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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Battle of the Bands: Snow Queen


About the Song "Snow Queen"

         Once again I've chosen a somewhat obscure song, but one co-written by one of the most well known songwriters of the past 50 years.   Carole King has written or co-written several huge hits, many with her original songwriting partner and former husband Gerry Goffin.   King's solo album Tapestry is one of the biggest selling albums of all time.  "Snow Queen" is a King/Goffin composition that was first recorded by a group led by songwriter Roger Nichols.   Soon after, Carole released her own version with her pre-solo days group The City.

         You might be interested in listening to versions of "Snow Queen" by The City and a later solo recording by Carole King, but you might want to listen after you've listened to the two vying contestants.  I'm not including King's versions in this contest because I think they would blow away the other contestants.  Either of her versions as far as I'm concerned rank among her best recordings and the song is one of her best.

         Here are the versions of "Snow Queen" I would like you to choose between:

Roger Nichols & the Small Circle of Friends "Snow Queen" (1968)

       I picked up the Small Circle of Friends album in the cut-out bin back in about 1971.  The album was not a big seller, but it was highly influential and remains highly regarded among many music collectors. For those who might be thinking that this group sounds mighty like the Carpenters, it might be more appropriate to say the Carpenters sound like the Roger Nichols group.  With Paul Williams, Roger Nichols co-wrote a number of the Carpenters' songs as well as hits for many other artists.  The album on which this song appeared contains several excellent cover songs.   The stereo separation is extreme in this recording and all other versions I found on YouTube so I hope you have both channels hooked up.  Still if you only have the vocal channel playing it sounds pretty cool.

Blood, Sweat, & Tears "Snow Queen"  (1972)

       Blood, Sweat, and Tears always seemed to be a band in transition with an ongoing lineup of musicians that was like a cast of thousands.   When David Clayton Thomas on vocals left the group after several hit albums,  Jerry Fisher took vocals for a while.  That's who's singing on the next version of "Snow Queen".  BS&T was one of many big horn bands that were popular in the late 60's and early 70's.   They were one of the more jazz centered of these groups.

       The BS&T version of "Snow Queen" is a big jazz production that speeds the song up from the previous version of the song.  Take a listen and compare.

         Now pick your favorite version and vote in the comment section.   Let us know why you choose that version over the other.  Then go visit the other participating blogs and vote on their battles.  Here is the list:

         Faraway Series
         Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends
         Your Daily Dose

            Donna Hole

About the Battle of the Bands

           The Battle of the Bands appears here every 1st and 15th of the month and at other participating sites as shown above and whoever else decides to join in.

          Which version of "Snow Queen" did you prefer?   Did you notice the Carpenter's and Beach Boy like sounds in the Roger Nichols version?   How do you think Jerry Fisher's vocals compare to David Clayton Thomas?  

         To read some more of my thoughts about music and remembering please visit my memoir blog Wrote By Rote. 

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  1. Great song Lee, I prefer Blood, sweat and tears.

    Enjoy your week-end.

  2. I like Blood, Sweat, and Tears' version - much more uptempo. The first version just sort of meandered. The second has beat, rhythm, and purpose.
    One of these days the first and the fifteenth will fall on a posting day for me and I'll join you again.

  3. I like the Blood Sweat and Tears version. I even quite enjoyed it. I tend to prefer to be able to understand the lyrics.

  4. BOIDMAN ~
    This was a really good BOTB!

    Didn't MOUNTAIN record a Hard Rock version of this song also? Or am I thinking of something similar but different?

    I liked both versions, and although I am a fan of Blood, Sweat & Tears (the pre-Chicago Chicago?), I have to place my vote for Small Circle Of Friends.

    Snow-covered things have a kind of quiet, a kind of "hush" about them, and I felt Small Circle Of Friends remained true to that. Besides... sometimes I just like a little mellowness, and that hit the spot.

    I'll have to go check out the Carole King version(s) now, because I'm not sure if I'm familiar with hers (although I probably am and have simply forgotten after so many decades of life).

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  5. Yvonne --- It's an overlooked song for sure.

    Alex -- Always room for more music. Another vote for BS&T--the version with "purpose".

    Jo - Glad I found something you could enjoy at last.

    StMc -- Mountain did the summer version of the song I guess.
    I had never heard the BS&T version prior to looking for versions of this song to match against Roger Nichols. I guess I didn't keep up with BS&T after 1971. In fact I've never heard either version by Carole King prior to this. I didn't even know about her group The City. Researching these BOTB posts can uncover some interesting information.


