Friday, January 21, 2005

Song of the Week 1/21/05

Bill Janovitz and Crown Victoria - "It Makes No Difference"

This is the first time that a Song of the Week entry is a repeat. Well, a sort of repeat. In September 2004 the original version of "It Makes No Difference" by The Band became a Song of the Week selection after I saw Janovitz and company cover it at the Mercury Lounge. Since I didn't have a recording of their version, I dug out The Band's 1975 album Northern Lights-Southern Cross and played their original recording over and over.

I've always been a big fan of The Band--their debut Music From Big Pink was one of the first 20 CDs I purchased in 1987 after getting my first disc player, and when their catalog was reissued in 2000 I was fortunate to have a friend at Capitol who sent me all of it. The first time I heard "It Makes No Difference" was on The Last Waltz soundtrack. The sound of Rick Danko and Richard Manuel's voices melding on the choruses into a cathartic cry stuck in my head. So much so that I needed to pick up the needle off the record and play it again, and again, and then a third time. As the years went by I forgot about the song until getting those Band reissues, and once again I played the song multiple times after my first spin through the disc.

Then came that sterling performance by Janovitz and Crown Victoria in September of 2004. I was so overcome with joy and sadness and amazement that I'm surprised I didn't break down into tears. I read an interview with Janovitz when Buffalo Tom's Big Red Letter Day was released, and the interviewer nailed exactly what I felt about the group--he called them a modern day version of The Band. These guys wrote simple songs about average people, and Janovitz delivered his vocals with a passion that recalled the best moments of Manuel and Danko. Ever since then I always thought that hearing Janovitz sing a Band song would be a great moment. And I was oh so right. Last week Janovitz and company came back into town to play a show at Sin-E and make an appearance on Vin Scelsa's WFUV program Idiot's Delight. And since Scelsa loves to have his guests perform a cover to close out the night, I knew I would finally have a recording of this stellar version. And so this week I made an MP3 out off my old-fashioned cassette recording of the show (which featured a two hour Janovitz segment, thank you Mr. Scelsa!) and have listened to their version over and over. I'm not sure what sort of romantic problems (if any) Robbie Robertson was having when he penned the lyrics, but as a man who has been through some hefty unrequited love in his time, this verse just nails it:

"Now there's no love
As true as the love
That dies untold
But the clouds
Never hung so low before"
(c) 1975 Medicine Hat Music

Alas, I have no link to provide you so you can hear Janovitz sing these words as if he was channeling every bit of my heartbreak (real and/or imagined), but if you want to hear it, email me and I'll see what I can do. And thanks Bill, for making perhaps the best cover ever.

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