May 272016

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


Some of us were just a wee bit old for punk. Hell, yes, of course we said we liked it at the time. Probably actually did, in truth, but with a throw back crossed-fingers of restraint, without the hard-core readiness to burn all before ’74. (OK, year zero was ’75, but scans less well, and what’s a year in the 40 [forty!] years since?) So my generation, teens in the age of prog, took to Elvis C., knowing he was one of us really, outwith the bombast and wardrobe design. And we knew he had heard the records we held dear, and more. At times he seemed he knew more records than anyone, ever, given the sometime less than subtle steals from ’60s rock and soul, something he honestly admitted to in his largely entertaining autobiography, Unfaithful Music. At 15 I was a twin aficionado of folk-rock and country-rock, desperate to make sure the hyphen-rock was included, terrified of being mistaken for a finger-in-ear folkie, or rhinestoned “and western.” I’d had a whiff of Elvis’ love for the latter – he had name-checked my poster boy Gram Parsons in interviews, and a couple country weepers showed up on the odds ‘n’ sods cassette-only Ten Bloody Marys and Ten How’s Your Fathers (released as Taking Liberties in the US). So it was both delight and affirmation when, in 1981, he issued Almost Blue, both his first album of all covers and his first album produced by other than Nick Lowe. I was in heaven, knowing the nay-sayers to my arcane listening were wrong, and I play the record a lot to this day.
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May 252016

dylan fallen angelsThere’s something inherently ironic about a musician long criticized for his vocal abilities releasing an album of covers, each of whose success is predicated on the strength of the vocalist in question. While there have certainly been a handful of performers with admittedly “unique” voices covering this territory – Jimmy Durante and Willie Nelson immediately spring to mind – vocal-oriented pop derived from the so-called Great American Songbook has long been the purview of singers like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin and scores of others.

That none other than Bob Dylan should look to tackle the Great American Songbook is intriguing not just for his admitted vocal shortcomings, but also his early positioning as the polar opposite of everything the supper club set stood for. Perhaps it simply has something to do with the maturation process – something of a rite of passage for aging musicians – in that a certain level of nostalgia begins to creep in and an overwhelming urge to explore the music of their youth starts to take hold. That they would have largely scoffed at the idea of endeavoring such a feat during their formative proves all the more interesting now decades removed from the idealism of youth.

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May 242016
1966-6FB The Saturday Evening Post-Bob Dylan: 1966-6FB-005 July 30, USA 1966

Today is Bob Dylan’s 75th birthday and, if you follow us on social media (or just about any other music site), you know last week was the 50th birthday of his iconic album Blonde on Blonde. To celebrate, Mojo magazine’s new issue contains a tribute CD with covers of every song. Hear a selection of highlights below. Continue reading »

May 202016

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.


“It’s an old expression,” Jesse Nolan explained in an interview with MTV. “Musicians used to say you caught a ghost if you gave a good performance. Like you were possessed.”

The spirit has certainly moved Caught a Ghost, the Los Angeles indie-electro-soul musical collective headed by Nolan. They give a 21st-century voice to the ghosts of Stax and Motown, welding them to ’90s hip-hop and electronica. Nolan, who plays most of the instruments in the studio and leads a whole stageful in Caught a Ghost’s highly-praised live shows (could be four, could be eight – “We just take whoever is available when we play”), describes himself as an “imperfectionist,” making sure the music is realer by not refining it to death.

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May 192016

When Nina Pearson first wrote “Lovefool,” for her band the Cardigans, she imagined it with a “slow bossa nova feel.” Sometime between then and it becoming a massive radio hit, the tempo was upped and it was given a pop-rock sheen. But the lyrics remain deeply depressing, putting it in that “Dancing in the Dark” category – bleak lyrics atop a buoyant beat. But on her heartbreaking new cover, California singer Roniit performs it closer to what Pearson first intended. It’s not bossa nova, but it’s definitely slow, sad music fitting the sadder words. Continue reading »