It is always interesting when a band re-records a song. Whether it is for some type of anniversary release, stepping up to a major record label, or some other situation where it is necessary or warranted, fans of the original recording will inevitably have some type of feeling about the new version of the song.
Prompted by discussions I have had with friends over Anberlin‘s new version of “The Feel Good Drag“, I decided to take a look at it and four other notable re-recordings from my library. What made the original version good or bad? How about the new one? Was it worth re-recording in the first place?
I do not really have much of an idea what imeem is, but it appears that there are just a whole bunch of songs up for free streaming, and they tend to have links to purchase the song if you are interested. I guess you have to sign-up/login if you want to listen more than once…? Whatever. With that in mind, I suppose I will just link over to there (where available) so you all can listen along with the music (rather than me putting up ten MP3s in a single blog post).
For the purposes of this list and discussion, I will not be including demo versions of songs as the “original” version. If I were going to do that, I would have at least five versions of Saosin‘s “I Wanna Hear Another Fast Song” / “Sleepers” that I would have to compare…! Also, versions from an EP that appeared right on the next full length essentially as-is from version to version (such as The Get Up Kids’ “Red Letter Day” and Finch‘s “Letters To Youi”) also will not count for this list and discussion.
This was absolutely one of the best songs off of Never Take Friendship Personal, which itself was a near-perfect album beginning to end. Anberlin has stated that they wanted to bring this song back because it never got the “chance” it deserved previously (and ended up making it their first single and music video off of New Surrender). I personally believe it was already a wonderfully-produced song, and had a pretty sick amount of emotion coming from Christian’s vocals. So what happened in the new version? It is far too “safe”. The screaming is removed from the breakdown (which itself was so far-removed from anything else Anberlin had done), and the production is far too overdone. In general, it just feels like the soul of the song was missing. It was still the same song, but that piece that made it special was no longer there. Unfortunately, that is how I feel about the album New Surrender in general; it is defintiely Anberlin, and there are definitely some good songs, but there is no spark.
As the song that put New Found Glory on the pop-punk map, “Hit or Miss” was a pretty huge deal. The original version of the song off of Nothing Gold Can Stay was already a “single” in that a music video was already made (starring Corey Feldman, no less). The acoustic guitar opening really defined it, and while the production is not up to the level that their later material would be, it is still very clear sounding and well done. I was very apprehensive when I heard they were going to be re-recording the song for their “major label” debut (as well as their single and a re-done music video), and I remember not liking it all that much upon first hearing it. As time went on, it became apparent that the new version was indeed a solid improvement on the original, and quite possibly what they originally wanted it to sound like (and was indeed what it sounded like during live performances). Jordan’s vocals were much cleaner and at appropriate levels when compared to the music. The “I’ve had so many chances…” dual-vocals near the end are finally audible. All in all, it is a solid re-recording of the original version, and is typically my go-to version for playing (despite my love for Nothing Gold Can Stay).
(3) Reel Big Fish – “Beer”
Original Version: Everything Sucks (1995) / Turn The Radio Off (1996)
New Version: We’re Not Happy ‘Til You’re Not Happy (2005)
I will consider the version off of Turn The Radio Off the “original” version, considering that most of the songs off of Everything Sucks ended up being re-recorded for more “proper” album releases later on down the road. With that in mind, it was a total shock to see a ten-year-anniversary version of “Beer” re-recorded as a b-side for We’re Not Happy ‘Til You’re Not Happy. What was the real purpose of this, though? It sounds much more “full” and is performed slightly slower, but other than that, it does not contribute a whole lot. I simply do not have a whole lot to say comparing these two versions. The new version is just a b-side, so it is not like it was re-done as a “new single” for the band presenting them to a new audience. It is… well, it is just there for the sake of being there, almost.
The original version of “Bury Your Head” was presented as the first highly-public debut of replacement vocalist Cove Reber (though he had done a couple recordings prior to this, including the studio version of “I Can Tell There Was An Accident Here Earlier“). This version of “Bury Your Head” received an actual music video, done in the style of a live performance. The new version seemed like a forced-inclusion by Capitol for the band’s full-length (and while I do not have a source to quote, I believe that is the actual truth; the band did not want to re-record and include it, while the label highly suggested they do such). The new version features more drum-fills, though they do not necessarily feel like they belong here as much as they do on other new song arrangements on the album. Reber’s dual-vocals in places feel like they are there just to add to the breadth of sounds in the song, rather than enhancing what is already there in his performance. Maybe it is because the song’s inclusion was forced, but there is a distinct lack of emotion in the performance of this song compared to the rest of the album.
While The Starting Line technically first recorded the song during their We The People recording sessions, the entire album was more or less scrapped when Drive-Thru came along. It was then re-recorded nearly identically for their Drive-Thru debut EP, With Hopes of Starting Over. It was then recorded for a third time for their proper first full-length, Say It Like You Mean It, where it was used as their second single and music video (after “The Best Of Me“). The original version of the song has a rough feel to it, but is incredibly genuine. Kenny’s voice is still young and squeaky in the past, which would start to change for the full-length, and continue onward through all of their subsequent releases. The radio-muffled extra “Without saying goodbye…” would evolve over the versions of the song, which is probably for the better. The original version uses these cheap production tricks to try to put some extra “oomphf” in there, but I personally believe that it hurts the otherwise genuine qualities of the recording. The new version of the song does more than just change the production values, and actually changes a bit of lyrics, shortening the “As weekdays and weekdays unwind / I’ll be found staring back in time” to simply “Let’s travel back in time!” The new version also opens more akin to the band’s live performances of the song, with Kenny singing the beginning of the song’s chorus before the full band breaks in. While it could be argued that Mark Trombino over-produced Say It Like You Mean It, I feel that this song, at least, particularly benefitted from this outside viewpoint (I also agree with Howard Benson’s production of “The World” off of Based On A True Story, rather than the band’s preference of the Tim O’Heir version). The removal of the “cheap” effects really helps the song, and everything is brought into balance with each other. The new version also ramps up the chorus speed to a more noticeable level. Like New Found Glory’s re-recorded version of “Hit or Miss“, I find myself revisiting the re-recorded version of “Leaving” more than the original(s), though also like the New Found Glory song, I have a huge place in my heart for the original(s) that I do occasionally revisit.