Curtis Zimmermann

Curtis Zimmermann works as an advertising sales executive for an academic publisher in Philadelphia. He’s been a music critic, news reporter, financial fraud investigator and spent many years in corporate sales, all the while maintaining a healthy obsession with music history. He first became intrigued with genre-bending covers in college when he stumbled across a used copy of Ray Charles’ box set “The Complete Country & Western Recordings 1959 - 1986.”

Sep 072020
 

Lou Reed’s 1972 hit “Walk on the Wild Side” feels a bit like a risqué movie. Though these days the plot would barely raise a plucked eyebrow, in the waning months of the Nixon administration it explored all kinds of cultural taboos. Reed tells the stories of several crossdressing young lads as they turn tricks, take Valium, and give head.

Suzanne Vega released a cover of “Walk on the Wild Side” on her new album An Evening of New York Songs and Stories. The live album features Vega singing songs about the Big Apple. It seems like an ideal topic for Vega, given that she helped put the Upper West Side eatery “Tom’s Diner” on the map years before the Seinfeld gang made it their locale of choice.

Performing in New York’s Café Carlyle in 2019, Vega gives the song the feel of a spoken word performance. She starts out slow, mainly backed by the guitar then adds in bits of piano and other instruments as the tune progresses. About two-thirds of the way through, guitarist Gerry Leonard throws in a bluesy solo. A solid take on a classic, even if the subject manner is not nearly as edgy as it once was.

Click here to listen to more Lou Reed covers.

Aug 272020
 
garth brooks covers

Thirty years ago, Garth Brooks released his breakthrough album No Fences. Powered by instant classics such as “Friends in Low Places,” “The Thunder Rolls,” and “Unanswered Prayers,” the record would ultimately sell 18 million copies. In the process, it transformed Brooks into a stadium-filling phenomenon and redefined the parameters for success in country music. The album is a quintessential piece of what we now call ’90s County, a hybrid of neo-traditional country twang mixed with ’70s-style acoustic rock and pop balladry.

Listening to No Fences with three decades of hindsight, it’s clear Brooks is more than a singer. He’s an epic storyteller. Whether he’s singing about bank foreclosures, religious epiphanies at high school football games or going to that place where “the whiskey drowns, and the beer chases” one’s blues away, he delivers every line as if he’s trying to convey some deep universal truth. Like many a country star before and after him, Brooks is a master of interpreting other people’s words. Though he co-wrote several of the songs, he sings every track as if it’s his own.
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Aug 182020
 
dana gavanski

Every year, during the dog days of summer, most music publications (including this one) like to remind readers that in mid-August 1969 hundreds of thousands of Baby Boomers headed to Bethel, New York to listen to some great music in Max Yasgur’s mud-soaked fields. In 2020, 51 years removed from Woodstock, the performers are still having an impact. Continue reading »

Jul 222020
 
full moonalice bird song

The origin story behind Full Moonalice reads like a cross between a Bay Area-rock n’ roll odyssey and a business profile in The Wall Street Journal, complete with name changes and mergers.

The band started in the late ‘90s when it was founded by Silicon Valley investor and guitarist Roger McNamee as the Flying Other Brothers. The band retooled in 2007 as Moonalice. It performed and recorded for more than a decade with an ever-shifting lineup of well-regarded jamband musicians. Somewhere in the middle, McNamee was an early investor in a plucky little startup called Facebook. In late 2019, Moonalice announced it was teaming up with the T Sisters, a folk-singing sister act and the soul group the New Chambers Brothers to form Full Moonalice. Continue reading »

Jul 062020
 
last of us take on me

There are few songs more quintessentially ‘80s than A-Ha’s “Take On Me.” From the iconic synth-driven keyboard riff to the then-groundbreaking animated video, everything about it is reminiscent of that decade. In the years since it was an MTV staple, it has been covered by ska bands, punk bands, bluegrass outfits, folkies and even the likes of Weezer and Metallica. The song rejoined the animated world when it was included in the recent release of the video game The Last of Us Part II, the sequel to one of the most beloved games of the 2010s about a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by disease and zombies. Continue reading »

May 282020
 
bb king eric clapton rollin tumblin

The year 2000 ushered in a tsunami of pop music as N’SYNC, Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys all released multi-platinum albums. That same year, an aging British guitarist who spent most of the ‘90s chasing soft-rock glory and a septuagenarian bluesman who released his first single in 1949 had an unlikely hit record, too.

Riding with the King features the guitar-slinging duo of B.B. King and Eric Clapton playing a mix of covers and some of King’s classics. The album went double platinum and won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album. An expanded 20th anniversary version of the record will be released this summer along with two bonus tracks left off the original release. One of these, a cover of the blues standard “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” was unveiled last week.

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