“House of the Rising Sun” – Marianne Faithfull

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One of the most underrated singers of the rock era is Marianne Faithfull. Sure, she got lots of props in the late 1970s when her voice, scratchy and scary from years of hard living put the fear of God into many (she came off liked THE last woman you’d ever want to pick up in a bar). But her earlier career … pre-hard living … doesn’t get nearly enough respect. As much as I love Faithfull with that late 1970s and beyond whiskey and cigarettes-voice, her earlier stuff is damn good. The fact that critics don’t have much use for it is why I’ve given up on rock critics. They can lead you to some good stuff you wouldn’t otherwise hear of, but ultimately, you need to trust your own ears and heart. While I prefer the Animals’ more famous cover, Faithfull’s version of “House of the Rising Sun” is particularly good.

For some perspective, I’ve posted Faithfull’s late 1990s cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Don’t Forget Me.” I love this cover, but it’s VERY different in style and tone to her material more than 30 years prior.

“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” – Nina Simone

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Most people know this by the terrific pop cover the Animals did in 1965. However, this was originally composed for jazz vocalist Nina Simone by Bennie Benjamin, Gloria Caldwell and Sol Marcus and Simone’s version … which is slower, bluesier, and more tortured-sounding … is a marvel to behold if you’ve never heard it before. The accompanying video that someone made on YouTube showing pivotal scenes of the American Civil Rights struggle during the 1950s and 1960s is particularly powerful in the context of the lyrics.

“When I Was Young” – Eric Burdon and The Animals

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A great Animals song that, while a hit back in the day, rarely pops up on Oldies or classic rock stations, unless the station is doing some “deep cuts from the vault” type thing. Too bad, because this is a really unusual and terrific song that’s the equal of “House of the Rising Sun” in my opinion.