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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Battle of the Bands: High Flyin' Bird

         Once again I am posting on a Thursday because it's time for another edition of the twice monthly feature The Battle of the Bands.   First conceived by Faraway Eyes at Far Away Series and joined by Stephen T. McCarthy at Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends, I've been also joining in the Battles on the 1st and 15th of each month to add my own twists on the musical mix.   Others join in now and then--you will find some of those blogs at the end of this post--and you are welcome to stage your own Battle as well--just let us know in the comments so we'll come visit your contest.

          Here's how it works:  You listen to the song versions we offer on our sites and for each battle you vote for your favorite version in the comments and let us know why you picked that version.  Winners of each Battle will be announced on each site sometime next week.  I'll announce mine on Wednesday May 21st. Fun, easy, and even a bit educational.   There's also a contest where you can win prizes by leaving comments at the Far Away Series and Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends sites.  So let's get started:   

High Flyin' Bird

         My song pick today is a "Bird" song and I'm a fan of "Bird" songs as I suppose I should be.   Many readers might not be familiar with this song since it's not often played any more, but back in the 60's the song was ubiquitous.   It would probably be easier to list the artists who didn't record the song it was such a standard part of any artist's repertoire.

          The song is about poverty and the struggle of the Appalachian coal miners who feel trapped by their circumstances.   It's a social issue song which is why it resonated so well in the 60's era.   Many of us can possibly relate to the sentiments of this song.  The "High Flyin' Bird" represents freedom from the daily grind of life and all the responsibilities that tie us down to that life.  If you feel trapped by circumstances of your life then you might want to take the song as your own theme song.

         This song was written by Billy Edd Wheeler in 1963 (the link leads to an updated remake the composer recorded in 1967).    "High Flyin' Bird" has been covered by many artists, including The Jefferson Airplane, Judy Henske, Isaac Guillory, Gram Parsons, Richie Havens, Carolyn Hester, The Wizards from Kansas, We Five (featuring Beverly Bivens) , and The Au Go-Go Singers (featuring Stephen Stills).

           I try to avoid using more than two song versions in my Battles, but since there were so many good choices I decided to pick three that were relatively short.  Pick your favorite of these three:

Au Go-Go Singers   "High Flyin' Bird" (1964)

           Legendary sixties group Buffalo Springfield has it beginnings in the folk inspired Au Go-Go Singers.  The group featured Stephen Stills, whose distinctive vocals can be heard singing the lead in this song, and Richie Furay.  While on tour in Canada they met Neil Young who played on the same bill of one of their shows.  The rest is history.  Here are the Au Go-Go Singers with an early version of "High Flyin' Bird".

Jefferson Airplane  "High Flyin' Bird"

        Before Grace Slick Jefferson Airplane had Signe Toly Anderson on vocals.  In the early days the Airplane was a folk rock group until they started tripping on LSD and the music turned psychedelic.  Here they do the folk song "High Flyin' Bird" with a more rock touch to it.

H.P. Lovecraft   "High Flyin' Bird"

         The trippy band H.P. Lovecraft slow things down a la Vanilla Fudge with their jazz tinged ethereal sound.  

          Perhaps the most well-known version of "High Flyin' Bird" is the one by Richie Havens.   His performance at the Woodstock Music Festival included this song and brought him into the music limelight.  Click on the link if you're curious about his version.

          One of my favorite versions of "High Flyin' Bird" is by a husband and wife duo who recorded under the name Rejoice! on a somewhat legendary album that I used to have on 8-track cassette.  This is a quite good album.

          Neil Young and Crazy Horse did a version of "High Flyin' Bird" in their recent Americana album.  It's a good one if you're a fan of the group like I am.  Since this recording clocks in at over five minutes I decided not to include it in the Battle.  If you like the song and want to hear Young's rendition then click on the link and check it out.

         Actually there are so many versions of "High Flyin' Bird" on YouTube that it would probably take a few hours to listen to them all.  Most of them are very good.

Now Vote!

        Which version do you prefer?   Tell us in the comments and let us know why you prefer this version.  Then visit the other Battle of the Band participants.