    Never mind about MOUNTAIN. I just looked it up and I think I had 'Nantucket Sleigh Ride' on the brain.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  7. StMc -- Actually I thought you were funnin' about "Mississippi Queen". "Nantucket Sleighride" is one of my favorite Mountain songs. Wasn't that written by Leroy Anderson?


  8. I'm going with Snow Queen. Mostly because I adore anything Carol King did.

    We just saw Under the Streetlight perform. They were amazing and I had to dance. How could anyone just sit and listen to music with a beat like that?

  9. Hey I really like this song. It's still obscure, but very nice. I thought I knew just about everything Carol King, but I don't believe that I have ever heard this one before. Great choice!

    I really like the 'big brass Chicago sound' of BS&T (although I prefer the vocals of David Clayton Thomas to Jerry Fisher) BUT not this time. I like the version by Small Circle of Friends a whole lot better. The lyrics see more clear (they don't get overridden by all that brass) and the soft lilting sound kind of takes the edge of the lyrics.

    So...give my vote to Small Circle of Friends - they don't sound familiar, but the name of their group does, go figure.

  10. Well since I was familiar with the BS&T version, the "Friends" version didn't really stand a chance.

    I like the peppier arrangement.


  11. I didn't like either one, Lee, but out of the two, BS&T gets my vote. The jazz swayed me. The first has a soft rock sound, not my favorite.

  12. First let me say that Carole King is a goddess. Anyone who does a bad job on a Goffin-King song needs to have their vocal chords removed with prejudice.

    That said, this was an excellent paring. I'm a fan of the delicate harmonies... but I like a good horn band, and BST is a great horn band.I was sure I was going with the first one, but wow.... In all honesty, I think I got to give BST the edge here.

  13. C.Lee -- Since both versions are "Snow Queen" I'm not sure what your vote is unless you come back to clarify.

    Faraway -- The Small Circle of Friends name probably sounds familiar because it's a commonly used expression. Not sure why "Snow Queen" hasn't been covered by more artists.

    Larry -- "Peppy" gets you going on this song.

    DG -- Did you listen to either of King's versions? Maybe those would be more appealing to you. Though they would be soft rock as well I guess.

    CW -- The horns blow the vocal harmonies away for your vote.


  14. I much prefer the second one. The first one sounds too hippy dippy. The Blood, Sweat & Tears version is a lot of fun.

    Be well, Lee.


  15. The first one was a pretty arrangement, but I couldn't understand anything they were saying. That bugs me to no end. If I have to work to decipher the lyrics... uggghh. I imagine that if you knew the song already it wouldn't be an issue.

    So, I enjoyed second one better because I could actually understand the lyrics. Plus, I really enjoyed the jazz interpretation. It's kind of hard to believe that they are the same song... which makes for an excellent BOTB match-up!

  16. Also, I dedicated something to you on the Thursday post. I do believe that you missed it...

    Hope you like it!

  17. I agree with Robyn. First one is too hippy. I like the second one better.

  18. I think BST is running away with one. You can add my vote for them as well. I like the male POV and the jazzy interpretation.

  19. Blood, Sweat and Tears! I didn't have much good to say about the other version at all - I did like the tinkling bells.

  20. Robyn --And what's wrong with hippy dippy? A vote for the fun BS&T.

    Robin -- Garbled lyrics on the version where the vocals are the focus and BS&T gets another vote. I left my comment at your site--for the second time.

    L.Diane - Don't know why all this coming down on hippies. BS&T takes another vote.

    Bish -- It's a man's world today, a small world tomorrow.

    Carol -- My, my the guys with the horns are blowing the voices away.


  21. My BotB post is up :)

    I like both versions. They have their strong points for mood setting. But I prefer the harmony and slower pace of the first one.

    Maybe I'm too lazy on this Sunday afternoon to be so jazzed up, lol.


  22. Usually one song is only slightly better than the other, but in this case, Blood, Sweat and Tears is the clear winner. It's a much more dynamic version.


  23. Donna -- Sunday afternoons are nice for laid back listening.

    Julie -- You're rocking into the week I guess.



Go ahead and say something. Don't be afraid to speak your mind.
I normally try to respond to all comments in the comment section so please remember to check the "Email follow-up comments" box if you want to participate in the comment conversation.

For Battle of the Bands voting the "Anonymous" commenting option has been made available though this version is the least preferred. If voting using "anonymous" please include in your comment your name (first only is okay) and city you are voting from and the reason you chose the artist you did.

If you know me and want to comment but don't want to do it here, then you can send me an email @ jacksonlee51 at aol dot com.