Hey folks, I’m working on a cover of Fever for the covers contest, and have an initial version suitable for sharing. Note this isn’t meant to be a finished mix, so although I’m very happy to receive input on that, I’m a little more interested in comments about the arrangement and instrumentation at this stage.
My take on the tune was to use the venerable song form of a murder ballad, in which the fever is a very different kind of passion than in the original.
Couple specific questions I’d love some input on: Is the tone of the bass guitar on point for this spare kind of arrangement, does it need to sound more like an upright? And what do you think of there being no percussion? A glaring lack or appropriate to the vibe? Does the vocal need a harmony part?
All comments welcome, thanks for listening…
V2 after incorporating first salvo of comments.
V2B a cleaned-up V2.
V4 after several upgrades and additions.
V4C to correct the timing problem that @Aef pointed out, and is the latest version.
I didn’t realize a “murder ballad” was a song form… Nicely done and great playing! Is that you singing? Nice voice too, I haven’t heard anything you’ve done before.
It sort of reminds me of this song. My Dad used to play this and others on his real-to-reel tape deck when I was a kid.
The bass didn’t stick out or distract, but I wonder if it needs to be a little more present? I’m not missing percussion, but maybe you could change up the arrangement a little to break things up and add interest? Maybe a “quiet / intense” section to build drama? Do you play harmonica?
Another vocal part might help to keep things interesting. (Yep, listening again some more vocal parts would definitely help.)
I kind of get bored with original song too, so maybe it’s just me. Just shootin’ from the hip here because you asked.
Really impressive Dave! You nailed the vibe. Very creative take on this!
Hey Dave - very inventive - great sounding too! Love the guitar, vocal and mando tones. The bass is very subdued, but it works in this concept.
I’ve definitely got some ideas there!
Ah yes, this has a very long tradition. I think for this to be truly effective, you need to really kick the arrangement up a fair few notches. As has been noted above, the bare bones arrangement here has a touch of monotony to it, so a careful arrangement can really land the emotional punches…
The best, most recent song I’ve heard that gives a nod to this genre is the song “Baby’s Home” by The Lemonheads
For me, this song packs a devastating emotional punch, not just because of the way that Evan Dando nonchalantly outlines his nefarious plans - or even the fact that he delivers the story in such a way that the listener might start to sympathise with his unthinkable cause - but mainly because the way the arrangement ebbs and flows totally nails the creepiness of the narrative… The little touches of dissonance from the lead guitar underline the turmoil to a tee…
Eg. the spare second verse allows a build up to the second chorus, then the 3rd verse gets even sparer in both arrangement and instrumentation. Check out the section from 2:37-2:56 and listen to the masterful delivery of the vocals, as well as the strategic (but very brief) stops in the arrangement that so effectively underline the heavy meaning of the lyrics.
IMO, it’s these kind of things that are going to really make a song like this have the emotional impact it needs.
To get specific with your cover: I think the arrangement needs to “shift gears” and carry the listener along. The bass could change up in the second verse from 2:17 on so that the rhythm becomes steadier - the bass pulses could be more frequent and carry the song along better.
Another effective approach is to “wrong foot” the listener’s expectations at some point. For example the mandolin instrumental interlude between verses becomes somewhat predictable by the end of the second verse. You could try just chopping it out and moving on with the song there.
The 3rd verse is where it really needs to “get moving” IMO. Here is what I heard in my head the very first time I listened to the song:
The “train” beat reflects the narrative, changes up the rhythm, but also enables some strategic “stops” to nail down the emotional punch of the lyrics. Those stops could be even sparser - perhaps just a lone vocal - if done right.
I’m suggesting a lot here, but I would definitely recommend experimenting with the vocal delivery to get that greater sense of storytelling and impact.
I think Andrew gave you some great ideas to work with.
I don’t know why, but I was hearing something more ominous and old school, to add a bit more suspense. I think it’s along the lines of what you already have, just some more attack and some plate or spring reverb on it maybe. I don’t know how they achieved this tone, but this is what I was thinking (see video below). It might only work for one section though, not all the way through.
nicely done. I would agree with Andrew about the need for some sparse sections to add to the drama. funnily enough i was thinking of taking this same approach but now hearing yours i have decided against it because you are executing it so well.
Hey, thanks guys for the great input! This is exactly what I was hoping for in putting up my early draft. Really appreciate the thoughtful suggestions and examples too-- so useful.
I totally get that the musical arc doesn’t keep up with the story arc in the lyrics, and that’s something I will definitely work on. I could lose both those short mando-riff sections leading into verses 2 and 4, and still have a nice symmetry of mando in the open, for the solo halfway through, and in the final chorus and ending riff.
