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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Battle of the Bands: What's Now Is Now

          What's now is Battle of the Bands, the blogging event helmed by our friends at Far Away Series and  StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands.   This event happens twice each month on the 1st and 15th and since the 15th comes on a Saturday this November I am posting special on this day.   The premise is simple:  Listen to the songs presented below and then in the comments vote for your favorite and tell us why you liked it.  Then visit the links listed near the bottom of this post for more Battle action  So now is the time to start:

Frank Sinatra "What's Now Is Now" (1970)

         With a singing/acting/entertainment career that lasted for 60 years, Frank Sinatra is not an artist who can be discredited for his accomplishments.  Whether you like him or not, the fact remains that a lot of people did like him and he stayed on or near the top of the heap throughout his lengthy career.  Those who do like Sinatra undoubtedly have their favorite phases of his career and can cite albums that stand out among the others.

         I'm particularly fond of the work he did during the 50's with Nelson Riddle, Gordon Jenkins, and Billy May.   Those were the albums from my parents' collection that I listened to back in junior high thus honing my appreciation for Sinatra's song stylizing.

          My all time favorite Sinatra album is one of his least known.  Watertown (1970) is a concept album with songs composed by the team of Bob Gaudio of the Four Seasons and Jake Holmes, who was also the writer of the Led Zeppelin classic "Dazed and Confused".   The song cycle tells the story of a small town husband and father whose wife leaves the family.  The songs describe the heartbreak, sense of loss, memories, and hopefulness the man goes through as he deals with the loss of his wife.  For me these are some of Sinatra's best performances and taken as a whole the album is a powerful piece of work.   The album was critically acclaimed but essentially tanked with the public.

           On my memoir blog Wrote By Rote I have more to say about this album and the memories that I connect with it.  I hope you'll click on that link to read my story about Watertown, but first here's one of my favorite songs from the album:

Cake "What's Now Is Now"  (2011)

        My first encounter with the band Cake was in the latter 1990's when I overheard my daughter playing her copy of their second album Fashion Nugget (1996).   I began listening closely to the album and eventually borrowed it to listen more.  The band has a unique sound that uses a trumpet to great advantage.  The band displays an eclecticism that appeals to my musical tastes, performing catchy tunes with intelligent delivery.

        I was previously unaware of the album Showroom of Compassion on which their cover of the Sinatra tune appears.   In fact, I was surprised to see that any of the tunes from Watertown had been covered by any other artists since the album seemed to be in the dustbin of musical history.  Now that I know that more than one of the cuts from Watertown have been covered, I will undoubtedly be using some of them in later Battles.  After all, it's one of my favorite albums and I want those who don't know about it to be persuaded to listen to more of it.   You can find Sinatra's complete version of Watertown on YouTube.

       But I digress--first let's listen to Cake's version of "What's Now Is Now":

  Now What?  Let's Vote!

         These are two great versions of one great song--at least I think so and I hope you've enjoyed hearing them both.   But surely you prefer one over the other.   I'll tell you my preference on my post of Friday November 21st.  I'll also be announcing the winning version on that day.   Please vote for your favorite in the comment section and let us know why you prefer that one.   After you vote here, make sure to visit the links listed below for other possible Battles.


 StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands




           Are you familiar with Sinatra's Watertown album?    Do you like Cake (I mean the group not the food)?   What about cake (the food)?    Can you think of a relatively obscure song that you like that you were surprised to hear covered by another artist?


  1. Not a fan of Cake and Sinatra's voice is smoother - he gets my vote.

  2. Now you've gone and done it, Arlee. You posted a song in which I like BOTH versions. It's either all or nothing with you, isn't it???? Hahahahaha. Seriously, I liked them both.

    This song was completely new to me.

    I preferred Sinatra's version over Cake for one reason, and one reason only. I wasn't crazy about the instrumentation in the Cake version. I think it might have been a synthesizer, but I am not great with instrumentation identification. I liked the cleaner sound of the Sinatra version.

    Good battle! I enjoyed it. Chalk one for Sinatra.

  3. BIRDMAN ~

    I liked it!

    Right away I was thinking that Sinatra's version reminded me of some other song that I also like. I sensed that it was from a movie, but it took me a couple minutes until it came to me.

    There's something about the Sinatra recording - I guess the strings in the background, the quality in his voice, and the melancholy mood of it - that reminds me of the theme song to the movie 'TRUE GRIT', by Glen Campbell.

    They're different, but they share some elements, I think.

    The Cake version wasn't bad either, and I DID like the instrumentation - both the guitar and the little synthesizer touches - but I felt it wasn't quite right for this song.

    Ironically, speaking of 'True Grit', that guitar pattern in the Cake cover was like something from a Western movie; it had a "Giddy-up, let's go to the round-up!" feel to it. But that caused it to lose that tinge of melancholia that appealed to me in the Sinatra version.

    So, chalk up another vote for Sinatra in what is a pretty interesting BOTB installment.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  4. Sinatra with me "All the way" sorry for the pun.

  5. Sinatra gets my vote every time.

    I like carrot cake, well mainly the icing.

  6. Sinatra for my vote. His earlier music is my preference, not the later versions. Didn't like the second version (Cake), but it's hard to go against an icon. . .

  7. Alex -- I'm beginning to wonder about your scope of musical appreciation.

    Robin - Yes there is a synthesizer in the Cake version. It must have been the trumpet player's day off.

    STMcC-- This song and the theme from True Grit came from the same time so there probably would be some similarity. I hear that "Western" sound but to me there is maybe more of a sense of anger, frustration, or something like that which would be appropriate for a song about a guy trying to figure out why his wife had an affair and let the marriage crumble. He has an urgency to reconcile things so I can see this nervous energy that the Cake version has.

