Patrick Robbins

Patrick Robbins lives in Maine, where he moves through life with the secure knowledge that, as Penn Jillette said, "In all of art, it's the singer, not the song," On Wednesdays he goes shopping, and has buttered scones for tea.

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Lemmy has admitted to being more of a slot machine man than a poker one, but the Motorhead bassist knew which topic would make a better lyric (“when it comes to that sort of thing… you can’t really sing about spinning fruit”). “Ace of Spades,” his paean to gambling that sure sounds like it’s about more than your typical deck of cards, is his band’s signature work and the proto-speed metal song. Anyone can perform it and sound dynamic – even a bunch of plastic dolls.
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Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

The way Adrian Edmondson tells it, he bought a mandolin after an inebriation-inducing lunch near Denmark Street in Soho, “a very dangerous place to be with a group of friends, drunk, if you have either cash, or a credit card about your person.” The next day, he picked it up and began playing the songs of his youth – by bands like the Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and other bands that certainly informed his portrayal of Vyvyan Basterd in the beloved Britcom The Young Ones. What came out was something very special indeed – so much so that Edmondson went out to find like-minded folk musicians to play this music with him, and when he found Uilleann pipe player Troy Donockley, the Bad Shepherds were born.
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Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

At this point, is there anything about Pink Moon that isn’t legendary? Age of artist: 23. Recorded in two nights. Voice and acoustic guitar, plus one small splash of piano. Not even a half hour long. Dropped off at the label’s office with barely a word. Sank like a proverbial stone upon release. Two years later, it was the artist’s turn. Then the pilgrimages to his home began, from listeners all over the world who’d connected with his songs. And then, two decades later, a show of hands in an ad agency office. All in favor of using the Church’s “Under the Milky Way” to score this car commercial? All in favor of Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon”? In the end, Nick Drake won (read more about the making of VW’s Cabrio ad from adman Shane Hutton in the comment section here), and in the very end, his work finally introduced to millions, he won again.
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Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Kirsty MacColl was still in her teens when she wrote and recorded “They Don’t Know.” It should have been a major smash, and in a way it was, peaking at #2 on a UK airplay chart; unfortunately, her distributor picked a horrible time to go on strike, which meant the single never got released, which meant it never placed on the sales-based UK Singles Charts. It took Tracey Ullman’s near-soundalike cover four years later to bring the song into the top ten where it belonged. Kirsty helped out with the backing vocals (that’s her a cappella “BAY-ee-BEE-ee!”), and she never resented Tracey for coming up with the brass ring that in a perfect world would have been hers; instead, she said things like “I don’t mind a bit of reflected glory” and “I’m grateful for (her) paying the rent.”
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Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

“Eleanor Rigby,” the second track on the Beatles’ Revolver album, may be the most atypical Beatles single. No Beatle played a note on it; instead, they were backed by a small string ensemble. Released as a single, it was the flip side of “Yellow Submarine,” and could not have been more diametrically opposed to that children’s song. It was a song not of love, but of loneliness and death, one that ran counter to their Fab-Four-moptop image. To quote Alan W. Pollack, a musicologist who gave close readings of all the Beatles’ songs, “As one of the most ‘serious’ pieces of the entire Beatles’ canon, this song straight-facedly vaporized several commonly supposed limitations of what the two-minute AM-radio pop/rock musical genre might be capable of including within its purview and power of expression. Pigeon-hole terms, such as Crossover, Fusion, or Hybrid, somehow don’t seem to do it justice.”
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Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

In 1990, the New Musical Express presented The Last Temptation of Elvis, a collection of covers from Elvis Presley movies designed to benefit the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre in London. Executive producer and NME journalist Roy Carr landed some big names – Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, and Robert Plant all showed up – and some even bigger tonal shifts. The album careens from rock to a capella to parody to metal and ends up with the King himself performing “King of the Whole Wide World.” “No performance implies any other,” Greil Marcus said about the album in his book Dead Elvis. “There’s no way to predict what anyone will have to say.”
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Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

After listening to the rock & roll on side one of Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home for the first time, the folkie purists of 1965 who dared to flip the record over must have done so with no small measure of dread. To their relief, side two was made up of basically acoustic songs, and led off with “Mr. Tambourine Man,” a song that may not have had a single whiff of Protest to it, but whose light surreal flow felt as smooth and magical as a steady creek and defied its listeners to not feel uplifted. It was as if the Pied Piper had switched to percussion, only gaining in followers for many jingle jangle mornings to come.
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Oct 252014

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Were Ray Charles alive, he’d be celebrating his 84th birthday today. Not a ridiculous conceit – Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, and Clint Eastwood all did the same earlier this year. Which only goes to show that it’s still hard sometimes to come to grips with a world without Ray. But it would be much, much harder to live in a world without his music.
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