Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Today we conclude our look at Decade, the compleat (at the time) Neil Young, by sharing covers of every song on sides five and six. (If you missed sides one and two, click here; go here for sides three and four.)
MP3: The Pretenders – The Needle and the Damage Done (Neil Young cover)
If anyone’s earned the right to cover “The Needle and the Damage Done,” it’s Chrissie Hynde, who lost two founding Pretenders to overdose-related deaths. She takes on the song with her famed vehement quaver, and even those who don’t know her history would recognize that she knows whereof she sings.
MP3: Chris Cacavas – Tonight’s the Night (Neil Young cover)
This Note’s For You Too! is another Neil Young tribute, with 37 songs performed by acts that are household names only in the very coolest households. One of them is Chris Cacavas, from the band Green on Red; he lays the eerie on thick with crawly keyboards, sketchy guitar, and a shaky voice that’s as Neil-like as the day is long.
MP3: Cowboy Junkies – Tired Eyes (Neil Young cover)
From the first Borrowed Tunes two-CD compilation, “Tired Eyes” is the aural personification of caterpillar-into-butterfly. Where Young’s ramshackle vocal staggers through a desolate musical landscape, Margo Timmins actually sings the words, and her lovely haunting voice works its magic once again, making something jolie out of something laide.
MP3: Widespread Panic – Walk On (Neil Young cover)
Widespread Panic’s fifth live album, Uber Cobra, opens with an acoustic version of “Walk On.” It’s not what you might think, though – this track is full of energy, its groove reminiscent of Derek & the Dominos’ “Keep on Growing,” and as it percolates its way through the crowd, you don’t have to strain to imagine all the dancing following in the dreamlight of its wake.
MP3: Henry Wolfe – For the Turnstiles (Neil Young cover)
“For the Turnstiles” is a song about art vs. commerce; consequently, it has a surprisingly high number of covers from all the artists who can relate. One of these is Henry Wolfe, whose version appears on his album Linda Vista. With his crestfallen adaptation slowly giving way to tightly reined turbulence, Wolfe clearly comes down on the side of art; you can throw a little commerce his way at his website.
MP3: Reid Jamieson – Winterlong (Neil Young cover)
Reid Jamieson regularly posts acoustic covers on his website; “Winterlong” is just one showcase for the Canadian crooner’s talents, as he chooses a snowflake-light approach that sweetens the song considerably.
MP3: The Jazz Mandolin Project – Deep Forbidden Lake (Neil Young cover)
“Deep Forbidden Lake” was one of the songs on Homegrown, an album that was all set to be released until Young pulled it at the last minute in favor of Tonight’s the Night. The Jazz Mandolin Project, led by Jamie Masefield, don’t limit themselves to jazz covers; their recording of the song became the title track of their 2005 release. Performed as an instrumental, it becomes clear what a gorgeous melody Young wrote; it’s to their credit that the JMP leave it intact.
MP3: Heather Nova – Like a Hurricane (Neil Young cover)
“Like a Hurricane” has a lovely melody too, but it’s hard to hear under the glorious squalling of Young and Crazy Horse. Thank Heather Nova for rescuing it and scoring it to acoustic guitar and sonorous cello, then gracing it with a vocal that swims, skitters, and soars throughout. It may be a more somber version than Young’s, but its austerity cannot wipe away its beauty.
MP3: Dirtbird – Love is a Rose (Neil Young cover)
Dirtbird would be a great example of Americana if they didn’t come from the land Down Under. Another guitar & cello combo, they have a sound that’s somehow both ragged and fluid, earthy and heavenly. Their cover of “Love is a Rose” sounds so timeless, it’s easy to picture Young learning it from them and not vice versa.
MP3: Screaming Females – Cortez the Killer (Neil Young cover)
Young’s “Cortez the Killer” moves slowly but relentlessly, powerful and unstoppable, taking a good seven and a half minutes to say its piece. Screaming Females, an indie power trio out of New Jersey, shave off three minutes without losing any of the song’s intensity – in fact, the faster tempo and pounding bass give the song a different kind of impact that arguably goes even deeper.
MP3: That’s What You Get – Campaigner (Neil Young cover)
When Young sang “Even Richard Nixon has got soul” in “Campaigner,” it caused a lot of mouths to fall open; in a time when Nixon was still the epitome of disgrace, the very idea of Young – the man who’d disparaged Nixon by name in “Ohio” – offering a sympathetic view was wholly unexpected. In this cover, That’s What You Get make a slight alteration of that lyric, one that may well prompt a similar reaction of shock, followed by a similar reconsideration of the subject.
MP3: Union Avenue – Long May You Run (Stills-Young Band cover)
Decade ended with “Long May You Run,” a song Young wrote about a car and which turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Here, Union Avenue sends it off with their signature Johnny Cash sound (for more of that, read our earlier piece on Union Avenue here).