Jan 162018
 
cranberries covers

2017 was a particularly tough year with the loss of so many musicians, and 2018 is starting out with more sadness. Dolores O’ Riordan, lead singer of The Cranberries and one of the most recognizable female vocalists in history, has passed away at the age of 46. Their influence, and specifically, O’Riordan’s leadership, can be felt in the generations of musicians who have followed them, as described beautifully by Hozier: “My first time hearing Dolores O’Riordan’s voice was unforgettable. It threw into question what a voice could sound like in that context of rock. I’d never heard somebody use their instrument in that way.”

The Cranberries released very few covers in their career: two for tribute albums, and a third, a cover of Elvis Presley’s “In The Ghetto” on their album Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.

The first of two compilation covers, “(They Long to Be) Close to You”, can be found on If I Were a Carpenter, a tribute album to The Carpenters. O’Riordan’s voice is the immediate tip off that we have flashed forward almost 25 years from the original hit. With sparse instrumentals, the Irish lilt is especially pronounced, as is the slightly darker tone of O’Riordan’s voice from Karen’s sweetly sung rendition. It’s a lovely cover, and a standout on the album. Continue reading »

Jan 162018
 
joan baez tom waits cover

This week, Joan Baez revealed she will be retiring from the road at the end of 2018 . The announcement was accompanied, as these things often are, by an exhaustive list of tour dates and a new single. The song, a cover of Tom Waits’ “Whistle Down the Wind,” will be the title track for her upcoming studio album.

Baez has always been adept at interpreting other people’s music, covering tunes by the likes of The Band, the Beatles and practically making a career of singing Bob Dylan songs (and giving him a career too). Even today, four out of five of her top tracks on Spotify are covers; the great “Diamonds and Rust” is the exception.

Continue reading »

Jan 122018
 

Cover Classics takes a look at great covers albums of the past, their genesis and their legacies.

doc pomus tribute album

“Why now,” you ask. “Why focus on this album in 2018, more than 20 years since it was made and getting on 30 since the recipient of the tribute died? And who he anyway? He didn’t have any hits.”

Well, that’s where you are wrong. Doc Pomus wrote many of the 1950s songs we now see as standards – standards across many genres, encompassing blues through rock (and roll), with a hefty side influence into country and soul. Few people won’t have at least a whistling memory of at least one of these songs, probably more, in versions played by artists as diverse as ZZ Top, Engelbert Humperdinck and the Searchers. Continue reading »

Jan 112018
 
tallest man on earth covers

“When We Were Young,” Adele’s second single off 25, peaked at #14 on the pop charts. Amazing by most artists’ standards, but middling by hers (particularly following “Hello” topping every chart in existence). But as with so many of her songs before it, it’s lived on well past its chart run through endless covers. The latest, and maybe greatest, comes from Sweden’s The Tallest Man on Earth.

He performed it on the Swedish game show På Spåre, backed by local pop group Augustifamiljen. It’s a bigger and more lavish production than most of Kristian Matsson’s covers, which tend more towards fingerpicked folk tunes. But he sells it perfectly, finding a middle ground between his singer-songwriter sensibilities and Adele’s bigger soul belting. Continue reading »

Jan 092018
 
Jorja Smith Lost

You may have heard rising British star Jorja Smith on a couple of tracks on Drake’s latest album. And just last month, she recorded a soulful version of “Lost” by Frank Ocean; not in (to quote the lyrics) “Miami, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Spain…Los Angeles, India…[or] on a train”– but in London’s Metropolis Studios, for Spotify Sessions.

Smith’s rendition is what one imagines the writers’ original version sounded like pre-production: soulful, stripped-down, and emotional. With lyrics about a woman who’s lost her way, this cover aims right for the heartstrings while Ocean’s version – written and produced by Malay (who has also produced Sam Smith, Lorde, and John Legend) – is upbeat and contradictory to the lyrical journey. Continue reading »

Jan 082018
 
gregg allman song for adam

When Gregg Allman went into the studio to record his final album Southern Blood it was clear to all those around him that he was saying goodbye. The record, released posthumously last September, contains a number of tracks that tell the story of a man looking back on his life. In 2017, we wrote about his version of the Grateful Dead’s “Black Muddy River” and how it provided a feeling of joyful release. By contrast, the album’s closing tune, a cover of Jackson Browne’s “Song for Adam,” relates a much bleaker story. Continue reading »