Watching The Voice this evening. The show is not engaging enough for me to simply watch without a distraction.
One of the performers (Rob Taylor) covered “I put a spell on you“. He’s a capable performer but I’ve heard better version of the classic. In our family, the Halloween classic Hocus Pocus with Bette Midler is a seasonal must-see. We all watch it together and because we’ve seen it so many times we can anticipate the actor’s lines. Bette covers the song very well. It’s a great Blue’s classic and like all songs in this genre – the best song connects emotionally through the vocals.
I decided to abuse my Spotify account and try to figure out who sang it best. Pretty much everyone has covered this song.
I think Annie Lennox is a phenomenal performer – but hers is not the best version in my eyes. Jesse Cook – one of my favorite (but more obscure performers) has a great version. Even Marilyn Manson has a version which I like it until the performer insists on singing.
David Gilmour (with Mica Paris) covers the song. Because it’s David Gilmour, it’s hard not to focus on the guitar styling he brings to everything he does. Buddy Guy and Carlos Santana create a similar experience – you just can’t escape a guitar virtuoso. They own anything in which they are featured. It becomes a guitar performance.
My three favorite performers are Manfred Mann, Joe Cocker, and Pete Townshend. They all three approach the song as a Blues Standard. Each adds a unique element. Manfred Mann is a smooth blues singer. Joe Cocker is raw and emotional. Pete Townshend is a polished, nuanced blues singer.
Here’s my favorite:
P.S. I’m not a fan of the honky-tonk versions performed by Leon Russell and Sam Bush. That just does not work. People also want to perform this as a jazz standard. And God save us all, there’s even a Disco version of the song by some obscure group called The Hershey Barr Band. I’m good with artists re-interpreting songs, but I don’t think this song can be done better in a different style. It’s a Blues standard and is done best in that style.
P.S. While I appreciate that Jay Hawkins authored the classic and was the original performer – his performances haven’t matched those who have covered his original work.