The Original vs. The Cover – “Alone”

For this edition of The Original vs. The Cover, we are going to discuss the song “Alone” by the band i-Ten.  What?  You never heard of them.  Honestly, neither had I, but you know their songs as bands from the 80’s covered a ton of their songs including bands like Honeymoon Suite, REO Speedwagon, Juice Newton and most notable they had success with songs such as “Like a Virgin”, “So Emotional”, “True Colors” and “Eternal Flame.  They weren’t really a band, it was a writing duo of Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly who made up the band i-Ten.  It was that success that Heart decided to cover their song “Alone”.

The song’s theme is simple.  It is about a person who is in love with another and they are struggling to get them alone to tell them how they feel.  It is possible it is an unrequited love, but he/she won’t know until they tell them how much they want them.  We’ve all been there before.

i-TEN

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I will admit, I never have heard this version before I decided to do this post.  The song didn’t do very well for the band as their song and was put aside and basically forgotten. The song is a pure 80’s.  It is a little dated in its sound today, but you can hear how good of a song it really is.  It is surprising it didn’t do anything for them, but then again, they were not a well-known act and getting on the radio was difficult (or even MTV).

The song is a ballad, full of synthesizers, high pitched vocals, some nice guitar work and is really 80’s AOR at its best.  It opens with a piano accompaniment and then Tom Kelly gives us such a beautiful vocal performance.  It is understated and well polished.  If anything, the song highlights the writing talents of these two as this song is clinic on how to write a great song.  It has a little bit of everything you need in a good song including a guitar solo.  This was the 80’s.

HEART

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When Tom and Billy found out Heart was looking for a song, they pulled this one out of drawer and decided to tweak a few things.  First, they changed the first line of the chorus from “I always fared well on my own” to ‘Til now, I always got by on my own” as Tom didn’t like the flow.  They also tweaked it to be a little more R&B and then re-recorded a demo and submitted to Ron Nevison.  And luckily for us, it was accepted.

Heart took the song to #1 without making many changes.  They had the same piano opening and Ann Wilson comes in quiet and understated with her vocals until she blows it out with her power and they turn the song from only a ballad to a pure 80’s power ballad!  It still had the synthesizers, but the drumming was much more dramatic (by Denny Carmassi).  The high harmonies in the song were actually sung by Tom Kelly himself when he and Billy came in to meet the band while they were recording which is a cool bonus on the song.

There is one cool point in Heart’s version around the second chorus.  Ron Nevison had Ann pause a little bit before the second chorus and wanted her to ad lib a little.  She did and came out with this Robert Plan scream that really added an extra punch to the song and helped take it to #1.

THE VERDICT

The verdict is where I have to make a decision on which song I like the best and sometimes it is so difficult.  This isn’t one of them.  Although the i-Ten version is fantastic, you can’t beat the power of Ann Wilson’s voice.  She is one of the best vocalist in rock, period. Heart’s version sounds a little less dated then i-Ten’s version, but it is the power portion of the ballad that I love so much.  The Ann scream and the more dramatic feel of the overall song is what pushes their version to the top for me.

I am really interested in hearing what everyone else thinks of these two songs.  Let me know which version you like the best and why.  Feel free to leave a comment and talk about the song and tell me how right or wrong I am on this one.  Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.

“ALONE”

I hear the ticking of the clock
I’m lying here, the room’s pitch dark
I wonder where you are tonight
No answer on the telephone
And the night goes by so very slow
Oh, I hope that it won’t end though
Alone
I always fared well on my own
I never really cared until I met you
And now it chills me to the bone
How do I get you alone?
You don’t know how long I have wanted
To touch your lips and hold you tight
You don’t know how long I have waited
And I was going to tell you tonight
But the secret is still my own
And my love for you is still unknown
Alone
I always fared well on my own
I never really cared until I met you
And now it chills me to the bone
How do I get you alone?
Tell me, how do I get you alone?
How do I get you alone?
Tell me, how do I get you alone?
Alone, alone
I hear the ticking of the clock
I’m lying here, the room’s pitch dark
Written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly

The Original Vs The Cover – “Higher Ground”

For this month’s The Original Vs The Cover, we are comparing the versions of the song “Higher Ground” originally performed by Stevie Wonder and then later covered by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Two great artists and two very different versions so which will come out on top.

The song was written by Stevie Wonder and it came out on his 1973 album ‘Innervisions’.  It went all the way to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B chart.  It was a very successful song for Stevie and in 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #265 on the Top 500 Songs of all time.  Not bad.

The song is possibly about two things.  One being second chances and the other is reincarnation (which could also be considered a second chance I guess).  Stevie wrote the song and recorded it in a span of 3 hours which to me is amazing.  According to Stevie, he felt a sense of urgency to get it done as if something was going to happen and he needed to finish it.  Just a few months later, he was in a car accident that put him in a coma for four days (3 days after the album was released).

Okay, let us get to the songs…

STEVIE WONDER

Stevie’s song is pure 70’s funk.  It has such an awesome little groove and that unique wah sound comes from a clavinet using a Mu-Tron III pedal.  What are those?  Here is a picture (thanks wikipedia).

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