Here are some other bloggers who may or may not be participating in the Battle of the Bands:

         Faraway Series
         Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends
         Your Daily Dose

            Donna Hole

        Are you familiar with this song?   Is there a version not pitted in my Battle that you would consider your favorite?     Do you like folk rock music?

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  1. I just came from a blog that was discussing HP Lovecraft the author, so really weird to come here and find a band named after the author.
    Airplane's version has the best flow to it. They made it sound like a popular hit.

  2. I'll cast a vote for Airplane, but I don't know the song and I'm not a huge fan of folk at all. You must check out a live version of the Grateful Dead's "Bird Song" if you want to hear a killer tune.

  3. I'll vote for Airplane even without Grace Slick. I have a bias against Stephen Stills - a zillion years ago he appeared for a college concert - drunk, cursing, being a jerk and the night ended early. So, the heck with him. Battle of bands is amusing. I'm following you on A to Z road trip

  4. I had never heard this song before - you had me when you mentioned Isaac Guillory - such an underrated performer, but I couldn't find his version of this anywhere ...

    I think of these I like the Au Go Go one best - it has a more timeless sound, where the other two are definitely from the 60s and I have to confess they both annoyed me and I didn't listen the whole way through ..
    Fil’s Place - Old songs and Memories

  5. I really enjoyed the Au Go Go's version. I listened to all three all the way through, but the first was the clear winner for me.

  6. I like the second version--although the image in the video for the third version is a little hypnotizing!

  7. My vote is for Lovecraft, although you're right I like the Richie Havens song as well. The lyrics seem to fit well with the Lovecraft version. The song with Stephen stills was a little too 'soft' for me.

  8. LEE ~
    Believe it or not, I'm not sure I've ever heard this song before. If I know it at all, I'm probably familiar with the Richie Havens version. (I may check it out after posting this comment.)

    Well, by the 2 minute mark, I already knew that H.P. Lovecraft had NO CHANCE of getting my vote; for me this was clearly between the Au Go-Go Singers and Jefferson Airplane.

    I listened to both of those versions twice, all the way through.

    I didn't care for that slow, sparse introduction in the Au Go-Go's take, but at 33 seconds when the other singers suddenly kicked in I began to enjoy it because of all the vocal interplay.

    I'm really NOT a Jefferson Airplane fan, but their more rhythmically upbeat version was appealing and at one point I noticed my foot was tapping along with the beat, and...

    ...the feets don't lie.

    So, record my vote for the high flyin' Airplane.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  9. Alex -- I don't know if Airplane made the charts with this song, but it helped cement their reputation in the music world.

    JoJo -- These versions don't really sound very folkish as I think of the genre. Grateful Dead was probably as steep in traditional and folk type songs as any group back then, but they also added the rock influence. I'll have seek out "Bird Song".

    Joanne -- Stephen Stills is good, but he's always grated on me somewhat also. Marty Balin was probably the most influential creative force behind Airplane and Starship.

    Fil -- It's a great song and so many artists have recorded it.

    Robin - Hootenanny style for you. That's the era Au Go Go's came from.

    Stephanie -- I think the music in the Lovecraft is pretty hypnotizing as well like the whole album is.

    DG -- It's a message song so hearing the words and relating to them is important.


  10. StMc -- It's kind of weird about this song. It used to appear on so many albums and then after the early 70's it just kind of disappeared. And it's really not so much of a hippie song. I like the message and I think it's one that remains relevant and not very politically charged or anything.

    I was glad when Neil Young revived the song on that album he put out last year I think it was. But the entire album was more traditional songs in the vein of Americana. If you haven't heard it you might want to check out a few clips. The entire album is probably still on YouTube. It's Neil Young, not not his songs.


  11. Tough choice - they’re all good. I am a big fan of Grace Slick and the Great Society and can’t help but wonder what the Jefferson Airplane version would have been like with Grace on vocals… However, having listened to them all I have to go with the all body, liquid, sunny afternoon feeling I got from HP Lovecraft.

  12. I actually thought that the Lovecraft and Airplane versions were similar, and they were pretty neck and neck. I'll take Marty and Grace and the more garage-y sound.

  13. Hi human, Bird,

    I like folk rock, my human likes folk rock. However, these three versions made me want to vomit.

