Oct 182009

Shuffle Sundays is a weekly feature in which we feature a cover chosen at random by my iTunes shuffle. The songs will usually be good, occasionally be bad, always be interesting. All downloads will only be available for one week, so get them while you can. After you listen, discuss this week’s tune in the comments.

If you don’t remember the Gap Band, consider yourselves lucky. If the Jonas Brothers covered a Sly and the Family Stone song, the sound wouldn’t be far off.

‘80s funk at its most muzak, the Gap Band comprised brothers Charlie, Robbie and Robert Wilson ruthlessly stripping all the soul from the gospel songs they had learned growing up Pentecostal, churning out the most sexually flaccid come-ons this side of Duran Duran. They had huge hits with such classy songs as “Humpin’,” “Party Train,” and “Oops Upside Your Head.”

One slightly lesser hit was “Burn Rubber On Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me),” a single off the cleverly-titled The Gap Band III. It inexplicably hit number one on the R&B charts when it has neither rhythm nor blues. See if you can make it through three minutes of the porn-star cowboy outfits of the following performance video.

Overthrill’s cover of “Burn Rubber on Me” earns instant points by ditching the vocals completely. Recorded for Spanish music website BuffetLibre’s “Rewind” covers project, the Overthrill DJs describe the song thus:

“We simply love this song, we love the video and we love The Gap Band. Although we probably didn’t hear “Burn Rubber On Me” in the radio in 1980 at least not consciously that is.”

While it’s unclear how sincere they are, they certainly do make a catchy dance track out of the tune. I even had to double-check to make sure it wasn’t just a remix. But a cover it is, so let’s get that party train rolling!

Overthrill – Burn Rubber On Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me) (The Gap Band) [Buy]

What do you think? Discuss this song in the comments section below.

Oct 172009

Cover News is a weekly feature keeping you up to date on the goings-on in the world of cover tunes, tribute albums, etc. Plus, at the bottom we post our array of cover tunes we’ve been sent in the past week. Have you recorded a cool cover? Send an mp3 to the email address on the right!

This Week’s News

First and most importantly, October’s Cover Commissions is finally up! From Berlin to T. Rex, the song picks are varied and the choice is yours. Go cast your vote now to hear John Dissed cover a song of your choice! [Cover Me]

Halloween is fast approaching, which means Phish’s full-album cover show is on the way! They’re still knocking off possibilities every day at their website and it’s a kick to watch. Tom Waits and the Arcade Fire are out, but Rage Against the Machine and Michael Jackson are still in the running! [Phish]

There’s always been something a bit Pink Floyd-esq about the psychedelic shenanigans of the Flaming Lips, so it’s no huge surprise to hear they’re planning to cover Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety. [L.A. Times]

Speaking of full album covers, Beck is getting through his Songs of Leonard Cohen (with help from MGMT and Devandra Banhart). He’s up to “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye.” [Beck]

Franz Nicolay of the Hold Steady’s been doing some solo work this year and has put up a good old “New England” cover featuring Amanda Palmer of Boston’s Dresden Dolls. As she tweeted, “10 points for anyone who can catch every single new england reference we’re yelling at the end of that track. WICKED PISSAHHH”. [MySpace]

SPIN.com seems to be on a bit of a “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” kick. Last month we saw Wolfmother cover the tune in the SPIN offices, and now Band of Skulls takes on the same Neil Young classic backstage at Lollapalooza! [SPIN]

Christian synth-pop (yes, it exists) masters Joy Electric is back with a covers record! It doesn’t drop until November 3, but you can listen to their take on the Killer’s “When You Were Young” now! [MySpace]

It’s been a Springsteen sort of month here at Cover Me. First we caught him live taping a Spectacle show with Elvis Costello, then last week he closed down Giants Stadium with Tom Waits’ “Jersey Girl.” This is after already having covered the Rolling Stones, Eddie Floyd, and Hot Chocolate. [Dylan, Etc.]

Bruce Springsteen brought Suicide’s music to a whole new demographic with his 2005 “Dream, Baby, Dream” cover. Now LCD Soundsystem is bringing lead singer Alan Vega’s dark synth warbles to a whole new generation with his take on “Bye Bye Bayou.” [Hype Machine]

Speaking of weird alternative-type artists, Tom Waits songs make for excellent covers. Followers of this blog will know the name Pascal Fricke, aka. “waitswatcher,” whose haunting instrumental Waits covers are a personal favorite. Well volume three of his Banging on a Old Tin Cup series is up now, with gorgeous takes on “Alice,” “Cemetery Polka,” “New Coat of Paint” and thirteen more! [Box.net]

Hey cover artists, want tips on how to promote your tunes? Sacrilicious Marketing has a good article on getting your covers out there. [Sacrilicious Marketing]

Weezer has created a little iTunes Pass gizmo to promote their upcoming Raditude (featuring the best album art ever). The first installment? A cover of the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” [iTunes]

Nick Cave can do no wrong around these parts, so any Cave cover is good Cave cover in our book. Fever Ray (also known as Karin Dreijer Andersson of The Knife) takes on “Stranger Than Kindness.” [Stereogum]

U2, Courtney Love, and Scarlett Johansson should never make music together. As long as they have, at least they used the occasion to cover the Velvet Underground. [Pitchfork]

This Week’s Submissions

Historics – A Lot Less (Sub Society) [more]

Marshmallow Pop Orchestra – The Malkin Mash (Bobby “Boris” Pickett) [more]

THE MOOG – Don’t Go (The Ramones) [more]

Oct 162009

Cover Commissions is a monthly series in which a featured artist produces a special cover for this blog. The song to be covered is usually chosen by blog readers via a poll or suggestions form. Any artists interested in participating in a future installment, please email me at the address on the right.

