THE ORIGINAL: Bill Withers (1972)
This is one of his most famous songs. It’s a soulful, emotional gospel tune that serves up a Baptist church vibe with the opening chords on the piano while he hums.
You’ve heard this song a zillion times, and I’m sure just reading the song title makes your brain play it in your head. The piano, the solemn strings — oh, and the hand claps in the bridge (which could be a song all by itself) are perfection.
In the 4:17 album version, he repeats “call me” 14 times before the song ends. He has a habit of doing this kind of thing, as in “Lovely Day,” but I still dig the song.
DISCLAIMER: The person who posted this video on YouTube is an idiot who obviously has no idea who Al Green is. It will be interesting to see whose photo Fox News uses when he dies.
THE COVER: Club Nouveau (1987)
Club Nouveau is a one-hit-wonder R&B/New Jack Swing group that was true to their moniker, and who are apparently are still together, making music you’ve never heard and never will. Believe it or not, they won a “Best R&B Song” Grammy for this cover.
It opens with the same piano chords, but with churchy “oooohs” in the background, while a female voice does the standard gospel vocalese runs on top. Then it goes into some heavy syncopated synths, blips, bloops, bops, synth drum beats, and weirdo “keyboard vocals” reminiscent of Yello’s “Oh Yeah” song, along with the three singers.
They mimic the original, lovely solemn arrangement, but use wayyyyyy too many electronic acrobatics, seemingly just because they can. And if you remember what New Jack Swing is, this song goes overboard on hitting the one and the three, which is really fucking annoying.
Oh, and do not get me started on them yelling “we be jammin’” and the horrific “pump it up homeboy just like that” at 4:40 in the extended 7:30 version. That kind of thing was really “innovative” and “cool” back then. Insert eye roll emoji here.
WHO DOES IT BETTER?
Obviously Bill is the clear winner here. Also, if you haven’t seen it, check out the moving documentary about him called “Still Bill,” because it’s amazing!
NOW YOU DECIDE!