    The version that was less vomit-inducing was by H.P. Lovecraft.

    You didn't say, please, now vote.

    Manners, human, manners....

    Pawsitive wishes,

    Penny :)

  14. This was a hard call. I love Still's voice and that early arrangement, but then Jefferson's Airplane's version was one I really enjoyed over and over in those "trippy" days. And High Flyin' Bird . . . well, this is just not easy.

    Guess I'm going with Jefferson's.

  15. HJ -- I like your description of HP's sound.

    CW --- Not sure I heard the closeness of sound between those two versions.

    Penny/Gary -- Hmmm, now I'm curious as to what kind of sound you might have liked. Maybe you just didn't like the song.

    C.Lee -- Trippy Jeffersons for you.


  16. Lee -

    This was really informative! Thanks. I had not heard the song, I had not heard of the Au Go Go Singers and the beginnings of B.S. (as it were), and had no inkling about the Airplane pre-Slick.

    All were enjoyable to my ears, though not immensely so. I vote for the Au Go Go's.

    Sheboyganboy Six
    (since you pulled the "Name/URL" commenting option, commenting on your blogs is more difficult. If I were a fellow blogger, I'd have this "OpenID" thang)

  17. Sheboygany -- Just for you I've switched back to accept all comments. I'll see what happens--last time I got inundated with spam. Thanks for the vote.


  18. I like the guitar riffs in Jefferson Airplane's version but I'm gonna go with Au Go-Go Singers by a small margin. Not sure exactly why. It's actually by a large margin over HP Lovecraft.

    Lee, I like the Adventures of Blogman illustration. :)

  19. Lee -

    Thanks for your kind move to open it up... but: don't do it! If you got hit with spam before you undoubtedly will again. And I have a backup email address with Google now that will get me in to your comment section.

    Sheboyganboy VI

  20. I get so excited when you drop by my blog, Arlee, because you're the man. Thank you!

    I had problems loading the third one, but I'm going to have to vote for the first. It's got such a pure, throwback, authentic quality.


  21. Suze -- The Blogman image was created by my friend and A to Z Co-host Jeremy Hawkins. He comes up with some great graphics.

    Sheboyganboy-- I do like having the comments more open because I have been contacted by some interesting people who don't or won't sign up. I go for another test run to see what happens.

    Robyn -- Thank you, my dear, that is kind of you to say. If you like throwback authentic you might not have liked the trippy Lovecraft version anyway.


  22. I like the first. The last one is a tempting choice and a fuller commitment to the bluesy/funky opening might have won me over. I do like the bass line of the last but the first one wins the prize for me.

  23. Out of those three--I'd have to say Jefferson Airplane.Thanks for the retro stuff--I love it.

  24. Arlee, I think will all of the BOTB excitement you missed my dedication for you on the Thursday post. Hope you like it:)

  25. I'm one of these whippersnappers whose never heard it before, so thanks! I'll definitely vote for Jefferson Airplane. Both the second and third sound very classically 60s, but Airplane's is best. The HP Lovecraft version is too slow for me.

  26. FINALLY, I'm making the rounds to case my vote. I'm really sorry it has taken me so long. Today is the I first day, since last Wednesday that I'm able to focus long enough to make a coherent statement.

    Thank said, case my vote for Jefferson Airplane. I am familiar with this song, but had to idea it was covered by so many different artists.

  27. Squid -- Stills the one.

    Eve-- I'm mighty partial to the retro music.

    Robin -- Thanks!

    Nick-- The Lovecraft version is definitely a bit spacey.

    FAE-- Hope everything is okay with you. Yes, this song was all over the place in the 60's but after the 70's it mostly disappeared.


  28. It was a tough decision, but I liked the Jefferson Airplane version best. Thanks for providing the interesting back stories!


  29. Odd-I could swear I left a comment the other day...

    I'm gOing with Jefferson Airplane, probably for no other reason than the familiarity with that version.


  30. Julie -- Without some backstories it's just posting videos. I like it when everyone else provides some kind of story to their song and artist picks.

    Larry -- Maybe you were distraught about your video problems. Another vote for the Airplane. I wonder if they will win?



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.