October may be half over, but at Cover Me we’re making up for lost time by announcing a true cover artist extraordinaire to take on this month’s Cover Commissions. His name’s John Dissed, and this guy knows covers.

Based in Los Angeles, John’s been recording his tunes since 2007 (many of which are available at his website), but has been earning a reputation as a songwriter par excellence for longer than that. In 2006 “Mr. Madness,” a song he co-wrote for Manda Mosher, earned the “Rock Single of the Year” accolade from the Los Angeles Music Awards. Check out Mosher’s glam-folk video at the ‘Tube.

As tends to happen here, it was his cover songs that first caught our ear. And this guy’s got cover songs coming out the…well, he’s got a lot of them. He’s taken on everyone from the Rolling Stones to Duran Duran, each time with stripping down the song to lyrics and melody. We’ve got a few choice picks for ya here, but dozens more Dissed covers can be had just by giving him your email address at his website.

Dissed has got a special cover up his sleeve just for Cover Me. What song, you ask? As always, the choice is yours. Below are eight songs, each linked to their YouTube video. Listen to Dissed’s tunes, listen to these originals, then pick which one you’d like to hear him do in the poll on the right! The winner will be posted exclusively on Cover Me in a month or so.

Berlin – Take My Breath Away
The Cars – Candy-O
The Cure – Doing the Unstuck
Dead or Alive – You Spin Me Round
Kings of Leon – Use Somebody
The Outfield – Your Love
Social Distortion – So Far Away
T. Rex – Bang a Gong (Get It On)

Voting closes in one week, so get deciding! Vote on the right.

Oct 132009

Halloween is still three weeks away, but everyone has already had it up to the neck with vampires (har!). Hopefully after the Twilight/Jennifer’s Body/True Blood fervor runs its course Dracula and his nocturnal ilk will slink off for a long sleep. When that happens, it’s the werewolf’s time to rise.

The Pluto Tapes – Wolf Like Me (TV on the Radio)
TV on the Radio pulled off the rare feat of scoring a mainstream hit with this one without selling their souls. Andy Hicks of the Pluto Tapes strips back the jagged funk of the original for some slow-burn harmonies and crunchy crooning. [Buy]

Adam Sandler – Werewolves of London (Warren Zevon)
Adam Sander’s music career is as bipolar as it is bizarre. He’s covered Bruce Springsteen, with predictably terrible results (watch the video and laugh), but then again he’s covered Neil Young with shocking decent results (watch the video and be surprised). Happily, this Zevon cover falls into the latter category. [Buy]

Jordan Galland – Hungry Like the Wolf (Duran Duran)
This may be the most popular result from our monthly Cover Commissions, and it was only a bonus track! Still, it’s a killer. Which reminds me, October’s Cover Commissions coming soon! [Buy]

By a Girl – Furr (Blitzen Trapper)
The best wolf-song of the bunch. It’s the same old story: A guy wanders into the woods, spontaneously turns into a wolf, runs around for years that way, then sees a girl and becomes a man again. You know, the usual. [Buy]

Yann Gallice – A Wolf at the Door (Radiohead)
Hail to the Thief gets its share of ire from Radiohead fans. For goodness sakes, Pitchfork only gave it a 9.3! This gorgeous hum-happy cover may make you rethink. [Buy]

Joel Martin – Wolf Among Wolves (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy)
I’m not quite sure what Will Oldham did to deserve the thirty-track tribute album I Am a Cold Rock, I Am Dull Grass, but fellow freak-folkniks like Iron and Wine and Calexico understand. Joel Martin delivers a high point of an already soaring album. [Buy]

Chester French – She-Wolf (Shakira)
Shakira on writing this 2009 hit: “The image of the she wolf just came to my head, and when I least expected it I was howling and panting.” No comment. [Buy]

The Meteors – Little Red Riding Hood (Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs)
As a kid I always adored this tune on the rare occasions it graced oldies radio, but the Meteors amp it up another notch with a singer who actually sounds like the (sexually aggressive) wolf. [Buy]

Stiff Dead Cat – Dire Wolf (Grateful Dead)
First discovered this bluegrass cover when researching our Workingman’s Dead album post. This lesser gem deserves another look. [Buy]

Ellie Goulding – The Wolves (Act I and II) (Bon Iver)
Covering Bon Iver is like covering heaven. That explains why this is so angelic. [Buy]

Oct 112009

Shuffle Sundays is a weekly feature in which we feature a cover chosen at random by my iTunes shuffle. The songs will usually be good, occasionally be bad, always be interesting. All downloads will only be available for one week, so get them while you can. After you listen, discuss this week’s tune in the comments.

