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Baring Radiohead's Secret Soul

Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson contributes to The Randy Watson Experience's cover of "Morning Bell."
Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson contributes to The Randy Watson Experience's cover of "Morning Bell."

The music of Radiohead fascinates a wide variety of artists: Musicians ranging from jazz pianist Brad Mehldau to classical composer Christopher O'Riley have mined the band's fertile songbook of angst-ridden alternative rock and electronica. A group of R&B and deep-house acts delve into Radiohead's music on Exit Music: Songs with Radio Heads, producing a mesmerizing moment in The Randy Watson Experience's poignant makeover of "Morning Bell."

The Randy Watson Experience features ?uestlove, drummer for the hip-hop group The Roots, and R&B keyboardist James Poyser. With the help of Donn's lovely voice, they transform "Morning Bell" into aching soul-electronica balladry. Donn wonderfully articulates Thom Yorke's nightmarish lyrics, which evoke the emotional toll of divorce with lines such as "You can keep the furniture" and "Cut the kids in half."

Donn helps bring out the inherent comeliness of Radiohead's melodicism, while ?uestlove's lacerating bombast conveys the song's menacing feel and Poyser's spacey synth embellishments help provide an avant-soul vibe. As anxious energy gives way to a sensual groove before cresting again into riotous rock, the result is a spellbindingly soulful tribute.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

John Murph
John Murph writes about music and culture and works as a web producer for BETJazz.com. He also contributes regularly to The Washington Post Express, JazzTimes, Down Beat, and JazzWise magazines.