Performances of cover songs can be both rewarding and risky. Allison Crowe, Canadian singer-songwriter extraordinaire and Cohencentric’s favorite novice icon, appears to have developed the alchemy for harvesting the benefits of covers while avoiding the pitfalls.
Allison, whose covers include not only outstanding versions of Joni Mitchell’s “River” and “A Case of You,” Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” The Beatles’ “In My Life” and “Let It Be,” Lennon’s “Imagine,” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” but also the most provocative and seductive (forgive me, Aretha) take I’ve heard on Ronnie Shannon’s “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You).” And, I stand by my conviction that
Allison Crowe is the best thing to happen to “Me And Bobby McGee” since Janis Joplin changed Kristofferson’s lyrics.1
Allison’s strategy for covering is simple enough in concept but its execution is maddeningly difficult – her covers remain true to the essence of the original songs while enhancing them with her own touch, a bit of musical magic Allison intuitively executes by attending to her own reactions and those of her audiences to these songs:
… when it comes right down to it, if I like playing it and if it feels good, I am going to play it. Positive audience reaction factors in a lot in concert settings! When people respond favourably, that also adds to a certain emotion when playing the song. You sort of feed off the energy, and, as a performer, that can be a LOT of what it’s about, too.
And such is the case in Allison’s version of the Eurythmics’ 1983 breakthrough hit, “Sweet Dreams.”
Eric Garneau of Cover Me explains:
“I learned this song, in its entirety, in the summer in about an hour to record as part of a movie soundtrack,” Allison tells Cover Me. “That didn’t pan out – but what did come of it was learning a song that I’ve always tinkered around with on the piano. I love Annie Lennox’s voice and songs. She’s a very cool lady – and extremely talented, so it’s a lot of fun to be able to cover more than one song of hers! There is something very healing about yelling ‘hold your head up – keep your head up’ at the top of your lungs.”
Those producers made a big mistake not calling Allison back, because this “Sweet Dreams” that demands to be heard. She delivers a reading on this ’80s mainstay at once beautifully melodious and ferociously in-your-face. The simple recording – guitar and vocals only – bestows on the tune an intimacy that makes it sound like she’s perched square in front of you, serenading you and running through a whole spectrum of emotions.
Allison Crowe – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
Video from Allison Crowe
Originally posted Nov 9, 2010 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric