Here we are again with “VERSIONS” – our look at the songs, the performers and the interpretations by performers of the songs. This time around Gordon Sharpe casts his eye over over the song ‘These Days’ and some of its varied iterations over the decades.
A recent article regarding Greg Allman’s album, ‘Laid Back’, resulted in some comments from our readers about the Jackson Browne penned track, ‘These Days’, particularly about alternative versions given that it was suggested it was the best song on the album. Consequently, suggestions were made regarding versions by Iain Matthews and Fountains of Wayne. So here was a VERSIONS article building before our eyes. In order to enhance the article, it seemed best to add a couple of additional artists to the mix, namely Browne himself and Nico.
Greg Allman (1973) Best start with the instigator. Allman’s version of, ‘These Days’, is almost certainly the highlight of the album mainly for the quality of the lyric but also the world-weary melancholy that Allman brings to the vocal. The arrangement seems to absolutely nail the sentiment of the song and Browne considered it a superior version to his own.
Ian Matthews (1973) A first alternative suggestion was by Nigel Michaelson, namely the Iain Matthews version which features pedal steel and a vocal that feels the other end of the spectrum to Allman’s – it’s very open and melodic, beautifully enunciated. What really interested was that Matthews, who seemed to have slipped from gaze somewhat, had such a productive and varied career. So thanks for that steer, Nigel.
Fountains of Wayne (2005) Next up was a suggestion by Andrew Riggs, putting forward The Fountains of Wayne, a band beloved by some at AUK central. It’s a charmingly simple and effective arrangement of guitar and voice that definitely grows on listening. As always it was great to have input from a reader, generated by the original article.
Jackson Browne (1971) Well, you have to have something by the original artist so here’s a performance by Browne himself. Of everything he ever did, this is right up there as a highlight. Even for those who are not huge Browne fans it is easy to see where he sits within the canon as a leading example of a singer-songwriter. It’s no secret that he wrote the song when he was 16; there are traces of a youthful lack of polish but it is a fine track nonetheless.
Nico (1967) So to finish – Nico, with whom Browne had an artistic and brief personal relationship. Though she produced some interesting music, it is also the case that the myth has often transcended the reality in terms of her standing and abilities. The mannered vocal on this track veers toward self-parody at times and if he were around perhaps Leonard Cohen might tell us if she really was born with, “The gift of a golden voice“. Whatever the answer you can’t deny it’s a very different take on the song.
So there you go. Wikipedia list at least 25 different versions of something that has become a modern standard – and we haven’t even mentioned Glen Campbell.