Although I inteded to post more often last year, sadly I didn’t manage it. However, at least at the very beginning of 2018 I wish to present some interesting material to you: a two-piece “Covered in Obscurity” special – the first part focusing only on one song instead of an album, while a soon coming second part focusing on the whole “Let it Bleed” album of The Rolling Stones.
First of all, why did I splitted this post? Originally, when I looked around the obscure materials, I realized, while the ‘Stones were (and are) a very influental band, most groups covered only one or two songs from them, but their albums as a whole didn’t get as much attention. While I found plenty of materials for the opening “Gimme Shelter”, I was lost at first with the other songs, so I wanted to dedicate a whole post to this particular track (this is what you can read below). However, by digging a bit deeper, I found a vault of obscure materials covering the whole “Let it Bleed” album, so you can get those songs from the second part of this post.
Why this specific song? Well, sadly this song seems to be meaningful once again and millions aroudn the world shouted these words in dire need. In addition, this is one of the few harder rockin’ songs from the discography of the Stones, so this song has a perfect place here.
In this post, I inteded to gather many more or less obscure artists (as we shall see, many of them are not so unknown as they seem), who covered this specific song and always transformed it to a bit to their own shape, thus guaranteeing that you will not find this post repetitive at all!
Below you can find the original track from ’69 from the Let it Bleed album from The Rolling Stones.
1. Grand Funk Railroad – from the live album Caught in the Act (1975)
2. Merry Clayton – from the single Gimme Shelter (1970)
3. Josefus – from Dead Man (1970)
4. Ruth Copeland – from the album I am who I am (1971)
5. Spring Fever – from the album Woodstock (1970)
6. Maxayn – from Maxayn (1972)
7. Hookfoot – from the compillation Headlines (1975)
8. Ayers Rock – from A-Reefer-Derci! (1976)
9. Detroit – from Detroit (1971)
Grand Funk Railroad – from the live album Caught in the Act (1975)
Okay, let’s start with best known one – assuming you are from the USA or you already an expert in 70’s hard rock rarities. Grand Funk Railroad was an american hard rock group, formed in Michigan in 1968 as a power trio, consisting Mark Farner (guitar, vocals), Don Brewer (drums, vocals) and Mel Schacher (bass, vocals). They were a very energetic live band, focusing more on touring than on studio albums (although they had impressive discography) and quickly became very succesfull – until they get into a lawsuit with their former manager and then fought with the tax authorities, which ultimately lead to the decay and disband of the group in 1976.
As for the Stones cover, they recored it to their studio album Survival (1971) and the cover became a standard on their tour since then. Although these versions are already energetic and already show unique interpretation (in terms of the fuzz cranked to max on the bass guitar), but I opt for the 1975 version – less raw, but still energetic and with the addition of hammond organ, fender clavier and backing vocals, it will definitely gives the upstart of this blog.
If you wish to get a glimpse on the group, you can still do it – they are still alive and touring in the US, but nowadays Farmer is replaced with ex-KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick.
Merry Clayton – from the single Gimme Shelter (1970)
Our next contestant might be less known at the first glimpse, but listening to the cover, you might wonder, whether you had heard her earlier… Well, your guess is right – actually she sang the female vocals on the orginal Stones recording!
Actually, working as a session musician was not unknown for her, as she started to sing with Ray Charles, Neil Young and worked until recently with such acts as Coldplay. Meanwhile, from time to time she released her own soul recordings, including her first LP, where she re-recorded some of the songs she sang earlier and re-shaped onto her style. Thus became the song a soulful reedition with horns and psychedelic guitars.
Sadly you probably won’t see Mrs. Clayton live on the stage anymore, as she has lost both of her legs in 2015, but luckily she turned her energy into work, so hopefully at least we can still enjoy her unique vocals in different artist’s recordings.
Josefus – from the album Dead Man (1970)
Heading towards the ocean of obscurity, we meet another american act, Josefus, who shall mentioned in detail later in a Rat Salad Residuals post (I am working on it, I promise!). As for now, just lay back and enjoy the hardest and darkest version of the song in this post. Oh, and do not forget about the distorted bass line of Ray Turner, which was definitely ahead of its’ time – we shall meet only similar from a bit better known british group almost a decade later (check Lemmy’s bass line during the end of the song)
Ruth Copeland – from the album I am what I am (1971)
Ruth Copeland was a british female singer with some commercial success from the early 70’s. Now, based on this short description her cover could be a mediocre one. What if I say, her musicians were (among else) gutiarist Eddie Hazel and keyboardist Bernard Worell (both better known from their work with George Clinton’s Funkadelics)?
If Grand Funk Railroad’s cover was the best know, Merry Clayton’s the most soul-ish (soulful?), Josefus’s the most Motörhead-ish cover on this post, then Copeland’s cover definitely the grooviest and funkiest one here.