And I love the ideas about changing up the instrumentation to add drama and elements of surprise. Will be taking that on board for sure.
I love how that train rhythm sounds, and in fact had in mind using one, but wanted some fresh ears on it… I’m ready to go on that. Definitely mirrors the lyrics in the last verse…
Eric, sorry to harsh on your gig!! As soon as it occurred to me that this tune would not take much tweaking to be a murder ballad, I was sold on that being my approach…
Probably be a couple weeks before I have an update. Got a busy week ahead and then on travel for most of the next…
Love the intro right off. what a vibe:) Great vocal bud. Like the way you stepped up the vox at the 1:40 ish. Needed that. Gotta find some way to get some excitement in there somewhere tho. What you have is very good. I just thinks it needs just a little more. ???
Well, turns out I had a fairly productive afternoon and evening today, and have a new draft for your consideration. I took these comments to heart in what I hope are changes for the better. I took out the two little mandolin breaks after verses 1 and 3 and left in the solo at the halfway point (tune is now 20 seconds shorter). Went for a stop & gradual restart sorta thang with the instrumentation for the second half, building back up until the train drums arrive for the home stretch. Also got some of that sound on the bass that Stan suggested, and tried to put in a piece of strategic ear candy or two also.
Keep in mind, still very much a work in progress, and I may need to re-track some parts, we shall see… I did already re-do the vocal for the second half of the song so that I could swing along with the drums.
And while making this revision, I got to thinking that with the driving rhythm of the train drums, it sort of emphasizes that the guy is now on the run after doing in the ill-fated lovers, to who knows what fate. So I like having the rhythm drive to the end without any significant breaks or pauses.
This has a dark, western and folk vibe. This conjures up images of a desert ghost town, with tumble weeds, gun slinging cowboys, alcohol and some pretty women.
I like the guitars and especially the mandolin. The bass sounds really full and strong in the first version and it seems the guitars and mandolin sound louder in that version also. I think I prefer that strength over the second version, but I do like the dynamic arrangements in the second version. I wouldn’t get bored of either version.
Cool! I’d had in mind more of a southeastern US, Appalachian kind of setting, up in the hills, where back in the day many small towns not that far apart physically had little contact, so that “hopping a freight a few towns down the line” was a reasonable way of falling off the local radar. But a wild west setting works perfectly too! The train drums do lend it that kind of feel…
This is a great idea for this tune CW! And I never heard of “murder ballads”, wow… What you have here is well done and works as it is. I think CRS’s more basic drum track gives a better driving feel though, sometimes less is more. And with a train rhythm I long for some harp, jaw-harp, dobro or steel guitar too.
Ha. I love this. I was reading through the comments wondering why everyone was saying it was too bare boned, then realized I was listening to your V2.
I think the arrangement is all really great. There are times where it feels a little bit cluttered, but I think it would come down to some editing rather than re-arranging. Just some timing fixes when things get busy. Not so much that it feels rigid, but just enough to keep it feeling solid.
I sort of wish the feeling of the last chord didn’t end on such a happy note, but then again maybe that’s what makes it so great. I’d say you set the bar pretty high with this version.
Hey, thanks for the kind words y’all. I just put a V2B up in the OP, it cleans up some stuff, in particular the transition to almost-no-instruments halfway through. That’s much more natural sounding now, not so artificial.
I like the idea of a slide guitar element as some ear candy in there, will give that some thought. And I do wish I could play harmonica, I totally agree it cries out for a harp. If I could magically be able to play any one instrument, I would pick harmonica.
Also need to figure out whether some backing vox are worth considering. I don’t want things to get overly busy, but I could see some short choral stabs in the deep background possibly working…
I am listening on low budget non-mixing headphones through a laptop.
Comments are based on this version:
V2B a cleaned-up V2, and is the latest version.
vox words all understandable
singing style matches music style
great contrast on “curse my soul” instr drop out
great concept on “left town…” and train beat
Vocals more present
more contrast between vs and ch…maybe half-time on the vs gtr arpeggios and then the dbl time, or faster picking like you have now for the chorus.
2nd verse add something different arrangement-wise
song concept: instead of saying “I have no more fever”…replace the idea with now “fever” of being haunted by her
ghost/memories OR fever of being caught like Crimes and Punishment (guilt)…it will add new color to the hook
ok, I just listened again. I think I know what the cluttered sound is coming from. That intro, it sounds like the tempo is just slightly faster than you can comfortably play it, and it feels like you are constantly trying to keep up rather than playing comfortably, and the accented notes are just slightly lagging a lot of the time.