One Man. One Microphone. Hundreds of Performers.
December 24, 2011 4:46 PM   Subscribe

An unexpected musical treat. While on a search for an interesting modern cover of the Steve Miller Band song "Abracadabra", I stumbled onto Jeff McNeal's cover, which completely confused me, as I assumed it was lip-syncing. It's not: Jeff is a professional voiceover artist, and announcer in the Los Angeles area, and he's been recording hundreds of musical impressions of a wide range of songs and artists: Credence Clearwater/John Fogerty * Cream * Steppenwolf / John Kay * The Doors/Jim Morrison * The Knack/Doug Fieger * Rolling Stones/Mick Jagger * Burt Bacharach covering Dusty Springfield * Dire Straits * Van Morrison * Tom Jones * The Travelling Wilburys * The Beach Boys * Harry Nilsson * The Police * Led Zeppelin/Robert Plant ... and on and on. There are 375+ videos, so if he doesn't nail one voice to your liking, keep going. Some are eerie, while some are a guy who does dozens of impressions doing reasonably well. He has a dedicated site to this ability, I miss you, Danny Gans.
posted by jscott (18 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
He definitely struggled with Orbison, Plant, Van Morrison, Al Green and Daryl Hall, but was dead on with Jim Morrison, Harrison, Petty and Lynne. The ones he missed are all so unique and perfect for their purpose that I'm not shocked he couldn't quite get there (or, like Orbison, couldn't really get close - who could?). Really fun stuff, though. Wish I could do this, with even one singer.
posted by GamblingBlues at 5:34 PM on December 24, 2011

Is it just my admittedly poor hearing or is this guy just not worth the buildup you gave him? I listened to three (Steve Miller, Traveling Wilburys, and Mick Jagger) and he can barely carry a tune, much less sound like the guys he's supposed to be impersonating.
posted by MegoSteve at 6:03 PM on December 24, 2011

In music, the problem with getting it 95% right is that that last 5% is really important. :)
posted by rhizome at 6:18 PM on December 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

That's the Christmas spirit, MegoSteve. I think he's got unusual talent. Some people can get close to one or maybe a couple artists but he seems to be at 85 and counting. Very unusual range. He also makes no claims to perfection, rather to "reflect the vibe of the original":
This is just one of over 85 artists I do singing impressions of. None of them are perfect, some are better than others, but all generally reflect the vibe of the original performer, hopefully.
posted by stbalbach at 6:23 PM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I dunno, y'all. He's definitely pitchy in places, that's not just you, MegoSteve. I do think he gets the stylistic parts right more often than not though.

I think what's throwing off the impact of the impression on "Brown Eyed Girl" and a few of the others I listened to is that the backing vocals and music aren't quite right, and that's playing tricks on my phonographic ear. I will say I think it's much easier to hear the impression if you keep the tab in the background.

Still, it takes balls to post performance videos that consist mostly of your face on YouTube, and I've always admired that. To the point where I create cover playlists to amuse myself. I mean, do you really think I found 121 good versions of "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars" on YouTube?
posted by ob1quixote at 6:40 PM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

He's damn good, despite intonation problems with Carl Wilson on "God Only Knows". His Robert Plant was scary good.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 7:13 PM on December 24, 2011

I'm gonna have to grinchily third megosteve. He swung and missed at the ones I listened to. Better than most of us could've done, to be sure, but I was expecting more.
posted by mreleganza at 9:09 PM on December 24, 2011

....and interesting you singled out the Robert Plant one for praise, Seekerofsplendor, because that was the last one I listened to before giving up on him. For comparison, I think this guy's better/closer.
posted by mreleganza at 9:13 PM on December 24, 2011

posted by NedKoppel at 10:01 PM on December 24, 2011

Why in the world would you be looking for a cover of "Abracadabra" by the Steve Miller Band? That's the worst modern rock song not written by Jefferson Starship ever.
(Then again, Starship was in the 1978 Star Wars Christmas special, and you can't ever take that away from them.)
posted by msalt at 1:14 AM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, I'd like to see you come up with a rhyme for "Abra, abracadabra," Mr Smarty Pants.
posted by No-sword at 12:22 PM on December 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

You know that other big famous announcer, Don Pardo? I'd like to hear Jeff McNeal do Don Pardo. I'd like to hear Jeff McNeal do Don Pardo's appearance on stage with the Frank Zappa band doing the voiceover intro to "The Illinois Enema Bandit."
posted by jfuller at 12:59 PM on December 25, 2011

mreleganza, your R. Plant guy was pretty OK for sure, though it was rather a short sample and not a good segment of the song to really tell properly. I think the first guy in the link posted sounded a bit more "British" too, if you will, taking the cake.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 7:44 PM on December 25, 2011

Dusty was covering Bacharach/David in The Look Of Love, not the other way around.
posted by rfs at 7:54 PM on December 25, 2011

Well, I'd like to see you come up with a rhyme for "Abra, abracadabra," Mr Smarty Pants.

I thought you'd never ask....

Abra, abracadabra
My sister gargles with magma.

or (and I can't believe this isn't a TV ad yet)

Abra, abracadabra
Just take a couple Viagra!
posted by msalt at 9:02 AM on December 26, 2011

The thing about Miller's "Abracadabra" is that his voice has a lot of texture in parts and it would be more difficult to do a spot-on version of this than, say, "The Joker." The phrasing is also a lot less bluesy than in his other songs, meaning (to me) that it's more technically demanding. I have no idea if that's what this guy means by his obligatory smirks before he starts each song, but I thought I'd sing some praise for Abracadabra as a song choice.
posted by rhizome at 1:14 PM on December 26, 2011

He'd be the king of some corner bar on karaoke night, but they all sound like impressions that just aren't quite there yet.
posted by davebush at 2:43 PM on December 26, 2011

Maybe it was the FPP's buildup that got me too, but he just isn't that good. I listened to them all and most were half-decent impressions, but I've seen cover bands in Reno do better.

His Robert Plant was excellent, though, I have to say.
posted by mmoncur at 2:00 AM on December 27, 2011

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