Aug 142018
 
lena hall rebel rebel

In her monthly EP series of “stripped-down, vocal-intensive” covers called OBSESSED, the Tony-winning and Grammy-nominated Lena Hall tackles a different artist every month. With August comes David Bowie, and she kicked things off with “Rebel Rebel.” When we interviewed her in June, she named Nirvana’s “The Man Who Sold the World” one of her favorite covers ever, and with five new Bowie covers coming this month she aims to live up to that high bar. Continue reading »

Aug 132018
 
cher gimme gimme gimme cover

Having been working for a mind-boggling six decades, Cher is set to release an album of ABBA covers called Dancing Queen in September. The ear-worm classics “Dancing Queen,” “Waterloo,” and “Fernando” are all present and accounted for, along with some deeper cuts like “One of Us” and “Chiquitita.” It’s a quick and canny follow-up to her appearance in the sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. In the movie, Cher appears as the mother of Donna, the matriarch played by Meryl Streep where she sings “Fernando” to Andy Garcia and pops up again with the entire ensemble on “Super Trouper.” Continue reading »

Aug 132018
 
hilary scott kiss

If the only “Kiss” cover you know is that Tom Jones one, get ready for something new, pussycat. On her upcoming album Don’t Call Me Angel (out October 12), Washington state singer-songwriter Hilary Scott turns the Prince classic into a smoky blues ballad. She starts out sounding like the Mississippi Delta before the song gradually builds into a blast of Bonnie Raitt soul. It’s unlike any “Kiss” cover we’ve ever heard, and one of the best Prince homages to come out since his passing. Continue reading »

Aug 102018
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

sour times

Had hipsters been prevalent in 1994-5, Portishead’s “Sour Times” would have made a perfect hipster wedding song. It had something old (the band was steeped in spy soundtracks of the ’50s and ’60s), something new (they didn’t invent trip-hop, but they did introduce it to millions of Americans), something borrowed (they sampled Lalo Schifrin’s “Danube Incident”), and something blue in Beth Gibbons’ sad vocals. “Nobody loves me, it’s true” she sings, then neatly dodges self-pity by adding “Not like you do.” Neo-noir as ’90s radio got, “Sour Times” was one of those songs that hooked listeners across the musical spectrum from the first seconds of the first listen. Continue reading »

Aug 102018
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

The story of rock ’n roll is littered with unsung heroes, pioneers, and straight-up madmen, but few—if any—cast as long a shadow as Arthur Taylor Lee, the frontman of the ‘60s Los Angeles band Love. Last Friday, August 3rd, marked 12 years since his passing, but if anything his legend has continued to grow, not diminish, following his death at the age of 61.

Then again, that’s not saying much. For most of his life, Arthur Lee’s renown had nowhere to go but up. Love (the band) was more a theory than a working practice, and outside of a loyal local following in its mid-60s heyday, there were precious few rewards for the band’s labors: A handful of reasonable chart positions and occasional airplay, but little to no financial or critical acclaim, particularly after the essential lineup of the band quit (or were fired by Lee) following their late 1967 album Forever Changes.

After that, Lee spent the next couple of decades issuing a sporadic series of solo albums and half-hearted reboots, none of which garnered—or, frankly, deserved—much attention. So why celebrate him now? What about this troubled, and often troublemaking man deserves our attention?

Continue reading »

Aug 082018
 
matt berry tv themes

You might recognize Matt Berry from British comedies like The IT Crowd, The Mighty Boosh, and his own Toast of London. Personally, I know him from his scene-stealing appearance in Community (“You hit me! With a woman’s hand!”). But he’s also a no-joke musician, having released a half-dozen albums over the past two decades, and scoring many of his TV shows himself.

So, rather than a comedian dipping a toe into music as a lark (or “brand extension”), Berry may be the perfect person to record an album called Television Themes. The content is exactly as advertised; more specifically, he’s covering British TV themes from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. Though beloved in their day, many of the theme songs became pretty obscure in subsequent decades, having never been properly released. While some of the shows I know (Dr Who, Top of the Pops), I admit I don’t even recognize half these names. Blankety Blank? The Liver Birds? Continue reading »