June 17 — “Blue Moon”, as covered by His Name Is Alive

His Name Is Alive (in 1993)

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Blue Moon”, as covered by His Name Is Alive (1993, from the album Mouth By Mouth). The song was originally done by Big Star on their 1978 album Third/Sister Lovers.

His Name Is Alive is an experimental band from Livonia, Michigan. They’ve released twelve albums since 1990, and they’ve varied in style. The band lineup has also been something that changed a lot. HNIA always has been Warren Defever and a rotating cast of characters. On the first few records, there was a stereotypical 4AD Records sound. Slightly gothic, slightly ambient dream-pop. For those first four records, the primary vocalist was Karin Oliver. The fifth record —Ft. Lake (1998)–marked a big change in the band’s direction, and frankly, it was one that I didn’t care for. There was less of the dreamy stuff and there was a new influence. A new direction. Gospel. To that end, Defever brought in Lovetta Pippen, a new singer who had a storied background in gospel music. I don’t know whether Karin Oliver was forced out, or if she left on her own, but as soon as that album was released, Oliver left the band to pursue a career in marketing.

After a few gospel-influenced records, HNIA changed again. Although I stopped paying attention after Ft. Lake, my understanding is that the two newer records marked a return to the “classic HNIA” (read: Mouth By Mouth) sound. My understanding is also that those records aren’t very good.

For a while, back in the early- to mid- 1990s, His Name Is Alive was one of my favorites. I was always especially fond of Mouth By Mouth.

There are a lot of really brilliant songs on the album, and I’ve specifically chosen today’s song because I inadvertently made a sound this morning that reminded me of the cowbell claps in the intro to it.

First, the song:
“Blue Moon” as covered by His Name Is Alive

I’ll suggest, by the way, that you listen to this song on headphones. Not the crappy ones that you got for free with your mp3 player or phone. The ones that you had to spend real money on.

Like the original, this version has … what is that? A French Horn? For all I know, it might even be the same horn track from the Big Star version.

That brings me to something that I didn’t even know until today. The US version of Mouth By Mouth is different from the “rest of the world” version. That’s because a partnership had just been signed 4AD and Warner Brothers Records. WB didn’t care for some of the samples that were on the album. They were afraid that the samples had been used without consent. Fearing lawsuits, they released a watered down version for distribution in the US. The songs were different, and one song was completely left off of the US version. The irony of that, if that part of the story is true, is that one of the songs that was left intact was “Can’t Go Wrong Without You”, which features a lot of samples lifted from Prince’s “Purple Rain”. Of course, Purple Rain was a ten million unit seller for WB.

Anyway, what I love so much about this version is the heavy drums. They’re synthetic, but it’s still pretty sweet. The bit at 0:58 is when it gets really heavy. Not “heavy” as in “fast and hard” “Heavy” as in “thick and weighty”. And then at 1:36, even heavier. The Big Star version doesn’t have any drums at all, so that’s all Warren Defever right there.

I think that the US version was deleted and the “real” version was restored as the only version. However, it’s fallen out of print. Digital copies are available wherever you do your legal mp3 downloading.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

One response to “June 17 — “Blue Moon”, as covered by His Name Is Alive

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