Ragged Records Playlist #3:  Cover Songs Edition

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by Ryan Meehan

In the first two editions of the Ragged Records Playlist submissions over here at FOH, my submissions were very scattered for lack of a better term.  I didn’t have any sort of theme or categorization for my playlists, effectively turning me into that guy who can’t wait to showcase his broad musical tastes.  But as I stated in the last piece, I never want to be that guy and my discriminatory ear is probably more intolerant than that which belongs to anyone reading this piece.  So for this month’s edition, I’ve decided to focus on a particular breed of recorded music:  Cover songs.  The musical landscape is full of performers who believe that their vision of an existing piece of music can enhance the whole experience of the initial idea, and the result can be a delightful display of beautiful melodies.

But not all covers are well-polished diamonds of the classic tunes we’ve come to know and love.  In fact, a huge majority of them have eaten a dick to an unimaginable level of sadness that suggests they should never be audible to the human ear.  This list of songs that make me want to utilize a loaded firearm as a tongue depressor includes but is not limited to the following cuts:

The Wallflowers = “Heroes” (Radio edit, David Bowie)

Madonna – “American Pie” (Don McLean)

Tori Amos – “’97 Bonnie and Clyde” (Eminem)

Metallica – “Turn the Page” (Bob Seger)

Annie Lennox – “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (Procol Horum)

Limp Bizkit – “Faith” (George Michael)

Slaughter – “Mad About You” (Paul Reiser & Helen Hunt)

Fuck you if you didn’t laugh at that last one

Counting Crows – “Big Yellow Taxi” (Joni Mitchell)

Tori Amos – “Raining Blood” (Slayer)

Celine Dion – “You Shook Me All Night Long” (AC/DC)

Sheryl Crow – “Sweet Child of Mine” (Guns N’ Roses)

Hollywood Undead – “Shout at the Devil” (Motley Crue)

Korn – “Word Up” (Cameo)

John Mayer – “Free Fallin'” (Tom Petty)

Pretty much any other song Tori Amos has ever covered

The Bangles – “Hazy Shade of Winter” (Simon & Garfunkel)

Rob Zombie – The Entire Ramones Tribute Album

Shinedown – “Simple Man” (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

I also want to take this space to mention a song that is such a repulsive silhouette of itself that it actually feels like a cover song.  Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” is responsible for a majority of the drunken frat-boy sing-along bullshit that happens at bars fifteen minutes before last call, and usually results in a roaring sea of not-so playful date rape that follows shortly thereafter.  While Billy is a legend and his greatest hits catalog reads like a how-to instructional booklet of how to write timeless music, this harmonica-driven pile of shit has been given a free pass for years and that gateway to mediocrity stops right here.

But this article isn’t about the bad covers, it’s about the great ones.  These are the “Goddamn it, why didn’t I think of that?” updates that anyone of us who has ever picked up an instrument is pissed that they didn’t get to first, but at least we have these new takes on classic tunes that can brighten a bland moment on a depressing day.  Or in some cases, add a little bit of realism to a day that is feeling like it’s too good to be true.  And it’s always worth noting that if for some odd reason you can’t find any of these cover versions or originals at Ragged Records (418 East 2nd Street Davenport, IA 52801) I’m sure Ben can find them and order them for you.  That’s just another reason why it’s the best record store in the Quad Cities and it’s not even close, and why myself and the rest of us here at First Order Historians are proud to present you with our third contribution to the record store’s playlist series.  This is the FOH Ragged Records Playlist #3:  Cover Songs Edition.  Continue reading

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The Deep Six: Why Getting Weird Al Yankovic to perform at the Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show might not be such a weird idea at‏ all‏

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by Ryan Meehan

As die hard sports fans, we’d all like to think that we have no real opinion on the Super Bowl Halftime Show. This is the time that we use to relieve ourselves from all of the Busch Heavy that we drank in the first thirty minutes of the contest, and perhaps type up a few first half wrap-ups. But in reality, like it or not it is part of the experience. Over the past couple of weeks, a petition started by Ed Ball of Washington over at change.org has been getting a lot of attention.  Ball supposedly drafted the petition while intoxicated, but the purpose of this petition is clear as day:  He wants the National Football League to get Weird Al Yankovic to perform at halftime of Super Bowl XLIX this February in Glendale, Arizona.

I used to listen to Weird Al a lot when I was younger.  We used to get the tapes and copy them for each other, and Al was a seemingly never-ending source of entertainment.  “Dare to be Stupid” was one of my favorite albums.  Eventually my tastes progressed towards much darker subject matter, and there was a certain passage of maturity that came with saying “I don’t listen to that stuff anymore”.  Nevertheless, I still respected the guy and the career he was able to put together with an accordion and wire-rimmed glasses.    Continue reading

7 Questions with Phil Sgrosso of Wovenwar

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by Ryan Meehan

Our choices define us. At heart, we choose between good and evil or right and wrong. It’s not predisposed, but rather something we learn through experience, life’s twists and turns, and the stops along the way. The very moniker Wovenwar speaks to that truth.  “When we’re born, we’re innocent and blameless creatures with no hatred or judgment,” explains guitarist Nick Hipa. “Along the way, personality and perspective get cultivated. Hate, love, and other influences can be woven into you, but you ultimately choose your path. If you recognize the foundations, you can opt to live differently. It’s a struggle. That’s what the name signifies. It’s about recognizing that and choosing accordingly.“  In the spring of 2013, the members of As I Lay Dying-Nick, Phil Sgrosso [guitar], Josh Gilbert [bass, vocals], Jordan Mancino [drums]-made an important choice of their own. They had seen tremendous success, selling over one million albums, enjoying a Top 10 debut on the Billboard Top 200 with 2010′s The Powerless Rise and a Top 15 debut with 2012′s Awakened, and touring globally alongside the likes of Slipknot, Slayer, Suicide Silence, Killswitch Engage, and more. Facing tumultuous controversy related to their singer and a shattering foundation shakeup, these four musicians decided to press on and do what they do best.  “We had been playing music for our entire adult lives and working towards becoming a better band every year, and then our unit was extremely compromised,” sighs Nick. “The natural step was to let that be and work on something else. We felt like we had a lot to accomplish in terms of our writing and chemistry together. We still wanted to develop. A lot of bands quit because they lose their love for it. We loved it more than ever. That’s why we decided to form something under a new name with no pressure to be anything.“  As they traded song ideas back and forth, Nick reached out to a lifelong friend Shane Blay. The two grew up together in Dallas, TX and even played in Evelynn before Hipa joined As I Lay Dying. In between working with Oh, Sleeper, Shane had begun writing songs with Nick purely as a creative outlet a year prior. Given their existing bond, the transition to writing for Wovenwar‘s self-titled debut proved seamless.  With Shane officially in the fold, the quintet hit a San Diego studio to record the album with producer Bill Stevenson [Rise Against, NOFX], who helmed Awakened. Immediately, they collectively tapped into a sound that picked up where they left off, while forging new territory altogether.  “It’s more dynamic,” exclaims Phil. “There’s a hard rock element to it. We wanted to utilize Shane’s voice and go bigger. That was important. There’s a different energy, and we got to explore more sounds. It feels more alive than ever. This is the most exciting thing we’ve done. We wanted to keep it familiar but take risks here and there.“  We are extremely proud to have guitarist Phil Sgrosso of Wovenwar as our guest today in 7 questions. Continue reading