I've been digging into the deepest, darkest recesses of my brain to find a better title for a weekly post, and this is what I came up with. Smashing, isn't it? A work of art. Anyway, you know the drill, a week goes by, on Sunday I tell you what I listened to in that week. It might be one track, it might be an album, it might be the most haywire, unrelated playlist you've ever known, but it's what's got me buzzing during the week!
This week, it's two songs and two versions of each. I have a severely bad habit of playing a song on loop when I've fallen in love with it, and even after a week of hearing it non-stop, I still listen to it more because I either haven't memorised the lyrics yet or I just simply haven't got bored of it. Then, I check if there are any covers to immerse myself in further. This week is testament to that bad habit.
The first is Read Em And Weep by Barry Manilow, but it was originally a Meat Loaf song. This is a rare occurrence where I fall in love with the cover before hearing the original, but still love the original regardless of my devotion to the cover.
Of all Meat Loaf's back catalogue, why cover Read Em And Weep? Not that I can speak for the Manilow himself, but I'd assume the reason is because Read Em And Weep doesn't have the cult following as, say, Paradise By The Dashboard Light or Bat Out Of Hell, so there's no real danger of offending the die-hards and there's still plenty of room to place his own stamp on it. I also think it suits Manilow's style a lot more, while the occasional references to physical intimacy don't suit his typical suave but chivalric output, I think it gives him a nice edge, something he should try a little more often, but of course, in moderation.
Meat Loaf v Barry Manilow?
It's a tough battle but it's not unwinnable.
Vocals - I adore Meat Loaf's emotive choruses, when he reaches the climax of the bridge, his voice reaches the old familiar Meat Loaf notes we know and love, but the Dead Ringer album wasn't his greatest vocal work due to illness, so that forgives his blunt vocals. But Manilow's version does exactly the same in it's own right. They both convey the emotion in the lyrics to the best of their ability, and in my eyes, they're absolutely on par. Personally I'd give the edge to Manilow for the way he extends his lyrics slightly, Meat ends his notes quite abruptly and I prefer fluidity, but that's what makes Meat Loaf and that album in particular so revolutionary.
Manilow's vocals really drag me into feeling guilty for hurting him. I really feel as if he's standing in front of me, pleading with me to look him in the eyes. With Meat, I'm rooting for him, pleading the girl he's talking about to listen to him and look him in the eyes. It feels a little indirect in comparison with Manilow's direct plea, straight from his heart to mine. Manilow's best lyric has to be 'for the memories still alive in the bed, for the lies we believed', he extends that last note beautifully, really putting some power behind it. Watch any performance of Barry's live and you'll see which songs he prefers straight away, he puts his heart and soul into his best songs and this is definitely one of them.
Composition - I'd say Manilow's backing singers were better, I didn't get the same spark from Meat's two singers. But giving Barry the edge would be a little criminal considering his version was released 2 years after, so he could adjust the features Meat didn't get spot on. I also prefer Manilow's instrumental composition, the soft solemn guitar contrasting with empowering drums and a lot of priority given to the strength of the piano, it flows neater, but that's primitive to every Manilow production, so that can't be pinned on Meat, because his version has 'Meat Loaf' written all over it.
Music Video - However, in the music video stakes, I have to say Meat Loaf wins hands down. His story is easy to follow - a man, a typewriter, a microphone and a girl. And the awkward two backing singers totally cockblocking the entire situation.
As for Manilow - Barry and numerous topless men dressing up for a stage production, incessant cuts to an irrelevant woman strutting in front of a mirror, Barry comes out in full clown costume, face paint included, singing to a crowd of a handful of people including a clone of himself who sings back to him. Don't believe me? See for yourself.
That being said, the two are complete icons in their own right and their equally indomitable fanbases speak volumes, so it's very tough to compare. I've not been a huge Meat fan but I'm a Rocky Horror maniac so he's always been in my good books.
Another Barry Manilow cover from this week's playlist is Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, originally by BJ Thomas.
The reason I like this song so much? This scene in Spider-Man 2. EVERY TIME I hear this song, I see slow-mo strutting Tobey Maguire in my head and everything's alright with the world.
BJ Thomas v Barry Manilow?
This is a dilemma, because I've loved this song for as long as I can remember, but the BJ Thomas original was the only version I knew existed, and I was introduced to the Manilow cover by chance last month as I scoured YouTube for his covers.
Bask in the artistic photographic montage. Bask, I tell you!
Vocals - You can hear Barry giggling to himself twice in his version, and the entire song is sung in a jokey tone, which I feel detracts from the meaning - nothing's worrying me, I won't let things get me down. To others I'm sure it makes it more light-hearted and comical, I don't have time to laugh at anything other than slow-mo strutting Tobey Maguire!
Composition - I have to give this round to BJ Thomas, because his is a lot less rushed than Barry's, as I said before, you can tell when Barry isn't keen on a song and it shows with this. In this case, Barry's not used the time between the original and his cover to focus on the improvements he can make, he's just covered it, and in many ways that's an admirable quality, because he's not sizing up the competition or looking to benefit from bringing the original down a notch.
As much as I love Barry, I have to give the edge to the original, but Barry wins on musical chivalry.
Of course, there are a fair few songs Barry Manilow has covered in his time, for example Journey's Open Arms, Bridge Over Troubled Water and Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time, and frankly, I love every single one of them. There's not one song I feel he's ruined.
I promise next week, my music taste will be more adhering to my stereotype. I've had too many run-ins this week passing fellow goff detectives who are blasting metal through their earphones and I'm strutting along to Barry Manilow. I have a few Ghost songs lined up in conjunction with my March Metal Calendar Challenge so I'll return to normal this time, I fully apologise if you don't like/care about Manilow. I can't help that I do. Believe me, I've tried.
Do you prefer any covers to their originals?