I first played around with this theme last summer. Now, I’ve got a theme within a theme: hippie music!
Below are some familiar tunes from the golden age of psychedelic rock... interpreted by black artists. Click the song titles to hear the tracks. Hope you enjoy ’em.
1. “White Rabbit” – Shiner Massive Soundsystem (feat. Honeychild Coleman)
The blogger known as estiv got me moving on this idea when he uploaded a cool Jefferson Airplane video clip this week.
I had recently stumbled on this dub-style version of “White Rabbit,” cutely sung by Brooklyn rocker chick Honeychild Coleman. It’s off the 2003 CD “Shiner Massive Soundsystem.”
2. “California Dreamin’ ” – Eddie Hazel
Funkadelic guitar god Eddie Hazel didn’t often sing... but when he did, he made it count. This Mamas and the Papas cover is a soulful slice of vintage P-Funk, produced by George Clinton. Downloadable from iTunes and Amazon.
UPDATE (04/27/08): Something trippy happened last night. I was at the Gibson Amphitheatre for a Chris Rock show. They had a 20-minute intermission after the opening act (comedian Mario Joyner). During that time (as before the show) a mixtape boomed over the sound system.
And this track was on it. Eddie Hazel’s “California Dreamin’.” I mean, you have got to be seeerious about yo’ funk to put this bad boy on a mixtape.
What are the odds? On the very same day that I post about this obscure recording, I encounter it in the real world? A million-to-one, I say.
3. “Big Yellow Taxi” – Chris Thomas King
This Joni Mitchell classic has one of those melodies that I’ll always associate with childhood. Singer-songwriter Chris Thomas King gives it a faithful reading in this 2006 recording.
Downloadable from iTunes, eMusic and Amazon.
4. “Mellow Yellow” – Jef Lee Johnson
I don’t know why Jef Lee Johnson, one of my favorite funky musicians, chose this song to cover. Then again, he’s also covered a Monkees tune. Maybe it’s his sense of humor.
“Mellow Yellow” was written by the U.K. folk-rocker Donovan, and it’s one of those ’60s songs that’s presumed to be about drugs. (“Yo, don’t bogart the banana skins!”) This version is downloadable from eMusic.
5. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (live) – Natalie Cole
Only while preparing this list did I download this track. And then I realized I know this version... all the riffs, the changes, the big finish. It totally skipped my mind that Natalie Cole had a small hit with this Beatles song in 1978. Nice to hear it again.
It’s downloadable from iTunes and Amazon.