heavy version of Human League’s hit “Don’t You Want Me.” Their choreography and hard rock energy are impressive.

Mac Sabbath – “Sweet Beef” (Black Sabbath – “Sweet Leaf”)

This is one of the coolest parody tribute bands around. Black Sabbath songs re-done with food-oriented lyrics performed by a very competent quartet (Ronald Osbourne – vocals, Slayer MacCheeze – guitar, Grimalice - bass guitar, The Catburgler – drums) dressed in full McDonald’s character costumes. (There is another Black Sabbath tribute band – Slack Babbath –with great stage names: Ozzy Ouseburn, Phonet Iommi, Beezer Scuttler, and Bill Fraud, but they play the music straight.)

Postmodern Jukebox – “Creep” (Beck)

How about a smoky nightclub version of Beck’s first hit? Postmodern Jukebox’s slogan is “Today’s Hits Yesterday.” They cover artists as diverse as Kate Bush, The Pixies, Huey Lewis, Leonard Cohen, The Weeknd, and many more.

Shut Up and Kiss Me – “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Queen)

Shut Up and Kiss Me is a Romanian ensemble with two (sometimes three) female vocalists, two male acoustic guitarists and a young woman on standup bass. They specialize in acoustic covers of well-known rock songs.

Shirley Serban – “Bohemian Catsody” (Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody”)

Two covers of the same Queen song in one article? This one’s just too good to miss. Cat lovers as well as cat haters should get a kick out of it. The parody lyrics are pretty spot-on. Having done quite a few comedic covers of pop songs, Shirley Serban could be reasonably described as New Zealand’s female Weird Al Yankovic.

The Surfrajettes – “Heart of Glass” (Blondie)

This Canadian all-female instrumental quartet (think The Ventures) specializes in ’60s surf-style covers of hit songs along with original material. They certainly look the part, with white go-go boots, beehive hairdos, and miniskirts, all the while wielding Fender and Creston guitars with an extra dose of reverb. The Surfrajettes have performed on numerous music-themed cruises and are currently touring the US.

Various Artists (featuring John Paul Jones) – “When the Levee Breaks” (Led Zeppelin)

Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones put together this international collaboration as a part of Playing for Change/Songs Around the World, a project that is based on the idea that music can be a unifying force in the world. This track features an incredible cast of musicians, gorgeously photographed in their home environments, both indoor and outdoor.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this selection of unusual cover versions of popular songs.

Header image: The Surfrajettes, courtesy of Hi-Tide Recordings.

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