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October 7, 2011 3:21 PM   Subscribe

What are some of the best stripped-down performances of songs?

Bon Iver's performance of Beth/Rest on NPR got me craving some songs performed in a similar manner. The more breathtakingly beautiful the better, obviously.
posted by Echobelly to Media & Arts (97 answers total) 137 users marked this as a favorite
 
this is sort of tooting my own horn: but try this
posted by edgeways at 3:24 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fast Car by Xiu Xiu.
posted by CutaneousRabbit at 3:25 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jens Lekman's original "Your Arms Around Me" makes me smile, but his acoustic ukulele version makes me cry a little bit.
posted by oinopaponton at 3:26 PM on October 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


The Flashbulb's cover of California Dreaming. Totally disposes with vocal harmonies and backs his whispered vocals up with a drum track, piano, and some subtle field recordings and processing.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:30 PM on October 7, 2011


Nouvelle Vague's cover of Guns of Brixton
posted by edgeways at 3:33 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


My favorite musical performance of all time is this stripped-down, slowed-down version of "In This World" by Moby (compared to the original). The original version is a cool and heartfelt song in itself, but the slow acoustic version is hauntingly beautiful.
posted by datarose at 3:33 PM on October 7, 2011


I've always thought the version of My Ever Changing Moods that was on theStyle Council's Cafe Bleu album, featuring just piano and Paul Weller's stunning vocal was far better than the version that was released as a single.
posted by essexjan at 3:37 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Johnny Cash covering Hurt by Nine Inch Nails.
posted by contraption at 3:38 PM on October 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


Would Suzanne Vega's a cappella original of Tom's Diner count? How about Travis' acoustic cover of Baby One More Time?
posted by chicobangs at 3:38 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Frank Black playing Calistan on a super cheap guitar and explaining what it's about between lines.

Stephen Malkmus playing No More Shoes

The only version of Thunder Road that anyone should ever listen to (and the version that, after decades, made me finally understand that Springsteen is a genius).
posted by The World Famous at 3:40 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Under The Milky Way stripped down
posted by The World Famous at 3:44 PM on October 7, 2011


edgeways: "Nouvelle Vague's cover of Guns of Brixton "

Calexico does it better.
posted by schmod at 3:47 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nirvana Unplugged. The whole thing.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:52 PM on October 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Radiohead - Like Spinning Plates: Album vs Live
posted by Magnakai at 3:53 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love the cover of Black Sabbath's Ironman by, you guessed it, The Cardigans.
posted by number9dream at 3:53 PM on October 7, 2011


Eric Clapton's Layla is amazing either way, but the unplugged was always my favorite.
posted by chatongriffes at 3:58 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Chris Daughtry's cover of Poker Face
posted by CarolynG at 4:12 PM on October 7, 2011


The Lemonheads cover of Skulls rules my school, and this demo version of Gypsy is fantastic.

Also, any Mark Kozelek cover of any song, especially AC/DC. See: 1, 2, 3, 4
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 4:13 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you are unawares of Black Cab Sessions, well, you're in for a treat. Mostly indie stuff, but still a lot of beautiful stuff. Here's the Bon Iver one. My favorites:

Amanda Palmer covering Creep

The Walkmen - The Red Moon

Man Man - Doo Right (They get a whole organ inside the cab. Amazing)

Lykke Li - I'm Good, I'm Gone

Scout Niblett - Nevada

Spoon - I Summon You

Enjoy!
posted by two lights above the sea at 4:20 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


M. Ward - Let's Dance. I think I've put this on repeat for days.
posted by mochapickle at 4:41 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Beula's album Yoko had an accompanying release of Demos that are excellent.
posted by carsonb at 4:41 PM on October 7, 2011


Ingrid Michaelson has also covered Creep.
posted by Knappster at 4:42 PM on October 7, 2011


Oh, also in line with the Black Cab Sessions, The Airborne Toxic Event released a series of videos of stripped-down acoustic in situ versions of their album. My favorite's probably Does This Mean You're Moving On?, because car roof as drum is endearing and hilarious.
posted by carsonb at 4:44 PM on October 7, 2011


