The Topsiders decided to take popular hits of the day and rearrange them with a folk sound reminiscent of groups like the Weavers or the Kingston Trio. But they’re not just simply changing the style, they also change the chord progressions to make the songs sound more like folk songs. It’s an interesting experiment. Whether or not you think the experiment works depends on how much leeway you want to give these re-imagined versions.
We (and the album itself) will start with the classic song “Let the Good Times Roll.” Other than the style change and the rhythm, this isn’t too far off from the original. I guess that’s to ease us into the songs that deviate more from what we’re more familiar with.
Next we have Fats Domino’s (or Pat Boone’s if you couldn’t handle the real stuff) “Ain’t That a Shame.” We start to notice a little more difference in the verses, although the chorus is pretty close.
Here’s Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” although here I think (in my opinion at least) the style change almost overwhelms the song so much that, without the words, it would be nearly unrecognizable.
Finally we’ll throw in “Unchained Melody.” I’m not sure when this album came out, but I think this was before the Righteous Brothers got their shot at the song in 1965. This one steers much closer to the original, so it works better for me. I actually kind of like this version. Truth be told, as blasphemous as it may sound, I never really liked the Righteous Brothers’ version of this song because it went so freaking slow. This version picks up the pace some, which is probably why I prefer it. (Side note: If you want to hear a good speedy version of the song, find the version by Vito & the Salutations. Once you hear it, you may feel the same way I do!)
Anyway, as I said, it was an intriguingly different way to approach these songs, and for that, I applaud these guys. If you’d like to hear the rest of the album, you’ll find it here.