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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Battle of the Bands: Almost Blue

       It's time again for another Battle of the Bands.  Let me start by announcing the winning song version from my last battle.   That battle pitted the original Gilbert O'Sullivan recording of "Alone Again (Naturally)" against a studio manufactured version by Berk and the Virtual Band.  

        The original won handily 20 to 2.  If I had been able to find the version I had heard played in my local Thai restaurant I would have probably placed my vote on that one, but I went with the original version for the same reasons most of you expressed.  The Berk version is not all that bad though to my ears.

       But that was then and this is now.  For those who are not familiar with the Battle of the Bands, this is the bimonthly song contest where two versions of one song are pitted against one another and you readers vote on your favorite version.   This event was started by the bloggers at Far Away Series and Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends.   Be sure to visit them to see what they might be offering.  At the bottom of this post I'll list some more possible folks who might be participating.

        My pick for this edition goes along with the way I've been feeling over the past couple weeks what with sickness and all.  Not that I've been depressed, but it's been depressing to feel so utterly crappy at the start of a new year.  So check out this song:

"Almost Blue"  by Elvis Costello (1982)

         This achingly beautiful song by Elvis Costello appeared on his album Imperial Bedroom.  

"Almost Blue" by Alison Moyet (2004)

       Alison Moyet is a British singer/songwriter who started out in New Wave and Synthpop,  In 2004 she released an incredible album of cover songs.   The album called Voice pretty well describes in one word what she's good at.   Compare this to the original by Elvis.

"Almost Blue" by Chet Baker (1988) Bonus!

This song sounds like it could have been written for Chet Baker--or at least with Chet in mind.   If you dare to take on this extended bonus version, feel free to include it in your voting.    Of course after listening to this one you may just want to end it all.  It's almost depressing, but it's damn good.

Vote for your Favorite

         In the comments let us know which version you enjoyed the most and why you liked it.   I'll reveal the winning version and my choice next week.

          Other participating sites may be:

         Faraway Series
         Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends
         Your Daily Dose

         The Creative Outlet of StratPlayer

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  1. The song isn't my style, especially the singing. So I will vote for Chet's version.
    Now to go off myself somewhere because I'm depressed...

  2. "Almost Blue" almost, kind of sounds like "Kind of Blue", in at least the title, so I had to smile at the feel and the use of the jazz trumpet.

    While Chet is no Miles, I actually liked his version the best. It highlights the mood and chord changes and to me, it makes it a little more wistful and bittersweet than the versions by Elvis and Alison (and I smile at the name since I always think of the song "Alison" when I think of Elvis Costello). Chet's singing is not as good as Alison's and Elvis has such a unique voice and I have to give him bonus points for being the original composer.

    But still, overall, I think I like the simpler jazzier feel of the song with Chet's version.

  3. I'm saying instrumental on this one. The voices, while unique, distract at points instead of add. I mean, it's good to know the lyrics but the last version keeps me in the song better.

  4. This is the kind of song that makes me feel like I should be in a bar, with my shoulders slumped, staring down into my drink as I sadly reflect on the failures of my life.

    I'll vote for Chet's, just before I close this place down. Bartender, another?

  5. I guess I am in the minority, because while I like all three versions, I am kind of torn with the two vocal versions in a dead heat for first place.

    So I'll follow the rule-when in doubt, go with the writer, and I double-checked my copy of the album to insure EC was the writer. Elvis gets my vote.

    Didja know that the song was also covered by Diana Krall (Mrs. Elvis Costello to you) and Everything But The Girl?

    And didja also know that even though Elvis released an album of songs called Almost Blue, this song did not appear on it, as the album of the same name was country cover songs?


  6. The instrumental is winning handily thus far. The instrumental portion was so depressing that I found myself wanting to head to the local bar and dive in. Yes, it evoked a feeling, but...

    I preferred the Elvis Costello over all the others. The music felt bluesy to me and his voice was perfect. I simply didn't like Alison's voice as well.

    Very interesting battle, Lee. I am always amazed at the many interpretations of the same song.

  7. Much to my surprise... give me Chet.

  8. Wow, Lee; let's have some music to slit your wrists too. Just kidding.

    Obviously this piece is supposed to be 'the blues' or 'da blues' in my hometown, so I'll have to give my vote to Chet Baker. The instrumental section is sensational IMO . It's slow, melancholy, and has that smoke filled blues club feel. While Chet's vocals aren't as smooth as Elvis, I think that touch of gravel in his voice is the perfect compliment to this sad song.

    I have to say that Alison simply did not do it for me, but I'm off to check out Diana Krall's version, as I generally enjoy her style.

    First... excellent matchup!

    Second... man, when it's nearly 5 PM and you still have only 8 votes on a BOTB installment, BOTB is falling fast! (Makes no never mind to me though, because I go my own way regardless of what anyone else does. But then you already knew that about me, didn't ya?)

    Lastly... I listened to all three versions, being totally unfamiliar with this song. Chris' comment made me smile. I might not have made the "Alison" connection, but I bought Costello's debut album 'My Aim Is True' when it first came out, based on the song 'Alison' which I'd heard on the radio. (It's a great song and a really good album which I was giving serious consideration to years ago when we did that 'Top Ten Best Debut Albums' Blogfest.) After 'This Year's Model' I lost interest in Elvis Costello and never followed his career thereafter (my taste in music drastically changed shortly thereafter).

    So... I thought Costello's original wasn't bad but kind of "Eh, whatever".

    I enjoyed the Alison Moyet (sp?) version and was all prepared to vote for it until...

    I listened to the Chet Baker version. To begin with, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that Chet Baker was covering an Elvis Costello song. For some reason, I have always thought Baker was long dead and I was surprised to learn he was still amongst the breathing so late in Costello's career.

    I've never been a fan of Chet Baker's vocals (not even his "legendary" take on 'My Funny Valentine') but he was a beautiful trumpet player, and he wins my vote easily due entirely to that long instrumental section of his take on 'Almost Blue'. It absolutely sliced into my heart's love of Jazz. THAT'Z what Jazz Iz, Peoplez!

    Baker's version - especially the first two-thirds instrumental approach - was "fantabulous" (to quote Van The Man Morrison).

    Now, BOIDMAN, I must axe... Why have you not visited my BOTB blog bit yet? You know it's not an "official" BOTB installment until you have come by to tell me that you don't like the song I've selected!

    Getchaazz over to my blog, criticize my song choice and then vote, so I will be reassured that all is right with the world!

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  10. All were well done, but I think the song really was made for a female voice.

    However, I'm a fan of straight music, so Chet gets my vote. But it didn't depress me, just made me a little mello. Which is a good thing this late at night :)


  11. Chet's the one that gets my vote. He's smooth, and the others just didn't inspire me.

  12. Most depressing song, especially for someone who is not too happy at the moment with Blogsphere and Google.


    Pleased you're back though.


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.