I’ve been a DJ since the ‘70s. I’m also a bonafide music fanatic who gets a kick out of turning people on to stuff they’ve never heard before. For a long time, when cassettes were king and “mixtapes” were all the rage, one of my favorite past times was to fill up one of those long-ass 120 minutes Maxell’s with original and cover songs played back to back. I would really go out of my way to find obscure covers for very well-known songs, then I’d get my friends together and have listening parties where we would discuss the songs with each other for hours on end. Yeah, it sounds incredibly nerdy, but damn it was fun.
The other day, in a fit of nostalgia, I retrieved an old box of tapes that had taken up permanent residence in the back of my closet. So, who wants to play with me — Original Vs. Cover?
SONG: (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher
ORIGINAL – Jackie Wilson – 1967
COVER – Rita Coolidge – 1977
Jackie Wilson was one of the best Soul singers ever – he was a tenor with a four octave range who always brought it. His nickname was “Mr. Excitement” and this song is proof of that.
From the jump, you know you’re in for a ride, it gets to business in just 16 seconds flat, no time is wasted whipping into a great uptempo groove. There are horns, strings, and lilting female backing vocals, everything hits quick because the song clocks in at exactly 3:00. His voice goes from a deep growl to a fabulous falsetto in mellifluous fashion. He’s feeling the lyrics – the exaltation of love. You can just tell he was dancing all over the booth during this session (backed by some of The Funk Brothers) the groove here is stellar – I dare anyone to sit still while listening to this song. It is a gem!
I remember hearing this all over the radio when it came out, and wondered why. I was in 7th grade, disco was in full swing (Even KISS did a disco song in 1979, remember?), running roughshod over the airwaves. There were lots of covers that got a disco treatment, and this is one of them…and it’s a total misfire.
This sleepy, mid-tempo, muddled interpretation insults the original taking license with the chorus and slowing it down to a woozy grind. It’s a click faster than Perry Como would have done it, despite only being 64 seconds longer than the original. Maybe everything seemed faster in the disco with all the coke they were shoveling up their nostrils.
SO WHO DOES IT BETTER?
It’s no contest, Jackie Wilson wins this one. Listen to it right now, and then thank me later!
NOW YOU DECIDE!