My first known exposure to the art of the cover happened one Saturday morning in the autumn of 1965. While devouring a bowl of Cap'n Crunch I watched the cartoon Beatles sing "Mr. Moonlight," immediately intrigued by John's soul-soaked lead vocal. Weeks later on our local AM station a deejay played the song and mentioned that of all the great original Lennon-McCartney compositions, the boys didn't write that one. He said it had been done a few years earlier by Dr. Feelgood and The Interns, who sounded more like wrestlers to me than a group. Whatever. All I knew was I liked how The Beatles did "Mr. Moonlight," even if they weren't its fathers. At least they raised it right.
Same deal with Jose Feliciano's version of "Light My Fire," Deep Purple's take on "Kentucky Woman" (both from 1968) and The Arbors' 1969 do-over of "The Letter." The only difference with those three was, I'd already heard and liked the originals by The Doors, Neil Diamond and The Box Tops, respectively. Yet the new cover versions were so radically different they were more than just new coats of paint on the old dwellings-walls were knocked down, new plumbing and rewiring spanned the premises and Frank Lloyd Wright overhauled the exteriors.
Which brings us to g.org and "re:generation."
g.org is the brainchild of one Gary Guthrie, a musician/artist/executive/bright-idea-guy's guy. After graduating from the radio business, where he had climbed from jock to general manager, invented the classic rock hits and smooth jazz formats and even spliced together both a 19-minute version of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" that got him fired as well as the first version of Neil and Babs' "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" that more than made up for the previous splicecapade, Gary was inspired to create something truly exceptional to the ear.
While listening to WFPK, the local non-commercial adult album alternative and jazz station in Louisville, and meeting local young rockers who were either teaching jazz or playing side gigs in jazz bands, klieg lights clicked on in Gary's mind. Was jazz the common thread between what both baby boomer's idols cut their teeth on and what the Gen Xer's have themselves come to love and play? What if you sewed it all together in a well-tailored patchwork of, say, Jimi Hendrix and Chick Corea and Duane Allman and Bill Evans and John Lennon and Wes Montgomery and... Black Sabbath? Talk about your coat of many colours...
So Gary went about hand-picking some of the finest players in and around Derby City, artists whose credits are as diverse and impressive as the Montreaux Jazz Festival, the Lollapolooza stage and the University of Louisville School of Music faculty. Once the recruiting was wrapped and a set list of true treasures established, the project's brilliant financing method was outed: Gary had sold his stock in media giant Clear Channel, an act in and of itself worth untold good karma points.
Then came these performances, the regenerations, the spiritual renewals and revivals of timeless classics from our FM radio rearview. They work on so many levels: Pianist and arranger Todd Hildreth's adept contrasts on "Face The Face", guitarist Craig Wagner's delicious phrasing on "Up From The Skies", the tender mercy that Chuck Loeb brings to Lennon's "Mother" and Gregory Acker's mesmeric, CTI-style flute on "Planet Caravan" and "Glad", for openers.
Later, Todd hits you with his Bill Evans'esque take on Fleetwood Mac's "Oh, Well" and his Miles Davis'ish reading of Wishbone Ash's "Blind Eye"; the double caramba Corea-style spin the band slaps on the Allman's "Liz Reed"; and, finally, the dawg jazz redux on "Up from the Skies" that came out of the heads of Brock and Rizzo.
Appropriately, a 200 year-old log cabin called "Melody Hill" served as the recording base for "re:generation." It was the ideal space where Jimi and Chick and Wes and Duane's work mixed and mingled with these gifted performers.
And so g.org carries on the art of covering in respectable fashion. It's true a few walls here and there came tumbling in the process, but each song's foundation remained intact while the interiors and exteriors were refreshingly reinterpreted. An "extreme makeover?" Naw. Think "This Old House."
- Gary Moore / 95.5. KLOS Radio, Los Angeles