by carl wilson

I'm Stuck With A Valuable Friend

I'm listening to it right now, and I can't tell you what the rationale of sometimes-considered-to-be-a-rising-star Danny Michel's new album of David Bowie songs, Loving the Alien, could possibly be. Covering songs ranging from Moonage Daydream to Young Americans to Ashes to Ashes in a heavily Bowie-influenced but slightly craggier, more Canadian twang, the covers are distinguished mainly by 1. being acoustic-guitar based; 2. re-setting almost every song at the same middling tempo; and 3. reminding you how much more interesting the original recordings were.

On the opening cover of Young Americans it sounds almost like he's going to go for a country-covers-of-Bowie thing, which wouldn't exactly be a revelation but would be, at least, an idea. But that's the last of a country accent you get.

It's the sort of bad impulse that goes over boffo live - who wouldn't like to hear a good singer sing Sons of the Silent Age unexpectedly? - but only makes one unable to hear Michel's other work as anything but weak Bowie mimickry.

And yet! It has one of the year's best album covers, this adorably outre oil painting by Toronto supergirl Temple Bates (also of band Pony da Look). Here are the album cover & original side-by-each:


On Record | Posted by zoilus on Sunday, September 19 at 3:53 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (5)

 

COMMENTS

Saying someone is trying to sound like Bowie makes no sense. Bowie doesn't sound like anything...or everything? Every album sounds different. ?!


This was on Danny's offical site today! I guess this says it all.

"I love the Bowie versions you did. Very creative. Love the vibe on "Young Americans". Nice production too"
Email from Mike Garson (David Bowie's Piano player since 1973)

Posted by kevin on September 24, 2004 11:51 AM

 

 

CORDMAG.COM Vancouver
Rating: http://www.cordmag.com/006september2004/cddannymichel.html
I was eagerly waiting for this one to plop into my mailbox. I tossed it on for my morning commute, and as I walked down the street in a colourful fall sunrise, I could not wipe the delirious smile off my face. What we’ve got here (so it would see at the outset) is Danny Michel doing David Bowie covers. But it’s still very much a Danny Michel record. Much like former Grape Of Wrath, Kevin Kane’s spot-on Stairway To Kevin album, where he did “Ashes To Ashes” amongst other non-Bowie tunes, if you’re not paying close enough attention, you might not even pick up that some of this music isn’t actually one of Michel’s own.

He starts out with his signature plodding, cabin-country plinkiddy guitars and speak-singing, oozing character. He gives “Young Americans” the sort of treatment it’s never had before. Here’s the surprising part though - as the album went along, my delirious smile turned to a face fulla shock. It started slowly… you know, just some electronics leaking into the music below the vocals, a few more twisty things that we aren’t used to hearing from Michel. But suddenly... suddenly “Andy Warhol” comes around. It had been building all this time, but I still was not in any way prepared to hear Michel yodel like that. I didn’t know he could do that. Suddenly there’s that crazy vocal action, there’s effects poured
thickly over everything, there’s a hundred thousand people harmonizing behind him. Or a hundred thousand him’s harmonizing behind himself. What’s happening?

Our dear, sweet, neighbourly Danny Michel is getting all racy on us! Yeeehaaa! Is that…is that…sex appeal??! Oh Bowie makes delicious monsters of us all.
Now and then, like in “Big Brother,” we hear some of Michel’s signature guitars come back in, but mostly from here on out it’s just a strong, loud, appropriate homage to the unparalleled David Bowie. Michel sings throughout all over the
place. He maintains his characteristic vocal titches, but we rarely hear him sing so fluidly. There’s moments that sound perfectly lifted from Bowie lore.
Michel goes off on this disc. I like that he chose some of the more unconventional tracks from Bowie. From a guy who owns somewhere in the neighbourhood of 200 Bowie records (as he told us here), I’d expect no less. It’s strange to hear
him sing with a certain vacancy on his version of “Ashes To Ashes,” definitely coming across as downright creepy. And his treatment of “Lady Stardust” is interesting - but I’ll leave that one for you to find out about yourself. No matter what, it’s fun and danceable like the real thing - both of them. (Does Bowie know about this record? Someone should tell him... really.) Lyric of choice : Well that’s not fair - these aren’t Michel’s lyrics. And if you want me to pick through Bowie’s lyrics and choose something, we could be here for a while. Song of choice
: “Andy Warhol” - I looooove hearing Michel go batshit on this one. -Andy Scheffler

