Thursday, May 11

C&T Presents: Duets

While covers get ample attention throughout the blogosphere, a related variant fails to get near as much attention. These are duets. Such pairings can tackle originals or covers; part of the fun is that the results can be triumphant, disastrous, or somewhere in between depending on the chemistry and stylistic synergy between the artists involved. Today C&T features a variety of duets, and you can make the call with regard to what works and what stinks.

First, here are a few classic duets from the 1980s that belong in everyone's music collection. Even if you think they're cheesy as can be, they're essential reference points. Also, I have once again assured myself of a complete and total loss of indie cred. It won't be the last time.

Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder - Ebony & Ivory
Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton - Islands in the Stream
Barbara Streisand & Neil Diamond - You Don't Bring Me Flowers

Now, while those tracks were each released during the Reagan era, the fascination with covers hasn't subsided altogether. A number of recently released duets have featured well-known artists, including those who have passed away. It's an odd trend, but recent years have seen duet-heavy posthumous releases by Tupac, Notorious BIG, and Ray Charles. I suppose Natalie Cole is to blame. Other releases have featured music legends toward the end of their lives, such as Frank Sinatra. Tracks from Ray and Ol' Blue Eyes are featured here.

Ray Charles & Van Morrison - Crazy Love
Frank Sinatra & Bono - I've Got You Under My Skin

Those efforts aside, artists can obviously pull off duets while neither cheesy nor dead. For example, the tracks below feature artists still relevant and breathing at the time. The first is from the legendary 1969 CBS studio session with Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash; the second is Elvis Costello leading a version of "Veronica" backed by Paul McCartney. While these don't feature both artists in the manner of some tracks linked above, they showcase rare interactions between rock legends.

Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash - Careless Love
Elvis Costello & Paul McCartney - Veronica

Notably, the art of the duet is not restricted to music legends and dinosaurs. As any blog reader is likely aware, they're also popular with the indie rock set. And why not? Here are a number of fun collaborative efforts featuring popular indie artists from the past decade or so. Nifty, huh?

Bjork & PJ Harvey - Satisfaction [Rolling Stones cover]
Beck & Thom Yorke - I'm Set Free (live) [Velvet Underground cover]
Ben Kweller & Evan Dando - Your Own Thing (live)
Kim Deal & Tanya Donnelly - You and Your Sister (with This Mortal Coil) [Chris Bell cover]
Natalie Merchant & Tracy Chapman - In the Ghetto (live) [Elvis Presley cover]

In addition to all these fine duets, my friend Joel reminded me that SNL did magic with this 1982 parody of "Ebony and Ivory" featuring a faux Stevie Wonder (Eddie Murphy) and Frank Sinatra (Joe Piscopo). Worth watching, even if you saw it 20+ years ago. Go watch it here. Classic.

UPDATE: Links removed...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The duet Sinatra-Bono was not posthumous (or i didn't understand?). Anyway some songs are great.

3:39 AM

Anonymous walkin the line said...

artists can obviously pull off duets while neither cheesy nor dead. For example, the tracks below feature artists still relevant and breathing.

Johnny Cash: relevant yes, breathing no.


7:21 AM

Blogger Rich said...

walk the line... he was in 1969. that's what i meant.

anon, thanks. my mistake.

9:06 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the "this mortal coil"-song. It's great!

9:39 AM

Anonymous andrew said...

"You and Your Sister" is a cover of a song off Chris Bell's solo record (Chris Bell of Big Star "fame", of course).

11:36 AM

Blogger Rich said...

Ah! Forgot that. Thanks. You can all see what happens when I write posts in a post-Lost shocked condition. You have no idea the self-restraint it's taking to stay off the Lost boards today and actually get work done.

Btw, I like the quotations on "fame."

12:02 PM

Blogger Daniel McKenna said...

Hey, I've read about 10% of your blog, and agree with about 88% of that(statistical formula there, somewhere)...Natalie Merchant *thumbs-up An artist! I would only have to reach behind Fiona Apple to get at her "Tiger Lily" from my Favorite Female Artist rack...
More relevantly; Is the "Veronica" that you refer to the recording from "Spike," or is there another version (perhaps where Paul is more prominent than as a bassist and backup singer in the far left headphone)?

2:31 PM

Blogger Rich said...

Don't know the exact origins of that track, but Paul's not very prominent at all.

4:00 PM

Blogger Lizzy said...

ah, rich. you know I love me some Bono. goooood choice.

7:45 PM

Blogger jeffro said...

i really like that Merchant/Chapman duet - thanks for posting it!

8:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm much enamoured of that phrase 'my Favourite Female Artist rack'. And sorry for lowering the tone..

10:11 AM


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