Altered States

I hope everyone’s enjoying their Memorial Day weekend. Here on the far reaches of the Florida peninsula, it’s overcast, breezy, and, in keeping with my usual holiday routine, pretty low-key. No matter what you’re doing today, though, try to take a minute to reflect on what this day is about: Paying tribute to the men and women who have sacrificed their lives serving this country.

In the mail the other day, I got a CD called Altered States. I wasn’t clear what it was about until I read some about the disk’s creator, Robin Danar.

Danar got his start working in New York alongside producers such as Steve Lillywhite and Phil Ramone, recording artists like Billy Joel, Paul Simon, and Donald Fagen. At the same time, Danar was doing live sound and recording at CBGB in its prime, working with bands ranging from Blondie, the Ramones, Patti Smith and Television through the Dead Boys and The New York Dolls.

He is also very involved with Santa Monica, Calif., radio station KCRW, as a producer of the annual “A Sounds Eclectic Evening.” Danar, on his Web site, wrote that the Altered States album grew out of his affiliation with KCRW. “Originally inspired when I heard Chrissie Hynde singing over an electronic track on the 1992 album Moodfood,” he writes, “I’ve always wanted to produce artists doing things that they don’t normally do on their own records.

“All of these artists and songs have existing fan bases. My goal is to allow these fans to hear other artists and musical directions they might enjoy.”

The result is a very eclectic mix of artists’ takes on some familiar – and some not so familiar – songs. You get, among other things, Pete Yorn covering Bill Wither’s “Use Me”; Lisa Loeb with an acoustic version of The Damned’s “Video Nasty”; and, perhaps most interestingly, LA-area singer/songwriter Quincy Coleman reaching back 35 years into Pink Floyd’s songbook to cover “Fearless,” from Floyd’s Meddle album.

The tunes I’m posting are a couple of the ones I liked best, particularly Jim Bianco’s Tom Waits-ish style version of “Life During Wartime.”

Message of Love (Pretenders cover).mp3 Paul Buchanan
Life During Wartime (Talking Heads cover).mp3 Jim Bianco

You can get Robin Danar’s album from Amazon or from eMusic.

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