I'm not typically a fan of the cover tune. At first glance, it's always seemed like a cheap cop-out or a shortcut to getting your foot in the door as a musician...like you're not being authentic or something...I don't know, I'm sure I'm being way to critical of the idea.
There are exceptions to the rule, however...and from a cursory all-encompassing arc in my head (with eyes squinted shut), I can think of three sets of circumstances.
- The first circumstance would be when an artist is really able to outshine the original version if it because it was subpar...or, dare we say, it completely sucked. Examples (arguable, as many might disagree) might include Van Halen covering "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks. All respect for Ray Davies & Co., but VH simply blows their version into the 4th Dimension.
- The second circumstance would involve the cover of a song, from an original version that's simply unknown...to the effect that the cover becomes the famous version. The perfect example here is Jimi Hendrix covering Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower." Even for some of you reading this for the first time, that may be news to you...if you're wondering: "You mean Dylan originally sang that? Really?" I've even known Hendrix fans to be unaware of that little factoid...so sorry everyone, Jimi didn't write that. He just did a killer version of it.
- Then there's the third instance, which to me is the most special...it's where the original version is a classic ingrained in the pantheon of music...YET an artist, perhaps many years later, is able to come along and morph it into something new and engaging. This post is about that instance.
Moon reinvigorates the song in a way that I could have never imagined. Through his tinkering with it and use of acoustic guitars, he makes "Subdivisions" even more engaging, tender, and emotional. For those who understand the significance of the lyrics, it's as if he's "us" -- an audience of Rush fans going back decades with the band -- and representing a real perspective and emotional interpretation of it. It's like he was the guy you knew in the neighborhood who went through all those things with you.
Not to mention this video of him, a performance taking place on the rooftop of a house in a subdivision...that's a suburb of Toronto...in Canada. It adds even more to the effect and aesthetic of the song. Whoever thought of that is an absolute genius.
So watch Jacob Moon pull off what I never thought I'd witness in my lifetime: someone taking a classic from the Rush cannon and reworking it into something all their own. This is great, great stuff. Thank you Jacob Moon!