Spring Fever – from the album Woodstock (1970)
Moving on the “most -ish” list, the canadian Spring Fever becomes the “most obscure artist” tag in this post. We almost know nothing about them, except they are Canadians, consisted Paul James (guitar, vocals), Rick Law (organ, bass) and Frank Meehan (drums) and they released one album “Woodstock” in 1970.
Their music? Garage rock with a hint of blues and country rock, a’la Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Maxayn – from the self-titled album (1972)
Although the artist’s name might be difficult to spell, but this group definitely needs some attention. The group (Paulette Parker a.k.a. Maxayn Lewis – vocals, Andre Lewis a.k.a. Mandré – keyboards, bass, vocals; Emyr Thomas – drums, Hank Redd – saxophone, Marlo Henderson – guitar) was short lived (they have disbanded only after 3 albums in ’74), but they definitely consisted some well-known names. Andre Lewis played with Frank Zappa after George Duke’s departure (see for example the “Zoot Allures” album), while Marlo Henderson and Hank Redd played earlier with Buddy Miles.
They approached from the direction of soul and funk and they were the only group who dared to reshape the Stones classic to a laid-back song.
After the third album, Lewis transformed the group into his own new project – Mandré – and gained some fame under this name. Sadly, you can’t see this project live anymore, as Lewis had sadly deceased in 2012.
Hookfoot – from the compilation Headlines (1975)
Once again, the group name might not say too much, but looking behind the scenes we find a group of talented british musicians, who were the supporting band for Elton John between 1969-1975.
The talented session musicians (Caleb Quayle – ex Bluesology – guitar, piano, vocal; Ian Duck – vocals, guitars and harmonica; Roger Pope – drums and David Glover – bass) recorded several own-penned songs and some covers, among else this Stones classic. Sadly, theye earned only minor successes, so after a few albums and guest musicians (including Bob Kulick, brother of Bruce Kulick, who plays nowadays with Grand Funk Railroad) the group merged into the Elton John Band.
This recording has a 70’s roots rock sound, with clean, twangy guitars and piano – still, the original hard rock base still lies underneath this song and the rock’n’roll feeling sure makes your feet to stomp while you listen it!
Ayers Rock – from the live album A-Reefer-Derci! (1976)
Now this is an interesting and unexpected cover! Ayers Rock (the well-known “big red rock” – Symbol of Australia) was an influental, but obscure australian (who would have thought it?) fusion jazz rock band, which combined jazz, prog rock with soul and r’n’b.
The members (Jimmy Doyle – guitars, vocals, Mark Kennedy – drums, Duncan McGuire – bass, Col Loughnan – saxes, flute, clarinet, keyboards, percussion, vocals) were already veterans of the local music scene (for example guitarist Jimmy Doyle had previously worked with the hard rocker – and later Rat Salad Residuals featuring – Fanny Adams) and became quickly succesful with their cachy-commercial sounding recordings and technical, progressive instrumental songs. Actually, this success was short lived, because radio airplay required the first one, while live gigs preferred the second attribute and the group wasn’t able to find the healthy balance between the two of them (in comparison for example to Deep Purple) so they already recorded their final concerts less than 3 years after the forming of the group.
The stones concert was recorded actually during this farewell concert in Melbourne. What is interesting, the group took a somewhat direct approach with the song, although it is full with long jazzy solos, but they keept the original frame of the song and did not reshaped totally to their own style (unexpected from a jazz rock group).
More to Read:
Detroit – from the album Detroit (1971)
As for closing this post, I would like to present a musician and his cover, whose career is almost as long as The Rolling Stone’s! Mitch Ryder (William Levise, Jr.) was on the stage of Detroit since his midle teen years and still giggin’ and recoding as a vocalist up until today. He earned some success in the US (his clip even gained some airplay on the MTV) with his solo recordings or with his group, Detroit Wheels.
Although his style has changed over the years, his roots are in the sould, R’n’B and rock’n’roll – and most of his recordings keept something from these genres, which materialized in his unique raw vocals.
The following cover of is from the Detroit album, which contained always top-notch musicians. In this recording you can hear Mitch Ryder – vocals, John Badanjek – drums, Brett Tungle – guitars, W.R.Cooke – bass, Harry Philips – organ, piano, Steve Hunter – guitars (later earned fame in the Alice Cooper band), but briefly here played Steve Gaines (later Lynyrd Skynyrd) and sung Dusty Ray (ex-Cactus, ex-Amboy Dukes) and they not only reshaped this cover perfectly onto their own style, but they also bowed within the song towards The Stones by inserting riffs from the Jumpin’ Flash Jack or from the Street Fighting man. Thus the circle (and this post) closes with the tributation towards the mighty Rolling Stones. Oh, and if you are lucky, you might still catch Mitch Ryder playing this song!
More to Read:
Thanks for reading, check out the second post and have a great 2018.