On her terrific 2009 covers album Cover (forgettable title, memorable NSFW artwork), Joan As Police Woman covered everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Britney Spears. And those were just the first two tracks. The disparate source material worked together wonderfully in Joan Wasser’s quirky indie-pop style, and we’ve been anxious for a sequel. We’re still waiting, but on her new best-of-plus-outtakes collection Joanthology, she includes a few Cover highlights (T.I.’s “Whatever You Like,” Sonic Youth’s “Sacred Trickster,” Public Enemy’s “She Watch Channel Zero”) and adds one new cover, of Prince’s “Kiss.”
There are few things that pique the interest of audiophiles more than the promise of unreleased music. Just remember the Beach Boys’ Smile or Guns n’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy. Before either album saw the light of day, there were years of speculation and countless articles imagining how they were lost masterpieces. They each came out with tremendous fanfare, but the luster quickly wore off.
For decades, outlaw country singer Gary Stewart, best known for his booze-themed country hits in the ‘70s and ‘80s, had his own unreleased-music legend. Only his were a batch of Motown covers recorded before he became famous. According to Rolling Stone, Motown Records publisher Jobete Music set up shop in Nashville in the mid-70s to hawk the label’s catalogue to country artists. A then-unknown Stewart was hired to record demo versions of three Motown songs. Though never released, the recordings supposedly made their way into the hands of producer Rory Dea who helped Stewart get signed to RCA. The story of the fabled lost tracks even earned a mention in Stewart’s Los Angeles Times obituary after he took his own life in 2003.
“Jimmy Mack” by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas is a Motown classic, upbeat and insanely catchy. Not that you’d know it from the new cover by Animal Collective, who, it will not surprise anyone who knows them to learn, have changed the song radically. They’ve been performing it on their current tour, and finally laid down a studio version a few days ago at the KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic session.
Arcade Fire got local during their Philadelphia tour stop, covering “Motown Philly” by hometown heroes Boyz II Men. The indie giants kept the track true to its funky R&B roots. From the look of the video the band had a grand old time with this tune, because who doesn’t love a little new jack swing? And if your dream is seeing Win Butler sing Boyz II Men in a giant fake head, then this video is absolutely for you.
We are closing in on six decades of amazing music from Bruce Springsteen. In all those years of performing, The Boss has covered over 300 songs. Some he’s covered hundreds of times. Others he’s covered just once.
A new “Songs Under Cover” playlist he just released as part of his Live Series collects 15 soundboard covers spanning several decades and genres of music. Some of the covers are more successful than others, and we’re going to rank them for you right here. (Play along with the official playlist on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music).
In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
When it comes to cover versions, blue-eyed soul man extraordinaire and erstwhile Doobie Brother Michael McDonald (who turns 68 years old today) has primarily focused on the beautiful, ineffably perfect Motown canon, recording two albums solely dedicated to the label, Motown and Motown Two. Both were enormously successful and reignited a career which had pretty much flatlined through the entirety of the nineties. After the success of those two albums, he decided to push the boat out a little further and so in 2008 released Soul Speak, an odd mix of old rock classics and Stevie Wonder tunes with a few new originals added in for good measure. It could best be likened to one of the Rod Stewart standards albums, but for cooler people (Sorry, Rod, but… yeah).
Conversation regarding McDonald’s performances on these three albums has been well-trod at this point, and while they undeniably feature some real highlights, facts are facts: some of McDonald’s best and most eclectic covers have been of the one-off variety. The selections below run the gamut from traditional reverence to joyfully weird and are all 100% McDonald.