Thursday, February 25, 2010

"This Cruel Thing" (Live)- Amazing Little Parlor Games... A Collection of Live and Unreleased Songs- Volume Four, 2005

I made the trip a week last, to the Vic Shows at the 40 Watt, in Athens. It was a fascinating, albeit emotionally exhausting tribute to the man whom was loved by so many. The performers where an array of national acts, Athens' locals, fellow songwriters, musical friends and former collaborators...each of whom had a special connection with Vic and his art.

One of the many highlights, on Saturday, was a special performance by Silver Mtn. Zion and Guy Picciotto...Vic's partners in crime on At The Cut. Sitting in on vocals was Vic's niece and an amazing vocalist in her own right, Liz Durrett. This ensemble performed, what I consider, the best song of the evening, and a song that Vic never committed to a studio album... This Cruel Thing.
This Cruel Thing is a rather old song. The earliest performances dating back to the early 1990s, and even though a studio version has yet to surface, the song isn't completely unknown. Vic licensed it for the soundtrack to the movie A Slipping Down Life where it was performed by actor Guy Pearce. I like that version and it's included below.

Lyrically the song draws heavily from a sentimental Civil War ballad entitled Weeping Sad and Lonely (When This Cruel War is Over.) The ballad, penned by Charles Carrol Sawyer, is considered to be one of the most widely adored songs from the period, despite critical opinion to the opposite. Most critics panned the song as being "commonplace" and having a musical structure that was 'flimsy' and unmelodious. Not everyone agreed, however. It was heralded as "the greatest musical success ever known in this country" by the Cleveland Leader when the song was still contemporary. They went on to add that the "melody catches the popular ear and the words touch the popular heart." Despite that digression, the song sparked numerous musical replies, parodies and became popular on both sides of the battlefield.

Vic's deference is lyrically comparable, and melodically it has its similarities as well. The first line, for example, is almost identical to the title of the former composition. The original focused on the thought of the time in which it was written, and the hope of no more conflict or battles. Vic took that idea and ran with it, crafting a beautiful lyric around a touching melody and a song which becomes bittersweet with the foreknowledge of the events that occurred last Christmas.

Vic always felt in battle with life...whether it be physically or otherwise. He always seemed to make the best of his situation, but the conflict always seemed to be prevalent, and I can see why he would be drawn to the emotion of the original.

This song has always been a personal favorite of mine, and the version at the 40 Watt tribute validated that opinion. Vic's live versions are a fantastic listen, but Liz singing her version, backed by Vic's final band, caught my ear and touched my heart.

Whether a studio version, by Vic, will ever surface or not is unknown (Edit: it does exist and it is fantastic.) It's also just been recorded and is intended for inclusion on the upcoming album by Vic's former collaborators Widespread Panic. I'm glad that it wont be forgotten. (Second edit: That version is included here as well.)


Here's a live version by Vic:


Here's Guy Pearce's version:




And here's the version by Silver Mtn. Zion featuring Guy Picciotto and Liz Durrett:




And here's Widespread Panic's version:




THIS CRUEL THING

Weeping sad and lonely
When this cruel thing is over
Hopes and fears... How vain?
When this cruel thing is over

And often dreams I see you
On the battle plain
Sadly breathing...falling
When this cruel thing is over

If a mid din of battle
Nobly you should fall
I'll whisper words in honor
When this cruel thing is over.

16 comments:

  1. Many thanks for posting this.While I really liked the movie version, and the one from the tribute show with Liz Durett on vocals is terrific, as always, I like Vic's version the best. He had a lot of people cover his songs but I never heard one of them that I liked better by someone else.
    I'm on the west coast, no chance of making it to Georgia for the shows, but I'm so glad that so many people did such amazing jobs on the music (I've been listening to the shows). And again as always, I like your comments and appreciate the posting.

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  2. really love all your posts.
    thank you so much

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  3. Widespread Panic is releasing a version of This Cruel Thing on its next album, due out end of May.

    Did Vic perform My Last Act a lot? I have a cool version of him doing it with Panic from years back.

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  4. Here's Guy Ritchie's version

    er...you meant Pearce :)

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  5. Good sir, how does a rabid Vic fan get a hold of such a thing as this Amazing Little Parlor Games collection?

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  6. Ah, disregard. Found the answer to my query on the Hey Bulldog thread. I will patiently wait for the updates. Thanks again Charles, my favorite blog evah.

    As a humble suggestion, I would love to hear what you know or have to say about the song Bakersfield from Little. I have never heard a live version, and when mentioned in interviews it seemed like Vic didn't want to talk about it. Maybe too personal? I gather Bakersfield is some afterlife, and Vic is crashing the gates.

    Take it easy.

    Don

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  7. I just discovered this song from Widespread Panic's new record 'Dirty Side Down'. They really do an outstanding job with this song. I'd have to say it's my favorite track on that record. Thanks for your notes on this song.

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  8. I am just wondering about the lyrics posted here. Is there a copy somewhere that Vic himself wrote down? I am wondering whether the line might read "And oft in dreams I see you", rather than "often". And "on the battle plane", rather than "plain". (Plane and plain have different meanings. ) "amid" is one word. Sure hope I don't offend you; I am just feeling a lot, and thinking a lot about this deep and beautiful song.

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  9. My dear wife Kay died of breast cancer in May of '08. This haunting song reminds me of her, and her battle. I have "whispered words of honor" to her many times, since her passing...Thanks, Ralph Morgan - Memphis, TN .

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  10. how can I get a hold of parlor games and the rest...?

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  11. My girlfriend, who was 25 at the time, had an extremely unexpected stroke last year. Widespread Panic's album Dirty Side Down had just come out and I first heard this song.. We both took to it as an anthem of strength and courage to make it past "this cruel thing" that had interrupted both of our lives.
    RIP Vic

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  12. Are the full copies of the 40 Watt tribute(s) floating around?

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  13. Is "This Cruel Thing" ever released by Vic himself? I once heard part of it in a vimeo clip called "Remembering Vic", and thought it was really beautiful, yet I can't find it anywhere (iTunes, youtube, etc.), and the vimeo clip is gone as well. Thanks,

    Sebo

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    1. It's still an unreleased song. Hopefully soon, it will be released in the near future.

      Thanks for asking.

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  14. Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful! sham idrees nayab

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  15. I have a video taken with my Blackberry of Liz Durett's version. The video is fairly good but the sound quality not so good. Liz, SMZ and Guy's tribute to Vic very touching, perhaps the best of the two nights.

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