CHARTATTACK.com DANNY MICHEL Loving The Alien: Danny Michel Sings The Songs Of David Bowie(MapleMusic/Universal)
Critical darling and Bowie acolyte Danny Michel gets his rocks off big-time on this lovingly
rendered covers disc. The Kitchener native wisely sticks to lesser-known tracks * "Young Americans" is the only major hit * leaving him free to give his own spirited readings. Michel allows his virtuoso musicianship and gritty rasp to propel the songs, as on the outstanding "D.J." That Michel loves the alien is plainly obvious; that his enjoyment is so infectious throughout the record makes it a first-rate listen for fans of both artists. --Matt Semansky

OTTAWA XPRESS September 23rd, 2004 Shotgun : Archives Danny's trip down Bowie lane By Sylvie Hill

"I got half way up to the canyon And all the stars were shining bright Your Polaroid on the dashboard It kept me going through the night So don't wait up, just rest your eyes 'Cause I can't rush this beautiful ride Nobody move, this is Perfect It's just like you" Perfect, from Tales from the Invisible Man, 2003 A lot of bands put out an exceptional, mind-blowing CD but fail miserably on the follow-up. Then there's skater-style, bedhead shy-guy former Ottawan, Danny Michel. Deemed by darling Toronto pop music critic Ben Rayner as "a fine candidate for national treasurehood," Canada's Juno-nominated
troubadour Michel has succeeded in making every one of his five CDs, from Before the World Was Round to Tales from the Invisible Man, a must-have, and he's about to release Loving the Alien: Danny Michel Sings the Songs of David Bowie. Just
don't call it a "tribute album," especially to his face! Danny is a good-natured gentleman who clearly considers his music "art," and himself an artist before rock star. So he's adamant about the idea that he's not so much covering Bowie's
tunes as interpreting them. "Covering anyone's song is pointless unless you add a bit of your own spices. I tried to give them my own spin"-something he has wanted to do since he was 20. "I finally got around to it ... this CD is for me," he admits. "I made it for fun. Pure art for no reason. That's it," and happily his record label, Burnt Bun, gave him the go-ahead to record a personal side project. Consider it a scenic stopover on a very cool Danny Michel road trip. Experimentation is key in his adaptations of what he considers the "stranger Bowie stuff" like Moonage Daydream, Andy Warhol and Sons of the Silent Age. The only "hit" on the disc is opening track, Young Americans. Michel chose that one to lead because, he says, "ever since I was a kid I heard the bass line and thought, 'What are they doing? This should be a country song.'" Michel has tweaked the tune so it sounds very western-folk and has overlaid it with raspy vocals that sound like he's been chain-smoking Gauloises and drinking bourbon during recording. Another gem is his rendition of Ashes to Ashes-reason alone
to add the new release to your CD rack. What is also strange, beautiful and as interesting as the music itself is the CD art that departs from his usual punchy-coloured sleeves that have featured photos of kids, guitars, a burning house, a swimmer or Michel himself. The cover shot on the disc is a Temple Bates painting which Michel bought from a gallery of what looks like a goat/creature chick behind a steering wheel sporting a white fur mullet. "It was beautiful
and a little creepy all at once. Just like Bowie's music was to me when I was young. And who's kidding who? That's the coolest Ziggy Stardust hairdo ever!
I wanted people to look at the cover and say, 'What the f**k?'" (What the f**k then. Is it just me or does it actually look like Bowie's wife, Iman, if she were off-white, fuzzy and a goat?) On the inside, there is a drawing of Michel looking really creepy, like Edward Scissorhands as one reviewer pointed out.
Michel explains, "I wanted it to leave you feeling a little uneasy. I wanted to get a reaction out of people instead of all the boring CD art out there."
Danny says album art has to make you think and points to The Rheostatics, Queen,
Bjork and The Flaming Lips as bands with album art that he loves. As for the rest of the inside art, the images of steering wheels are no surprise coming from a guy with a non-stop touring schedule. Despite the buzz around the new
disc, he will be playing only one or two selections at shows and is writing for a new album due out in spring 2005. "I'm still Danny Michel and that's what you'll get," he says. And that's great news for fans who will be expecting nothing but the best originals such as Almost There, Mr. Black, and Newton's Apple,
played recently on CBC radio's Groove Shinny. I'll be honest-when I listened to the first few tracks off Loving the Alien, hearing Michel's vocals and quirkiness immediately got me rifling through my CD collection to play his classics instead. Bowie is a legend, but Michel's tunes offer up a more Canadian-flavoured soundtrack
of our lives that people have been able to relate to since his earliest days.
When he briefly joined Starling back in the '90s, fans would come alive when he took the mic to play one of his own works. And once he was centre stage, the night would turn into a contest between fans shouting requests for Danny to play this song or that. Fans seemed as excited about Michel as Michel is about Bowie. Has he ever met Bowie? Twice he's missed him at a party and a talk-show on account of Bowie being sick. "He should take his vitamins," Michel prescribes.
"Oh well ... probably for the best. I wouldn't know what to say. I'd ask something normal, like if he's ever been on a Jet Ski or something like that."