Sorry, I promise this is the last one.... for now:

Yo La Tengo's two versions of Today is the Day:

Rockin'
Stripped-down
posted by carsonb at 4:47 PM on October 7, 2011


Old Person here chiming in with the Stop Making Sense movie version of Talking Heads' Psycho Killer.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 4:55 PM on October 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


Chris Cornell doing Billie Jean
posted by bitdamaged at 4:59 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah and for whatever reason They Might Be Giants doing Tubthumping
posted by bitdamaged at 5:08 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cat Power's version of the Velvet Underground's I Found a Reason is about as stripped down as it gets.
The Watson Twins turn in a nice version of the Cure's Just Like Heaven that's pretty stripped bare (and largely acoustic).
posted by Gilbert at 5:13 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


another great over of skulls here
posted by radiosilents at 5:14 PM on October 7, 2011


Cat Power's cover of Satisfaction is stripped down to the point of being pretty much unrecognizable (although I like Sea of Love better).

I also like The Sarcastic Dharma Society's cover of Our House, or any of the songs on that album.

(I also posted a stripped down cover of Maniac to MeFiMusic once but it doesn't fit the "breathtakingly beautiful" aspect of your question very well)
posted by burnmp3s at 5:18 PM on October 7, 2011


OK, if we're including artists doing stripped-down covers, then allow me to suggest Clem Snide's version of Beautiful.
posted by carsonb at 5:21 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sting's version of Come Down in Time from the Elton John tribute album Two Rooms.

Peter Gabriel sining his own Here Comes The Flood from Rober Fripp's solo album Exposure.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:22 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Frente!'s cover of New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle"
posted by Sys Rq at 5:24 PM on October 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


Are you looking for breathtakingly beautiful performances by singer/songwriters? Or stripped-down versions of songs that are usually not?


The first half of Gal Costa's double-live Fatal: Gal A Todo Vapor is acoustic, and fantastic. "Vapor Barato" (video nsfw) gives me chills every time (although her band comes in after not too long.)

Jeff Mangum - Live at Jittery Joe's

More Jens Lekman: His cover of Arthur Russel's "A Little Lost." You might like the original; it's just Russel, his cello, and effects.
posted by hydrophonic at 5:28 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Laura Barrett's cover of "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Smells Like Nirvana"
posted by Sys Rq at 5:29 PM on October 7, 2011


Lindsey Buckingham playing Big Love solo during the Fleetwood Mac "The Dance" filming.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:31 PM on October 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Seu Jorge's covers of Bowie from The Life Aquatic are lovely as well: Changes (follow the related videos for all of them).
posted by carsonb at 5:35 PM on October 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Seconding Devils Rancher's suggestion of Here Comes the Flood. (Scroll past the Gurdjieff, if you must.)

Also: Elliot Smith's covers of Figure 8 (sorry, this is a really lousy recording of the original) and Because (but the Beatles' stripped down version is glorious, too.)
posted by maudlin at 5:40 PM on October 7, 2011


Also: chococat's The Worst Things. (Really, you should check out all his stuff here.)

Charlie Rich's demo version of I Feel Like Going Home is just voice, piano and a lifetime of pain.

John Wesley Harding's cover of Like a Prayer. Heard this way back in the twentieth century when Brent Bambury hosted Brave New Waves on the CBC. I thought it was a Costello demo when I first heard it.

