Rebel Songs

Volumes 1 - 12

Cory Gabel
May 10, 2019.

Ready or not, here it comes– Rebel Songs.

I'm developing/arranging a collection of cover songs, interpreting the artists and music that have most formed me as a musician. But, I'm coming at them from a different angle - completely acoustic, very raw, hopefully meaningful. Just piano and voice, or occasionally acoustic guitar.

Over the last few months, after endless obsessing and self-debate (my forte), I've pulled together 60 songs, almost entirely from modern rock and alternative genres. The first working title for this collection was Quiet Rebellion, but soon became Rebel Songs as a nod to U2 (more on that below).

All great rock music is some form of rebellion. A rebellion of sound, or thought, or intention. It's meant to distract, to interrupt. It is not background.

My hope is that by interpreting these songs in unexpected or understated ways, it may shine a slightly different light on the utter revolt happening within each. That rebellion is what makes these songs special, what makes them sing.

The Project

If you've followed my solo piano career at all, you know I've sprinkled in less-than-expected instrumental cover songs. Melt with You, Wild Horses, and Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want we're incredibly fun to arrange, and no surprise, have been fan favorites.

As I begin Rebel Songs, I'm coming off of The Casket Girls - admittedly the most ambitious musical project of my career. Over two dozen songs, many with complete orchestra and rock arrangements. And, being the control freak I am - I wrote, performed, produced and mixed everything myself, so it, ahem... took an insanely long time. (Future note, perhaps I should delegate a bit?)

I've got a couple of new theatre and dance projects cooking away in the brain, but as those develop, I want (and need) to explore something "simple" again. This is usually when I veer towards another solo piano project, but this time is different.

I had a ball writing and singing vocals again on The Casket Girls. During that process, I'd often find myself at the piano late at night. In our home, the sound of the piano carries everywhere, so when I'd play after the kiddos had gone to bed... I played quietly. I sang quietly. I wrote, noodled, and tinkered with cover songs... all very quietly.

That's the origin of this project. I'm challenging myself to interpret my favorite artists and songs... as simply, and sometimes, as quietly as I can. Just voice and piano, or perhaps acoustic guitar here and there.

And, for those that dig this kind of thing... I'm going to record, video and blog about the process for each tune as I go. Which kind of scares the crap out me. I'm used to sharing things with the world only after I feel like I've taken them as far and as good as I can go. Sharing all my hiccups, frustrations, missed notes, bad choices... will be interesting?

Will all songs make it to the finish line and end up on Spotify and iTunes? Probably not. But I intend to have a great time trying to get them there!

The Co-Conspirator

Friends and fans... meet Craig. He's my older cousin, and by older, we're talking 1 year older. And growing up, that made him my super cool older cousin.

In my pre-teen years, Craig was one of my first "non-mom" musical influences, exposing me to Cheaptrick, KISS and Van Halen, to name a few. I literally burned through the 8-track (!!) of Dream Police, largely to impress my cousin.

It's been over 25 years since I've left Kansas, and the amount of time Craig and I've spent together since is frighteningly small. But... Facebook can be a good thing. We've reconnected there, with photos of kids, birthday wishes, family stuff– but also music.

I have no other Facebook friend that posts as often as Craig on all things musical. He's a huge fan of music, but also writes and comments intelligently about it.

For this project, I intend to share why I've chosen these songs, why they're important to me, what connects with me musically and emotionally. Craig is going to contribute his perspective, the fan perspective. I'm a fan too, of course, but I can get mired in musician-gobbledygook speak. Craig's here to keep things real.

And, final editorial note... I encourage anyone and everyone to disagree with our choices, question our judgment, add different perspectives, and complain forever that we didn't include the Beatles or Bruce. Let it rip.

The Songs

"To right to be wrong, in this rebel song."

