i am ... willing
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Moby Grape - "I Am Not Willing". Peter Lewis' voice goes nowhere in particular, bobbing like walnut shells. But the piano is insistent, fateful, even inevitable. There's peace in the karmic wheel; it's something to be "grateful" about. Moby Grape have enough confidence in the Way Things Are that the guitar solo can fade right out. If this is psychedelic rock, it's the kind that turns right inwards, watching the pulse of your own capillaries - following the shivering slow of your heart.


Lloyd Cole - "I Am Not Willing". Strange that Lloyd Cole's new album isn't even out yet: everyone's been talking about him thanks to Camera Obcura's recent namedrops. Here he takes on the Moby Grape classic, and I hear none of Lewis' weariness. Cole is feeling new things as he treads through this life. He's surprised at his feelings (see the way the glimmering MOR synths give way to real life drums) - but he truly is grateful. A song about the end of a relationship can feel like a song about starting something new: pushing through the veil with the knowledge that you can always, always walk forward.


thanks fred


strange flickermoving painting of light & shape in a japanese way, over at red ruin.

Posted by Sean at August 28, 2006 3:00 AM

Great song.

It's one of those classic-sounding songs that, for whatever reason, was lost with time.

Both versions are great (though I like Grape's version better).

It's great to see what too artists do with the same piece.



Posted by Ludwig at August 28, 2006 6:10 PM

*two, sorry.


Posted by Ludwig at August 28, 2006 6:11 PM

de rien, sean.

i see it a bit differently. i think that there is definite gratitude in the moby grape version; but in lloyd's, and maybe i can't shake this b/c of who he is, i believe his gratitude is intended to be sardonic, that his gratitude is as cold as his scorn.

... but there's something in those keyboards that tell me it could be both. i could see lloyd being grateful that she finally gave him a reason to turn her away.

Posted by fred at August 28, 2006 9:34 PM

Thanks for the Grape/Cole post. It's great to see a song from "69" being covered. I've always thought it was one of the most under-appreciated albums of the late '60's.
That weariness you mentioned permeates the whole album. Check out "It's a Beautiful Day Today." Never has a melody so belied a song title.

Posted by Robin Hall at August 29, 2006 11:44 AM

Did Lloyd Cole stop producing pap some time between my youth and now? Because, c'mon, I was a kid when "Perfect Skin" was on the radio, and Cole's work was then and remained as long as I heard it plastic and annoying, as opposed to the '80s work I loved, which was.. er.. plastic and endearing. And I didn't much like that first Moby Grape LP, either. Hm.

Hold on, lemme download.

OK, maybe you're right about this MG LP. Like every kid picking through used bins in the Bay Area I picked up a $2 copy of their 1967 debut, found it dull and predictable and completely wrote them off. This tune is pretty nice, and deliciously wearily rendered. Moreover, even before playing Mr. Cole's version, I can just hear why he'd cover this one. Listen to the guitar filigrees in the background, then listen to the sheen on "Perfect Skin" -- sonically he's coming home, I predict.

Yeah, listen to how he brings that tertiary pop decoration forward. Pretty wallpaper is where the man lives, and has for nearly two decades. He was a craftsman even then, I'll give him that, and his craft wears well. But crikey, just as I'm about to like it, with a little reverb-drenched tom fill around the minute mark, he turns on the too-mannered wall of sound and it's all downhill.

My longstanding analytical model for cover songs is simple: it must be much better or much different than the original -- ideally, both, as in the Television Personalities cover of "Bike". This one is different, but not a lot. Pretty though the cover is, the only thing I like about Cole's version is hearing the guitarist's fingers on his strings now and then. That almost makes his version human.

I had planned to argue with Mr. Most-Underappreciated, but he was right (maybe without the superlative). Now I have to dig up a used copy of this one and give it a shot.

Thanks for the original, and screw Lloyd Cole.

Posted by wcw at September 3, 2006 11:41 PM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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