. . .
Nick Drake was such a specific-sounding artist that covering him seems like a fools errand. Luckily, the members of The Soundtrack of Our Lives were exactly the kind of fools to run that errand. And I’m glad, because their cover of his 1970 song “Fly” is one of the greatest covers I’ve ever heard in my life, even if they don’t so much cover “Fly” as smash it into a windscreen.
And that’s a compliment, because like a lot of other great covers — Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower,” Hüsker Dü’s “Eight Miles High,” The English Beat’s “Tears of a Clown” — TSOOL somehow remained true to the original while at the same time transporting it to a totally new place.
It goes without saying that Nick Drake’s original version of “Fly” (from 1971’s Bryter Layter) is quiet and acoustic, with a viola and harpsichord — played by John Motherfuckin’ Cale — gracefully filling in the spaces between his voice and the descending guitar lick that runs through the.
And at first, TSOOL honors that arrangement, with the guitars of Ian Person and Mattias Bärjed deftly winding around each other while Ebbot Lundberg sings the opening couplet.
Please give me a second grace
Please give me a second face
But then, almost instantly, drummer Fredrik Sandsten kicks in with a double-down snare beat, and they start rocking it out as as Lundberg continues.
I’ve fallen far down
The first time around
And I just sit on the ground in your way
Now it’s time to recompense for what’s done
Come come sit down on the fence in the sun
And the clouds will roll by
And we’ll never deny
It’s really too high for to fly
At this point a soaring trumpet, played by session person Stefan Sporsén, swoops in from heaven, snatches the song and sends it into the stratosphere while Sandsten alternates drum rolls, stop times, offbeats, and every other fucking thing to continually switch things up. It’s powerful and gorgeous.
So come come ride in my streetcar by the bay
For now I must know how fine you are in your way
And the sea sure as I
But she won’t need to cry
For it’s really too hard to flyyyyyyyyyyyyy
After that, there’s an amazingly long and amazingly fantastic guitar solo by Person, spewing out of the speakers over a joyful tumble of drums and guitars and trumpet and keyboards, and every single fucking time I hear it, it totally floors me. I can understand why Drake purists might hate it, and maybe even see it as some kind of desecration, but I think it’s about 75 levels of gorgeous.
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