Ray Padgett

Ray Padgett founded the blog Cover Me in 2007 and has run it ever since, growing it into the largest blog devoted to cover songs on the web. His music writing has appeared in SPIN, MTV, Vice, Consequence of Sound, and more and he’s been interviewed as an expert on cover songs by the Wall Street Journal and the BBC. He lives in New York City and also works as a senior music publicist for Shore Fire Media. His book Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time comes out October 2017. Pre-order it at Amazon. Email him at rfpadgett @ gmail.

Aug 072017
 
phish bakers dozen covers

For years, Phish superphans and the band’s many detractors – so far apart on so much else – have been able to agree on one thing: the band does some killer live covers. Phish long ago made a Halloween tradition out of covering another band’s album in full, tackling ambitious choices like the Beatles’ White Album and Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. And “ambitious” was also the keyword for the band’s just-completed thirteen night run at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Dubbed the “Baker’s Dozen,” each night featured a different donut theme and, more significantly, no song repeated the entire two weeks.

But back to the donuts. The band took the silly premise seriously, theming their sets each night around a donut flavor. This led to a number of surprise covers that they’ve never played before (or probably ever will again). Strawberry-donut night got “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Strawberry Letter 23.” Chocolate-donut night got “Chocolate Rain” and “You Sexy Thing” – originally by Hot Chocolate. They even dug deep into lyrics, playing the one Radiohead song that talks about lemons.

Such first-time-ever covers tend to appeal even to non-fans because they tend to be short and –
let’s keep the donut theme going here – sweet. Unlike a jelly donut, on a song they’ve never play before they rarely jam. Instead, the fun and sheer rock chops to come forward in a way they may not on the heady stuff.

So I’ve ranked all the first-time covers from the past two weeks of Phish’s concerts, below. I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan myself – I once wrote an article defending their home of Burlington, Vermont from its jam-band stereotype – but some of these are among the best performances I’ve heard by them. Others…are not. Continue reading »

Aug 042017
 
ben gibbard teenage fanclub

A recent trend in the ongoing vinyl revival has been record subscription services, where every month any number of start-ups will send subscribers a few curated records. One such service, Turntable Kitchen, stands out from the pack by commissioning original music: full-length covers of classic albums by younger bands. The service has already released Yumi Zouma covering Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, Jonathan Rado of Foxygen covering Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, and Mutual Benefit covering Vashti Bunyan’s Just Another Diamond Day. Their fourth release is their biggest yet, and also their best. It’s Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service covering Teenage Fanclub’s 1991 masterpiece Bandwagonesque. Continue reading »

Aug 032017
 
blink 182 cover

“Unique” is an overused word, so when a press blurb landed plugging an “incredibly unique cover album,” we were skeptical. But if ever something deserved to be called “unique,” a collection of avant-garde jazz covers of Blink-182’s massive 1999 album Enema of the State is it.

Bassist Benjamin Ryan Williams records as B.E.N. so his version is called, naturally, Benema of the State. It’s a concept as dumb and goofy as Blink-182 themselves, but Williams takes the project seriously. Despite appearances, Benema of the State is no novelty album. “The main reason I wanted to [make this record] is because I thought the composition and the melodies are really good,” he said. “It’s to try to recreate the feeling of listening to Blink-182 as a kid, but doing it as an adult playing their music.” Continue reading »

Jul 312017
 
dont stop believing covers

When people argue over the Worst Song of All Time, inevitably someone will mention Journey’s (in)famous “Don’t Stop Believin’.” If Starship had never built that city on rock and roll, it would probably take the crown.

Frankly, I like other Journey songs, but “Don’t Stop Believin'” deserves most of the hate it gets. Its ubiquity on class rock radio, bad karaoke stages, and every college a cappella group that ever donned bow ties has made in insufferable (thank the Glee cover inexplicably going to #4 on the charts for the last one). Even The Sopranos couldn’t give it a coolness bump. It is not only Journey’s biggest song by a mile, it’s one of the most well-known songs of the 1980s, period.

The funny thing is that when it came out, not only was it not Journey’s biggest hit, it wasn’t even the biggest hit on that same album. “Open Arms” off Escape went to #2. “Who’s Crying Now” went to #4. “Don’t Stop Believin’,” meanwhile, barely scraped its way into the top ten.

Escape turns 36 this week, which might occasion a Full Album if anyone ever covered any of the other songs off it. But they don’t. They only cover “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Continue reading »

Jul 272017
 

A few years ago I attended a musical variety show with bunch of artists playing a few songs apiece. Eric Bazilian, frontman for ’80s new-wave band The Hooters, played a couple Hooters hits for his set before closing with a surprise cover: Joan Osborne’s “One of Us” (as in, “What if God was…”). His version was revelatory, loud and rocking and fun, a far cry from the self-serious lite-FM ballad that dominated airwaves in the mid-’90s. It totally reinvented the song, doing everything a great cover should.

I only learned later that it was not, in fact, a cover. Bazilian in fact wrote the song for Osborne, never properly releasing it himself. But his version made me reappraise a song I had grown to hate through overexposure (no knock on Joan, a talented song-interpreter on several terrific soul-covers albums who gets unfairly tarred by the “one-hit wonder” brush). Continue reading »

Jul 262017
 
mark bryan hootie

Mark Bryan wears many hats. Best known as the guitarist co-founder of Hootie and the Blowfish, he also runs an after-school music program for kids and just won an Emmy for producing the PBS music series Live at the Charleston Music Hall. He’s lived in South Carolina for decades, and a concert there when he was in college inspired a track on his new album. It’s a good story, so we’ll let him tell it: Continue reading »