Posted by Review Reader on September 24, 2004 10:51 AM

 

 

I should clarify something here - when I am writing on this website, I am talking off the cuff, not writing a formal review and certainly not doing my "job", but I actually did listen to the whole disc. the "acoustic-based" remark applies to many of the songs where an overlay of electric stuff comes in later, though not all of them - thus "mainly". And Red Sails and DJ both seemed to me to be slowed down from the franticness of the originals, so were at least mid-tempo by comparison (and again "almost" every song, not every song).

Also, while it does indeed "rock" here and there - it never rocks as hard or much differently than the original songs, so again, I just don't see the POINT. how are these songs being interpreted or rethought? not much at all.

And again, I never heard Michel's stuff as excessively Bowiesque before - though I admit I was never a big fan - but this album tends to make me hear his work as though it is TRYING to be Bowiesque and failing - and in that, it does a disservice to my mental set listening to his other stuff.

obviously big Danny Michel fans are gonna disagree on all those points, though, and I respect that.

Posted by zoilus on September 23, 2004 6:12 PM

 

 

I agree with that Alex girl. He obviously never heard the whole thing or he would have realized it rocks at many points. I have this CD, Its great.

And what with calling Danny's solo music "weak Bowie mimickry."...what the hell is he talking about? Danny's music is the furthest thing from Bowie. He obviously knows nothing about bowie's or danny's music.

Kevin

Posted by Kevin on September 23, 2004 10:20 AM

 

 

Carl. You obviously never even listened to this whole CD (which is brilliant). You said its acoustic based & all mid tempo, You are wrong. Just the 1st 3 songs are. Then it goes full band & all over the map. But you have to listen past track 3 to hear that. It's so obvious you didn't because the songs you mentioned were the 1st 3! Did you Hear "Red Sails" or "DJ"? Last time I checked those were not acoustic & quite fast tempo. Really, at least fake it and add in track 9 or something to make it look like you actually listened to the albums your supposed to review. Isn't that your job?
THIS ALBUM IS BEAUTIFUL.
Alexis

Posted by Alexis on September 23, 2004 9:14 AM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson