If it weren’t for the PA system at my neighborhood supermarket, I’d have nothing to blog about some nights — and isn’t that a sad state of affairs?
I was picking up next week’s corned beef tonight when I heard one of those songs that has been performed by many artists, but completely and irretrievably owned by only one:
(Actually, I sorta take that back. Ken Burns’ Baseball series, for no chronological reason, used “Feelin’ Alright” over footage of the 1975 Red Sox. So in my mind, the song is a joint soundtrack to the histrionic gyrations of Joe Cocker, and the equally histrionic gyrations of Luis Tiant.)
I knew a bunch of other artists had covered the song, but I hadn’t heard too many of those other versions aside from Grand Funk’s, which didn’t make itself memorable.
So I took to YouTube, as I sometimes do — fully doubting I would find a version equal to Cocker’s, but curious about whether anyone had brought an interesting other spin on the song.
First we have Traffic’s original version. The percussion track foreshadows Cocker’s, but the monster groove just isn’t there. And songwriter Dave Mason’s mannered vocal seems restrained in comparison to Cocker’s wall-of-mush style.
Jumping around in time, we find the Black Crowes feeling more or less all right on David Letterman’s show in 1994. They get a little more of the funk into their version, but the lead guitar feels heavy-handed and sort of unnecessary to me.
Three Dog Night recorded “Feelin’ Alright”? Nobody told me, but, yes, they did. They don’t embarrass themselves — they rarely did — and the offbeat drumming and heavy Hammond make this among the better lesser versions. (I could live without the horns, though.)
The Jax 5ive (or, more appropriately, Motown Records) sat on their version for three decades or so before digging it out of the vault. I think that decision was appropriate: Their version is catchy enough but they don’t own it.
Mongo Santamaria apparently got some airplay with his own instrumental version, which apes Cocker’s funk satisfyingly but perhaps a little too closely. (I am 99 percent sure Mongo was following Cocker; if I am wrong, I imagine the Interwebs will correct me.)
Speaking of aping Cocker rather too closely, a certain popular ’80s singer summons Cocker’s vocal timbre pretty convincingly. He’s a little too far up in the mix for me, though; the opening almost sounds like karaoke.
I kinda hate to dump on Badfinger. But departing from their core pop sensibility and going into Rick Derringer nine-minute jam territory was not playing to their strengths:
Lulu … well, I dunno what I expected out of Lulu, but this version is a bit of all right:
So is this version, which seems like a pretty good place to stop: