Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.
The 1977 hit “Mr. Blue Sky” was ELO’s fourth movement in the “Concerto for a Rainy Day” on its 1978 double album Out of the Blue. It enjoyed a #6 position in the UK, a #8 position in the Dutch charts, and peaked at #35 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The song is the most upbeat of the “Concerto.” That’s a fitting and welcome change in a suite that is about the gloom of a soggy day. It’s often been seen as a “Beatlesesque” pop song, with flashes of musical hall revelry. That is an apt description, given that Jeff Lynne was determined at the outset of ELO to bridge pop songs a lá The Beatles with more high-cultured orchestral arrangements.
If we are to look at the numerous covers that Second Hand Songs has compiled, most artists tap into the upbeat nature of the tune. Even Weezer couldn’t resist, featuring the song on their Teal album. Some covers border on bubblegum. Other have it stuck to the bottom of their shoe.
But today I write this review of covers while the sky is overcast, and the humidity is thick. And now that it is autumn, I wondered if there were any covers that cut against the grain and featured a more somber or dark take on “Mr. Blue Sky.” And indeed there are. So, here is my list of the Good, the Better, and the Best.
Good: Gigantor – Mr. Blue Sky (ELO cover)
One of the earliest recorded covers was by German punk band Gigantor. Released just one year after the band formed, the song features a pop-punk take with some of the edges of hardcore. So, more like NOFX and Rancid than Green Day.
Better: Electric Yakuza – Mr. Blue Sky (ELO cover)
Chilean indie band Electric Yakuza is a creative outlet for artist MarsCat. Their 2014 EP Drive Me Thru Infinity included two covers. In addition to the grinding version of The Shangri-Las’ “Remember,” the EP boasts an industrial metal cover of “Mr. Blue Sky” that’s sure to darken your day. Or perhaps it will pick you up on a gray day.
Best: Jesse Terry with Liz Longley – Mr. Blue Sky (ELO cover)
New England-based folk singer Jesse Terry teamed up with fellow alumn of the Berklee School of Music Liz Longley for a tender version of “Mr. Blue Sky” that had me thinking of The Civil Wars. Terry’s bio says that he considers this version to “[bring] out the song’s wistful reflection.” I don’t think it does that so much as evoke the longing that embodied George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun.” In that light, it captures the tinge of hope buried within desperation. That, and its eschewal of the pop and bounce of nearly all other covers, is what makes this the best on my list.