    Yvonne-- "All the Way" was my favorite Sinatra song when I was a little kid--it was in a movie I saw at the time. It really is a beautiful song.

    Jo-- I'll agree on your carrot cake thoughts. And Sinatra is mighty fine in my book.

    DG-- I'm not overly thrilled with Sinatra's glitzy Vegas style recordings. I like it when he keeps the music romantic and relatively simple or subdued. I really like what he did on Watertown


  8. I think old blue eyes took the cake! At least for me. My Mom played his stuff all the time. I was always feeling out the big bands backing him up. (I was a Glenn Miller kinda girl... and wasn't even born when they came out.) Still Sinatra had uniqueness and the people he chose to him help create those spine tingling vibes were the ones I loved more. To me, his presence complimented any orchestra!

    I cannot put my finger on it, but Cake has an old Beatles quirkiness. A sound in their vocals; possibly the synthesizer sounds? Then again at times I had visions of Irishmen dancing around. Oh no - best to leave that alone.

    Sinatra it is, sir! Great post!

  9. Sheboyganboy VI, here.

    At this point of posted comments, Sinatra is running away with this battle.

    I like Sinatra, and I like the song. But I also really like Cake. They have been around for a LONG time. I was already a fan; the song that most people know is "Short Skirt, Long Jacket," a title that sounds JUST FINE with me.

    They often use that "giddy-up" guitar effect (mentioned by McCarthy) in their songs. That, along with a prominent bass line and the use of horns you mentioned defines their sound.

    I am voting for Cake, but I like 'em both.

  10. Oh my! I got it right from the other day:) This is a toughie! I am not a Sinatra fan but this is quite different from the usual tunes he did. It does remind me of the era actually from movies where songs were played over the credits. He has a strong voice. Cake seems to harken back to the 60's style in my head anyway and I love the mix of instruments especially in the Cake version. So I say Let Sinatra eat Cake:) I vote for Cake because I felt that it was very unique and a great homage to the original song

  11. great post had to listen to cake again.

  12. Lee, I hope this does not disqualify my vote ( and I'll understand if it does) but I cannot bring myself to listen to Cake. One hearing of them when they first came out and they instantly replaced the Doors (another heresy?) as my most hated band. The Chairman would likely tromp them anyway, so just call this (the anti-)Schroedinger's vote- if I had opened the "box", the odds were pretty good the vote would be the same.

  13. I like cake (any kind) better than Cake (for that matter, better than a lot of things, but on this song, I liked Cake better than The Chairman of the Board. Frank's is just too melancholy for me. Part of that might have to do with my mood (I didn't sleep well and not the best judge of these things), but I think I would have preferred Cake's vesion anyway.

  14. Early yesterday I listened to all of the BATTLES, but didn't have the time or ability to vote (boo-boo fingers). At first listen I didn't care to much for the Cake version. Today when I came back I thought, I'de give them both another listen and I found the Cake version really kind of grew on me.

    Sinatra's version is good and I feel the sense of sadness in the song, but the Cake version makes me feel more like this guy really is willing to put the infidelity in the past and try again. I guess it lacks that real feeling of morose that Sinatra conveys.

    Anyway, yesterday morning had I cast my vote it would have been for Sinatra, but today after a second listen give my vote to CAKE.

    Good BATTLE, two interesting versions that each had a completely different feel.

  15. Dixie--Dancing Irishmen? That vision takes the cake.

    Sheboygany VI-- Funny, but I don't ever recall hearing the song you linked to. The songs I've always heard by Cake were "The Distance" and "I Will Survive".

    Birgit -- All is not lost for Cake. Now pass me some cake.

    James-- I'm going to count this as a vote for Cake.

    CW -- Don't know why you would have such a distaste for the bands Cake or the Doors, but different strokes I guess. I like both bands quite a lot. I'll count your vote for Frank.

    John H.-- The entire Watertown album does tend toward melancholy which is perhaps why I like it so much.

    FAE-- Just goes to show how a second listen can allow us to hear more. Glad to see that this contest isn't going to be the shut-out for Frank that I thought it might be.


  16. I also liked both versions. Sinatra definitely put more feeling into the song, but I preferred Cakes's fast beat sixties style more.


  17. I definitely like Cake, ever since hearing "Fashion Nugget" -- which opens with the song "Frank Sinatra." ;)

    I think they have a quirky approach to things, with a healthy dose of funk that grabs me. Check out the beat to "Short Skirt, Long Jacket," for example. That mix of weird, quirky, and funky just really appeals to me.

    But I also appreciate Frank Sinatra, although I never really listen to his music.

    In this battle, I can respect the obvious musical talent in Frank's version, but I find myself getting distracted and bored during the white-bread music production of the song. I accept that says more about my tastes than as a valid judgement of the song.

    The Cake version on the other hand has groove. Yeah, it's definitely a quirky groove, but there's enough funk and soul in this version that I stay interested and the song resonates with my gut much more than Frank's version.

    So Cake for me.

  18. This is kind of tough, as Cake really does some nice stuff with the song...

    But how can a half-Italian Philly kid vote against The Chairman Of The Board and still respect the memory of his sainted mother?

    He can't.

    Vote for Frank.

  19. I'm not a fan of cake (the food) as it is usually too sweet for my tastes. But I'll eat it sometimes :)

    Hadn't heard Cake (the band) before. They have a nice sound to them. This is a tough choice. I like Sinatra, and his version fits my melancholy mood today.

    Any other day and I'm sure Cake would win so I'm voting for Cake today.

  20. Julie -- the Cake version certainly does have pep.

    Chris-- Cake has a lot of quirky material.

    Larry -- Best not to rile the Italian side.

    Dolorah-- Cake for a pick-me-up.


  21. Sinatra has my vote, but I like Cake's creativity with the song.


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.