What You See Is What I’ve Been

Let’s think back to last week’s Music Monday selection – good ol’ M. Ward. One of the songs I liked from the album and had contemplated posting featured Emmylou Harris. But after listening to it a few times, I really just wanted to listen to another song sung by her that I love:

‘Til I Gain Control Again

I actually first knew the song from an unlikely source. When I was in high school, I followed my big brother’s musical lead, so my favorite bands were the shoe-gazing, ethereal sounds of the Cocteau Twins, the Cranes, and This Mortal Coil, a project in the late 80s/90s featuring artists from the 4AD label. Blood was the first This Mortal Coil album I owned and therefore my very favorite. I listened to it over and over again. I still keep it on my ipod and listen to it fairly regularly. So for good measure, here is the This Mortal Coil version of the song:

‘Till I Gain Control Again

Ironically, I did a similar thing almost exactly one year ago on my sloppy heart, comparing Song to the Siren sung by Liz Fraser and by Tim Buckley.

Thoughts on the different versions? Do you have a preference?



  1. Tom · January 23, 2010

    It’s a tough call, but I think that Emmylou can do no wrong.

    I (like a lot of people, I think) used to collect covers, and always find myself being disappointed when my favorite bands would pick up someone else’s songs and it just not sound like them. Here I’m thinking about all the covers R.E.M. has done over the years, and how they sound a little off, especially in the early years. Somehow, though, these don’t put me in the mind of covers as much as reimaginings–a kind of obnoxious term, but one that at least makes sense of people trying to do their own thing with someone else’s poetry and arrangements.

    I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but this makes me think of Beck’s Record Club, where he and whoever wants to stop by will, on a given day, cover an entire album in as few takes as possible just to see what happens. (You can check these all out on the Record Club website, incidentally.) So far they’ve done Skip Spence, Velvet Underground, and Leonard Cohen. Good stuff when it’s good, mediocre when it’s not as good–but all worth listening to if you’re invested in the artists they’ve worked with because it’s meant to sound different, maybe not even reverential, just different.

  2. Sue Ann Armstrong · January 25, 2010

    Emmylou definitely has the better arrangement and voice. Please make me a CD?
    I listened to her three times, the other one only once ;>

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