In a recent Rolling Stone, Merle Haggard says Johnny Cash once told him, “Hag, you’re the guy people think I am.” Leaving aside the somewhat adorable fact that Cash called Merle “Hag,” it’s an accurate statement. You know the Johnny Cash live prison classic At San Quentin? Well Merle Haggard was there too…in the audience.

Haggard had been in and out of jail most of his young life, finally inspired to mend his ways after several encounters with execution-bound prisoners. He was pardoned in 1972 by Governor Ronald Reagan, but to get there he had to get famous. He used Cash’s show as inspiration, but did him one better by writing about a hard-bitten life he actually knew, not just imagined.

One of his early hits was “Mama Tried,” a semi-autobiographical song where he imagines the pain he put his mother through while incarcerated. The song first came out in 1967, become Haggard’s fifth number-one single on the country charts. Twelve years later, he talked about it in the book Lost Highway:

“I don’t know what I’d have done with me if I had been the parent,” he said. “I was a child that needed two parents and there was a period that came up that my mother just couldn’t handle. My dad wasn’t there and my older brother tried to step in and of course I resented that. It just got all confused and messed up. Mama certainly did try.”

Bob Weir has never been in jail, but performing of this song with the Grateful Dead he sings like he has. According to DeadBase the band debuted the song in June 1969, performing it two months later during their set at Woodstock. Here’s a video:

Weir kept belting this tune all the way until its final performance 6/25/95, barely over a month before Jerry Garcia’s death. Along the way it received 302 performances, which I’d wager is probably almost as many times as Haggard himself has done it. I’m not sure when this performance is from, though it sounds similar to that Woodstock one.

The Grateful Dead – Mama Tried (Merle Haggard) [Buy]

What do you think? Discuss this song in the comments section below.

Oct 052009

The first post of the month always features a look at songs covering every track on a famous album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

There was never really any question which album Pitchfork would pick as its #1 of the 2000s. However, a predictable conclusion to their countdown shouldn’t distract from the merits of the winner, Radiohead’s Kid A. As the follow-up to their massively successful OK Computer, Kid A’s glitchy electro beats and spacey reverb washes elicited mixed reaction at best. Suffice to say, fans and critics have come around in the ensuing nine years, these ten artists in particular.<

Sonos – Everything In Its Right Place

I’m sure a cappella Radiohead has been tried many, many times. I’m sure it has failed just about every one of them. This is the rare exception. If Thom Yorke produced a cappella himself, it would probably sound like this. [Buy]

John Mayer – Kid A

The guy responsible for “Your Body Is a Wonderland” taking on the man who gave us “Karma Police”? Surely a disaster waiting to happen. The fact that it isn’t furthers my theory that Mayer may actually be a talented musician hiding it well. [Buy]

paradigm – The National Anthem

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The Louisville four-piece did an almost exclusively Radiohead covers set in ’06, all instrumental, all ass-kicking. This one comes out of a lengthier medley with the Beatles’ “Come Together” (hence the abrupt ending). Click the link to get the whole show: [Buy]

Eliza Lumley – How to Disappear Completely

Many Radiohead fans claim this as their favorite song. It’s one of my least favorites. Eliza’s quiet piano lament may make me reconsider though. [Buy]

Vitamin String Quartet – Treefingers

I’ll be honest here: I tried hard to find a cover of this not churned out by the ubiquitous string quartet. I failed. This anonymous group has literally hundreds of tribute albums out (here’s a partial list), so their street cred in the cover community is below even Richard Cheese’s. Still, the original here is instrumental, so their approach works. They cover the whole album. [Buy]

Hanson – Optimistic

Going from the Vitamin String Quartet to Hanson? If this is my last blog post, it’s because I was chased off the internet. I won’t push my luck by saying the “MMMBop” boys do a good job here. But I’m not saying they don’t either… [Buy]

Sa-Ra – In Limbo

Techno, dance, crunk. Sa-Ra combines just about every genre Radiohead isn’t and inexcusably makes it work. [Buy]

We Versus the Shark – Idioteque

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The slow grind of We separates this from the many folksy covers out there, giving it a hefty call-and-response churn that ably substitutes for the schizo drum pattern of the original. [Buy]

Flash Hawk Parlor Ensemble – Amnesiac / Morning Bell

Technically this pairing is off the Amnesiac album, but the “Morning Bell” portion first appeared on Kid A. This twee-folk ditty from the Decemberists’ Chris Funk may make you forget that either album exists. [Buy]

Christopher O’Riley – Motion Picture Soundtrack

It seems fitting to close out with O’Riley, the solo piano cover artist extraordinaire. He’s got two discs of Radiohead covers out, both worth getting. [Buy]