I can't overstate how important all of these artists have been to me, both as musical mentors, but also as the source of why I fell in love with music in the first place. But no one looms larger than U2. The albums War, The Unforgettable Fire and Joshua Tree lie at the foundation of my musical career. I can say with complete conviction that I wouldn't have the creative life I've had without this band.

I was looking for a way to group these 60 songs to give them more context. Would it be by style? How or when they entered my musical world? Any of those approaches felt either too generic or too much about me.

So, instead, I sought out U2 lyrics that could serve as titles and guideposts. The 12 lyrical lines that "title" each volume come from War, The Unforgettable Fire or Joshua Tree - as does the notion of "Rebel Songs".

My goal is to honor these great songs and have fun in the process. I hope you do too.

Volume 1: Dream Beneath the Desert Sky

Volume 2: Maybe the Time is Right

  • Wish You Were Here | Pink Floyd
  • Glycerine | Bush
  • Good Riddance | Green Day
  • Like a Stone | Audioslave
  • I Melt With You | Modern English

Volume 3: Surrender, Dislocate

  • Everlong | Foo Fighters
  • Enjoy the Silence | Depeche Mode
  • Can't Help Falling in Love | Elvis Presley
  • Closer to Fine | Indigo Girls
  • Yellow Ledbetter | Pearl Jam

Volume 4: The Storm Blows Up in Her Eyes

  • Fade Into You | Mazzy Star
  • Angel | Sarah McLaughlin
  • Breathe Me | Sia
  • Make You Feel My Love | Adele
  • Zombie | Cranberries

Volume 5: No Spoken Words, Just a Scream

  • 9 Crimes | Damien Rice
  • Red Rain | Peter Gabriel
  • Fake Plastic Trees | Radiohead
  • Release | Pearl Jam
  • Bad | U2

Volume 6: Wipe Your Tears Away

  • Purple Rain | Prince
  • Just Breathe | Pearl Jam
  • Oh My Sweet Carolina | Ryan Adams
  • Take On Me | A-ha
  • Butterfly | Lenny Kravitz

Volume 7: I Have Held the Hand of a Devil

  • Blue Monday | New Order
  • Wave of Mutilation | Pixies
  • Ring of Fire | Johnny Cash
  • Uprising | Muse
  • Hurt | Nine Inch Nails

Volume 8: This Bomb-Blast Lightning Waltz

  • Disarm | Smashing Pumpkins
  • Driver 8 | r.e.m.
  • I Want You to Want Me | Cheaptrick
  • No Surprises | Radiohead
  • You Don't Get Much | BoDeans

Volume 9: She is Raging, She is Raging

  • Miss World | Hole
  • #1 Crush | Garbage
  • I Know | Fiona Apple
  • The Metro | Berlin
  • Last Day of Our Acquaintance | Sinead O'Connor

Volume 10: From the Firefly, a Red Orange Glow

  • Exit Music for a Film | Radiohead
  • Psycho Killer | Talking Heads
  • Lovesong | The Cure
  • Hallelujah | Jeff Buckley
  • Black | Pearl Jam

Volume 11: And the Angel was Overcome

  • Run | Snow Patrol
  • If You Want Me | Markéta Irglová & Glen Hansard
  • Love Vigilantes | New Order
  • Outside | Staind
  • All I Want is You | U2

Volume 12: And So, To Fade Away

  • Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want | The Smiths
  • Something in the Way | Nirvana
  • To Sheila | Smashing Pumpkins
  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow | Tori Amos
  • 40 | U2


  • ThomS

    September 11, 2019 (12:49)

    There’s some good songs here! A few personal favourites that have meant a lot to me as well and I don’t see mentioned a lot: Fade into You – Mazzy Star, I Know – Fiona Apple. A few that carry quite a bit of nostalgia for me: Lightning Crashes, Glycerine, Everlong, Zombie. Plus, plenty that have soundtracked a lot of my life like Radiohead and Pearl Jam. Will be interesting to see how you work with all the different styles of songs

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