Cracker's Dr. Bernice (also first heard on BNW back in the day).
posted by maudlin at 5:56 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Polly Jean Harvey and Bjork's stunning cover of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction"

Lois Maffeo covering "Long Time Gone" (made famous by the Everly Bros)

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone covering Paul Simon's "Graceland"

KT Tunstall doing an excellent cover of the Jackson 5's "I want you back" and her similarly performed and also excellent original song "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree"
posted by radiosilents at 5:56 PM on October 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Luka Bloom covering LL Cool J's "I need love"
posted by radiosilents at 5:57 PM on October 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


the Mountain Goats do this sort of thing a lot, too.
posted by radiosilents at 6:01 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Amanda Fucking Palmer covering Neutral Milk Hotel's "Two-headed boy"
posted by radiosilents at 6:04 PM on October 7, 2011


I've always been partial to Bruce's acoustic version of Born To Run.
posted by auto-correct at 6:07 PM on October 7, 2011


Marie Digby does a lot of acoustic covers. My favorite is her cover of Rihanna's Umbrella
posted by alittlecloser at 6:10 PM on October 7, 2011


if we're gonna talk about Bruce, something that NEEDS TO BE HEARD are the demos from the Nebraska sessions that ended up being Born in the USA tracks. NEED TO BE HEARD.
posted by radiosilents at 6:11 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


James Blake's cover of Feist's "Limit to Your Love" is hauntingly minimal, in a more electronic than acoustic way. Link here. Turn the bass up. (Sorry if that link is weird - doing this from my phone.)
posted by en forme de poire at 6:16 PM on October 7, 2011


I only recently heard this version of Rocket Man by Daughtry. It's quite lovely. (Jason Mraz has done a similarly stripped down version.)
posted by Defying Gravity at 6:20 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's another Umbrella cover, this time by John West. I do love it dearly.
posted by erstwhile at 6:23 PM on October 7, 2011


David Bowie's 1979 version of "Space Oddity."
posted by Devoidoid at 6:29 PM on October 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I didn't realize we were talking about BRUUUUUCE! But I should have, duh.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 6:30 PM on October 7, 2011


if we're gonna talk about Bruce, something that NEEDS TO BE HEARD are the demos from the Nebraska sessions that ended up being Born in the USA tracks. NEED TO BE HEARD.

Truth.
posted by auto-correct at 6:39 PM on October 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Rocket Man- My Morning Jacket
Such Great Heights- Iron and Wine
posted by quiet coyote at 6:40 PM on October 7, 2011


Newton Faulkner doing Teardrop in a hotel lift.
Reverend and the Makers - Heavyweight Champion of the World
Michelle Shocked did a great version of Lovely Rita on Sergeant Pepper Knew My Father, but I can't find it online.
Billy Bragg - Tank Park Salute
Stereophonics - Local Boy in the Photograph
Elbow - Back in Black
The last two are from the Radio 1 Live Lounge, which is full of this kind of stuff, where bands do one of their own and a cover. They're not exclusively stripped down, but most of them are. That Youtube thing has lots of them.
posted by Jakey at 6:53 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nina Gordon- One More Night

Meaghan Smith- Brilliant cover of Here Comes Your Man

Daughtry- In the Air Tonight

Not acoustic, but wonderful:

Jolene, by the White Stripes.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:02 PM on October 7, 2011


Eurythmics - I Need You
posted by dirm at 7:03 PM on October 7, 2011


Ah, Dwight Yoakam doing Suspicious Minds always sends chills up my spine.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:11 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Warren Haynes Live at Bonnaroo, the breakfast set, 2003.
posted by carsonb at 8:10 PM on October 7, 2011


I came here to suggest Live at Jittery Joe's too. Here's Mangum's cover of I Love How You Love Me

Kate Bush singing Rocket Man with the ukelele (god I love her)

Maroon 5's Adam Levine doing the Beatles' If I Fell

Good for a cry: Elliot Smith singing Jealous Guy

I can only think of covers right now. I hope that works.
posted by therewolf at 8:14 PM on October 7, 2011


Billy Bragg - A Lover Sings
Warren Zevon - The French Inhaler

If anything the Staple Singers' version of "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" is slightly less stripped-down than the original but it's pretty awesome.

