Each December, new versions of old Christmas classics are ushered into the American soundscape by the hundreds. We hear old songs restored in a myriad of fashions on lite radio stations and every so often, one version lands above the mediocre pile of others and leaves an indelible mark on that holiday season. Where would be today without classic earworms such as Springsteen’s version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” or Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby”?
There are cynics in this world who might revise the old adage to read, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, do cover songs.” However, it’s a near-certainty that those cynics have never heard classic cover collections like Cat Power’s Covers Record, the Rolling Stones‘ Rolling Stones EP, or Robert Plant and Allison Krauss’s Raising Sand. Now the time has come for believers and nonbelievers alike to welcome another member to the cover pantheon: Macy Gray’s new take on Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book, an ambitious, full-album undertaking Gray dives into with breathtaking zeal – and what stunning results she brings to the surface.
Fleetwood Mac is not easy to pigeonhole. Part of this is due to their talent and timelessness; more significantly, the band’s leader and line-up has changed 3 times over, taking the band from its incarnation with Peter Green at the helm as one of the fiercest English-blues bands on the scene, to a more adolescent stage with Bob Welch steering and producing hippie-of-the-times songs, to its final incarnation in which the ferocious duo of Buckingham and Nicks turned Fleetwod Mac into what it has now been hallmarked as. Point is, the band is more than Nicks and Buckingham, and the hope is that any Fleetwood Mac tribute album would duly recognize the band’s colorful history with remarkable covers that are juxtaposed in a way that reflect the unique unfurling of the band’s growth and self-discovery.
This past week the A.V. Club wrapped up their beloved “Undercover” series with the Fruit Bats’ rendition of Loretta Lynn’s “The Other Woman.” This cover was just one of a myriad of brilliant renditions put forth by various indie rock gods and goddesses over the time span of three months. And seeing as this was a veritable who’s who in indie rock these days, few bands disappointed. The worst it got was average (ie that Smith Westerns take on “American Girl”), but most bands scored at least a 7 out of 10. Given the talent, it would be near impossible to only pick just a couple favorites so we here at Cover Me are choosing ten performances instead. The ten most original, most jaw-dropping, and most “Play it again man!”-inducing covers that were featured this past summer.
The loss of Amy Winehouse has startled and saddened music lovers all across the world. As the renegade of rock and soul her influence permeates into every genre and her brazen vulnerability into everyone’s hearts. Never has a singer sung with such admittance and transparency. In each song Amy confessed to what was so obviously on her sleeve. Addiction, heartbreak, self-inflicted abuse, and the resistance to rehab.
Otis Redding is heartbreak’s greatest translator. The tragically short-lived soul singer knew how to sing a love song for the forlorn better than most, and his melismatic vocal abilities brought listeners to their knees as he crooned for the woman who left him behind. Now two ladies are picking up where Otis left off and pouring their own booming voices on top of Redding’s classic, “Pain in My Heart,” like syrup on pancakes. Grace Potter and Sharon Jones exist on opposite ends of the soul spectrum. The former represents nouveau blue-eyed soul and the latter is the closest thing today’s listeners have to the original Stax sound.