Apr 182014

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

The Elektra label has a history of celebrating itself with various books and anthologies, but then, there’s a lot to celebrate. Started by a teenaged Jac Holzman in his dorm room in 1950, it grew into major label status while retaining an eclectic roster of musicians who were given the chance to spread their artistic wings, just as likely to reach pinnacles of cult fandom (Tim Buckley, Love) as pinnacles of worldwide success (the Doors, Queen). In 1990, Elektra celebrated its 40th anniversary by releasing Rubaiyat, a 4-LP/2-CD/2-cassette box set with a unique premise – the label’s current artists covering songs from the label’s prior artists. Rarely have such disparate musicians rubbed shoulders as they do on this release, whether on levels of dissimilarity (Tracy Chapman and Metallica – together again!) or familiarity (the Shaking Family was infinitesimally as well known as the Cure), but that was the point, and they all got together here for some fine and enlightening work.
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Pharmakon By Jane Chardiet

Could the Cher/Nancy Sinatra classic “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” get any more haunting? After hearing noise musician Pharmakon’s cover, the answer is a resounding yes. Continue reading »

1994 was 20 years ago. That may not be news to many of our readers, but there is a certain 30-something subset of you who just sprayed your screen with water in a hilarious spit-take that would not be at all out of place on the show Friends (also 20 years old this year, by the way). Continue reading »

There is a long-standing jazz tradition of reinterpreting pop music favorites. John Coltrane’s version of “My Favorite Things” may be the most famous example, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, more. One of the latest features saxophonist Dave Koz. He teamed up with Postmodern Jukebox keyboardist Scott Bradlee for a jazz quartet performance of the “Game of Thrones” theme song, which is appropriately, if not imaginatively, named “Main Title” on the original soundtrack recording. The tune lends itself well to jazz interpretation. With a prominent bass line, hummable melody and 6/8 time signature, there is plenty of room for Koz and Bradley to stretch out, though they don’t venture too far into uncharted territory. Continue reading »

Twin Peaks has one of the most memorable openings in TV history. Italian composer Angelo Badalamenti‘s original, melodramatic song plays over scenic views of the Pacific Northwest town, setting up David Lynch and Mark Frost’s masterful series. Italian instrumentalists Australasia paid homage to their fellow musician with this true-to-form rendition. Continue reading »

Remember when that robot band covered “Rock Lobster?” They’re back, and they’re living in their own private Idaho. Continue reading »

Dixie Chicks

Get ready to feel the all of the feelings, because the ever-fabulous Dixie Chicks have covered Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.” This stripped-down ode to heartbreak hits with even more intensity than the original. Natalie Maines’ vocals take no prisoners, and with the help of beautiful harmonies and a stunning violin bridge, it’s safe to say this country-fried “Wrecking Ball” has my approval. Continue reading »

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

There are certain things that you always remember. Meeting the love of your life. Seeing your children for the first time. And, of course, the first time you heard Talking HeadsRemain in Light. Maybe that isn’t a statement of general applicability, but it is true for me.

In October of 1980, I was a college junior and assistant program director of WPRB-FM. It was my responsibility to swing by the post office every day to pick up the station’s mail, including the packages of records. This meant that I got to see the new releases before anyone else. By that time, I had become a pretty big Talking Heads fan (and rued my error in having skipped their show on campus back in my freshman year). We fans knew that the band was moving in new directions after the previous year’s Fear of Music, which had begun integrating more complex rhythms, dance beats and world influences into their sound, and the music press was buzzing with anticipation about what they were going to do next. So, on that cool October morning, when I ripped open the box from WEA as I walked toward the station, I was thrilled to see Remain in Light. After scurrying down into our basement office, I quickly threw the record on the turntable, and was immediately blown away.
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