John Forté's cover of "Running Up That Hill"
posted by ghharr at 8:15 PM on October 7, 2011


I like Over the Rainbow by Israel 'IZ' Kamakawiwo'ole, and James Hill's cover of Billie Jean (also check out the Super Mario Brothers Theme, love it). Who doesn't love a ukelele?
posted by bolognius maximus at 8:22 PM on October 7, 2011


Junior Wells covering Tracy Chapman's Give Me One Reason

Asylum Street Spankers - "T'Ain't Nobody's Business"

posted by ghharr at 8:29 PM on October 7, 2011


Gaslight Anthem's cover of Kelly Clarkson's I Do Not Hook Up.
posted by MS_gal at 8:35 PM on October 7, 2011


The 2007 reissue of Prefab Sprout's 1985 album Steve McQueen (known as Two Wheels Good in the U.S.) includes newly recorded acoustic versions of eight of the original songs. Some of them are staggeringly beautiful; I'm especially fond of Desire As.
posted by bassomatic at 8:56 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yet another cover of Skulls, this time by Evan Dando.
posted by Gilbert at 8:58 PM on October 7, 2011


Also, here's Mark Kozelek performing the Bon Scott-era AC/DC song "Up to My Neck in You" as an acoustic number, from his 2001 album of the same name. Not all of the songs on this album work, but this one is genius; musically it's a complete reinvention, and it shines a light on some surprisingly good lyrics.
posted by bassomatic at 9:04 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Straight Outta Compton - Nina Gordon
posted by hot soup girl at 9:10 PM on October 7, 2011


Aztec Camera's version of Van Halen's Jump. In the cover there's just no expectation of success at all.
posted by Francolin at 9:12 PM on October 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Last ones: I started a Joke, as covered by James William Hindle, and Wonderwall, courtesy of Mr. Ryan Adams.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 9:21 PM on October 7, 2011


The Lucksmiths also have a terrific version of I Started a Joke.
posted by hot soup girl at 9:40 PM on October 7, 2011


Elvis Costello's "I Want You" is pretty stripped down in the original, but Fiona Apple's live version with himself backing her up on lead guitar is an incredible performance and very "stripped down" in its own plugged-in, melodramatic way.

It's always bothered me that the audience applauded at the end, instead of silently staring, slack-jawed and awed at what they just witnessed.
posted by richyoung at 9:44 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


the demo version of Harry Nilsson's cover of "Save the Last Dance For Me" will kill you to death. so good.

(ignore the video part of that link. and then find the real mp3, which, pricelessly, has nilsson wrapping up the take by saying, "let's do one more; that was close.")
posted by flod at 10:25 PM on October 7, 2011


Gary Jules version of Tears for Fears Mad World. From the movie Donnie Darko.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:10 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


For A While was a b-list Frank Sinatra song with big, syrupy strings and boring phrasing; then Nina Simone stripped it down and absolutely crushed me.
posted by liminalrampaste at 11:29 PM on October 7, 2011


Two favorite acoustic duos:
1. Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood debut 'Subterranean Homesick Alien' on KCRW's 'Morning Becomes Eclectic'.
2. The Sundays' Harriet Wheeler and David Gavurin perform an acoustic version of 'When I'm Thinking About You'
posted by prinado at 12:22 AM on October 8, 2011


The sound quality isn't perfect, but this stripped down version of Wild Heart is proof that Stevie Nicks was very, very close.
posted by paulash at 1:58 AM on October 8, 2011


When Amy Winehouse died, I discovered her stripped-down demo of "Love is a Losing Game".
posted by chinesefood at 3:38 AM on October 8, 2011


Here's Beck covering Daniel Johnston's "True Love Will Find You in the End." Of course, Johnston himself often keeps things minimal.
posted by hydrophonic at 4:37 AM on October 8, 2011


A standard pop song turned into a stripped down piece of beauty: check out Turn me on by Cocorosie, originally by Kevin Lyttle.
posted by wolfr at 4:49 AM on October 8, 2011


I've just been smitten with this John Legend cover of Adele's Rolling in the Deep.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 5:35 AM on October 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Living Colour has a great stripped down version of their song Nothingness.

