Monday, May 16, 2011

Have Love Will Travel--Six ways, count 'em

My son Pat has been talking about a sort of music club in which we share some songs that we like.  It's a way to be introduced to some new sounds.  It includes some of his friends, whom I like quite a bit and they have great musical influences, so I hope we get started soon.

I was kind of struggling with what I should share with some thirtysomethings, and I just decided to go for it and choose some artists I like.  One song I that really gets me is an old R & B tune by Richard Berry, "Have Love Will Travel."  In some respects the song is reminiscent of "Louie, Louie," also a Berry tune, with its simple chord progression, and down to basics lyrics.  I knew a couple of covers of the song.

The one that got my attention first actually was the theme for a Land Rover commercial a few years ago.  That's the 1965 cover by Tacoma's own Sonics.  The vocals are raw, the production is is fuzzy and distorted, the loud, blaring sax is right out in front.  It's a great version of the song, maybe my favorite, and it's so good.

Before there was punk, there were the Sonics from beautiful Tacoma, WA.

The other version I really love is by the Black Keys. The hard rock duo from Akron, Ohio include "Have Love" on the 2003 "Thickfreakness" album and it holds fast to the band's R & B roots.  Dan Auerbach's thick, sludgy guitar and gutbucket vocals recall the Sonics' version, but the arrangement is fresh and heavy.  Great stuff.
Dan Auerbach (guitar and vocals) and Patrick Carney are the Black Keys.  Their version of Have Love Will Travel rivals only the Sonics as  the best.

 Paul Revere and the Raiders covered the song back in 1964 on the B-side of a single.  It's not my favorite.  It's sort of the light version when compared to the Sonics and Black Keys.  Mark Lindsay's vocals are good, but the arrangement doesn't have that wonderful fuzztone or protopunk sound of their Tacoma colleagues. Something's missing here.
The most televised rock group in history-Paul Revere and the Raiders in all their glory
The Richard Berry and the Pharoahs original recording from 1959 is a good song.  Good lead and backing vocals, but lacks the raw power and ragged vocals of all the other versions.  Berry was a pop r&B performer, but doesn't have the rootsiness of Muddy Waters or Howling Wolf, so the edge is missing here. A regular performer in Seattle's black nightclubs, he also wrote Louie, Louie, and was an important influence on the nascent rock and roll scene as it struggled to find its voice.
The late Richard Berry

Sky Saxon was the lead vocalist for the psychedelic band The Seeds in the '60's.  Saxon released Have Love on an anthology of his music from the Seeds and solo projects in 2008, "Sky Saxon: King of the Garage Bands."  It's okay, but doesn't compare favorably with other versions. Ian Gillian, vocalist for Deep Purple and the original voice of Jesus Christ on "Jesus Christ Superstar," also recorded Have Love Will Travel for his 2008 live album Live in Anaheim.  Yeah, Gillian's got a great voice, but I don't find anything special here.  Just walk on by.

The late Sky Saxon

Ian Gillian

Have Love Will Travel became a staple of the Northwest rock scene, covered by a zillion bands, just at the roots of that sound were about to be drowned in psychedelia and the new folk movement.  It remains an important artifact in my continuing belief Northwest Rock is unrecognized and underappreciated by the rest of the country.  Have Love rocks hard, is danceable, and is fun.

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