Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 218
Thurs. Sept. 19, 2013

“You Only Live Twice”
Mark Lanegan


“♫ One
life for
and one
for your

I would love to say that Iggy Pop started a trend with his very brave stab at recording a post modern version of a standards album with his 2012 LP Après, but former Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan, also member of Queens of the Stone Age, Soulsavers and The Gutter Twins with Afghan Whigs front-man Greg Dulli, would disagree as he explained the impetus for his 2013 covers album Imitations when he told Exclaim!, “This album has been in the back of my mind for a long, long time. I tried a couple of these kinds of songs when I made [1999’s I’ll Take Care of You]. I recorded an Engelbert Humperdinck song and a Frank Sinatra song, but they didn’t mesh with the rest of the record. I just set those aside and said one day I’ll do a record that’s fully committed to that kind of material, or at least that kind of sound.” That time was now and the result was this poignantly powerful album of not so famous standards crafted with Lanegan’s timeless voice.

So how did Mark select the songs to record on his very moving cover album? Lanegan talked to Alternative Nation about the tracks he selected for Imitations when he said, “Well, a lot of that stuff came from my childhood. They were records my folks were listening to when they were playing cards with their friends. Some of the songs I heard on Andy Williams records. He was very popular in our household, and to do this day, I still consider him to be one of the greatest singers of all time, although some people might consider him schmaltzy. I think he’s fantastic.”

It turns out that Lanegan is not only a fan of Andy Williams but also of vintage Nancy Sinatra. The best song on Imitations has to be his very intricate rendition of Sinatra’s title track from the James Bond classic film “You Only Live Twice.” Sounding like a smoky blues singer crooner at a half empty French Quarter bar after midnight, this very intimate cover sounds like Mark is whispering the lyrics, playing for you in the confines of your living room. Lanegan explained to Diffuser why he choose to cover Sinatra’s soundtrack gem when he said, “I actually first heard that song when the Australian punk band the Scientists did it on a b-side of a single [laughs]. That was my first introduction to that song in the ‘90s or late ’80s. It’s just a great song.

If you believe that Imitations is the sound of Mark Lanegan going for a more MOR audience you’ve haven’t been paying attention to his critically acclaimed collaborations with vocalist Isobel Campbell. The former Screaming Trees vocalist talked about his musical philosophy with Self –Titled when Lanegan explained, “There’s two kinds of music in my life–the music I’m making, that I’m part of, and the music that I’m listening to for personal enjoyment. That’s never changed. The music I’ve been a part of has changed a bit over the years, and I think I’m finally figuring out how to do it in a natural way. But the music that I listen to as a music fan, that’s always been the same, luckily. That’s why I started making music in the first place.”

Beautiful in its eloquence, this once unsung grunge icon, fulfilled his wish of recording a “croon-ish” type album that’s 100% Mark Lanegan. All you have to do is listen to his cover of “You Only Live Twice” and you will hear why the late, great Kurt Cobain named Lanegan one his favorite vocalists of all time. Mark has gone back to the past and crafted an ageless tribute to the songs his parents introduced to him as a child. Now we have Imitations and specifically “You Only Live Twice” as sonic reminders why Mark Lanegan is one of the great unsung singers of our post modern age. You will definitely thank me for this one. Sit back, pour a shot, drink it back, light a smoke and treasure Mark Lanegan’s dark voiced homage till the end of night.