[If anyone's interested, we have the Japan import CD that has a better, IMO, version of the acoustic.]
posted by evening at 5:59 AM on October 8, 2011


Matt Weddle of Obadiah Parker - Hey Ya cover
Graham Gouldman, Neil Finn and Roddy Doyle - I'm not in love - this is from an episode of Songwriter's circle that is pretty much made of awesome. Follow the related links from this video.
posted by crocomancer at 6:30 AM on October 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Israel Kamakawiwoʻole - What A Wonderful World
Ted Hawkins - Just My Imagination
The Concretes - Miss You
(and various Cat Power covers others have mentioned)
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:44 AM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh man after they broke up I rediscovered REM's unplugged version of Love Is All Around
posted by jabes at 8:40 AM on October 8, 2011


Spare, haunting, beautiful -- Radiohead 'Unravel' (Björk Cover)
posted by nicholai88 at 11:55 AM on October 8, 2011


Cowboy Junkies' cover of Lou Reed's Sweet Jane.
posted by WalkingAround at 2:25 PM on October 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Emm Gryners cover of Pour Some Sugar on Me
posted by TheOtherGuy at 2:28 PM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", as covered by John Cale or Jeff Buckley.
posted by WalkingAround at 2:41 PM on October 8, 2011


oh yeah.

And Ben Folds' soulful and heartfelt cover of Dr Dre's Bitches Ain't Shit
posted by TheOtherGuy at 2:44 PM on October 8, 2011


The Foo Fighters' acoustic version of "Everlong."
posted by kirkaracha at 8:53 AM on October 9, 2011


Pete Townshend's acoustic versions of "Pinball Wizard" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" (with John Williams) at the 1979 Secret Policeman's Ball.

10,000 Maniacs' cover of "Because the Night" on MTV Unplugged.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:14 AM on October 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


To Sing For You (Donovan Cover)/Brand New Colony — Ben Gibbard (solo). Ohmygod incredible (it's the first song in the set; can't link to it individually apparently).

Caring is Creepy — James Mercer (of The Shins)

On Sussex Downs — Patrick Wolf (Larrikin Love cover; this is obscure, but lovely. If you like Patrick Wolf's music, there's an incredible trove of acoustic recordings that I prefer to most of his recorded stuff)

Owen Pallet (formerly known as Final Fantasy) is really good at these covers too: This Modern Love (orig. by Bloc Party), and Fantasy (by Mariah Carrey). Oh, and Bloc Party's own acoustic version of that song is pretty great too.

Also, Owen Pallet's "remix" of Your Ex Lover is Dead, orig. by Stars is incredible, and strips the original song down to its core. Calling it a remix is a bit of a disservice, because it's a gorgeous violin/piano composition that happens to use the vocals from the original song.

St Vincent's cover of Dig A Pony (Beatles) is arguably better than the original.

Of Montreal do a surprisingly good stripped-down cover of Trouble by Lindsay Buckingham.

Avril Lavigne did a surprisingly great acoustic EP back in 2004, but it seems to have vanished into the ether.

Relient K also did a good acoustic EP in 2005. Must have been a good time for these things...

Any of the Takeaway Shows/Les Concerts A Emporter feature incredible stripped-down acoustic songs with great cinematography.
Some favorites:
Lizstomania / 1901 by Phoenix
The Lakes of Canada by Sufjan Stevens (Innocence Mission cover)
The Penalty by Beirut
Your Light is Spent by Final Fantasy
posted by schmod at 8:38 PM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Julie London (vocals) and Don Bagley (bass) - Bye Bye Blackbird
posted by cruelfate at 11:11 PM on October 14, 2011


Ane Brun - Big In Japan
posted by cruelfate at 11:25 PM on October 14, 2011


this cover of "You Spin Me Round" by Dead and Alive was posted to Mefi Music a few years back, and i think i could listen to it pretty much infinite times before i'd have to stop:

http://music.metafilter.com/228/You-Spin-Me-Round
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 4:31 AM on October 16, 2011


[oops, here's the easy way: You-Spin-Me-Round]
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 4:32 AM on October 16, 2011


Richard Thompson - Woodstock
posted by shinyblackdog at 8:02 PM on October 19, 2011


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