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. He is the author of the novel To Make Others Happy.

Apr 282017
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

dark side of the moon

On April 28, 1973 – forty-four years ago today – Pink Floyd’s album The Dark Side of the Moon reached number one in the Billboard Top 200 Bestselling Album charts. Fifteen years later, it was still on those charts. Impeccably produced and beautifully played, Moon deservedly served as the band’s breakthrough. This was an album that worked best as a whole, even if it did contain a top 20 single in “Money,” and it’s an album that’s been covered in its entirety by multiple single artists. Among them: Phish, the Flaming Lips, Dream Theater, and the Easy Star All-Stars, whose Dub Side of the Moon was so successful they released an album of remixes, Dubber Side of the Moon, seven years later.

Let’s just say that when it came time to put together our own Full Album collection, the pickings were anything but slim. Consider the following just one of many, many Moons.
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Apr 212017
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

new sell out

It couldn’t miss – a music genre’s Who’s Who paying tribute to the Who.

These were some of the biggest names in the power-pop world (a small underground world, granted, but one with a truly devoted population) taking on The Who Sell Out, the band’s concept album that saluted pirate radio and served as a bridge to the world of Tommy. Like the original album, the tribute would feature fake commercials and promos – “every word, every chunk, in order,” said Keith Klingensmith, the head of Detroit indie label Futureman Records. “My partner, Rick McBrien, and I had this idea for a while now, and we knew we would never get another compilation idea this good, so we decided to do it ourselves.”

The power pop intelligentsia waited for the album’s release with bated breath and more than a little drool. And waited. And waited…
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Apr 142017
 

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!

al green

A belated happy birthday to the Reverend Al Green, who turned 71 years old yesterday. The soul giant teamed with producer Willie Mitchell on the Hi Records label to create some of the most memorable singles and albums of the early ’70s, then moved away from secular music into gospel and preaching – his Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Memphis recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of its founding. His original songs have been covered by people up to and including the president of the United States, but today we’ll look at the holy spirit that he brought to the songs of others.
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Apr 072017
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

Phil Spector had co-written a smash, and now that he was about to produce it, he had to get the right singer. Someone whose voice could blast through the thickest Wall of Sound he ever constructed. Fortunately, he had just the voice – he’d signed Ike and Tina Turner for the express purpose of having Tina record this one song.

While Ike was paid twenty thousand dollars to stay away from the studio, Tina worked. She was singing a non-R&B song for the first time in her professional life, and where Ike was always asking her to scream, Phil told her to stick to the melody. The sessions were grueling, causing Tina literal pain; after trying and trying to get it right, her blouse soaked with sweat, she said, “Okay, Phil, one more time,” then ripped off her blouse and let out an incendiary vocal that floored everybody. “It was like the whole room exploded,” her manager said.
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Mar 242017
 

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.

emm gryner

In Canada, and among elite musicians, it seems foolish to claim that the work of Emm Gryner flies under the radar. She has a dozen and a half releases to her name, not counting the ones with the folk trio Trent Severn (where she sings and plays bass) and the hard rockers Trapper. She’s played with David Bowie’s band and opened for Def Leppard. Nelly Furtado named her album Science Fair as a desert island disc. Bono was once asked what songs of the previous 20 years he wished he’d written; Gryner’s “Almighty Love” was one of the half-dozen or so he named.
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Mar 172017
 

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

mac

It may be hard to believe, but in Fleetwood Mac’s hugely successful career, they’ve only had one song go all the way to number one on America’s Top 100. That would be “Dreams,” the second single from 1977’s Rumours, and it saw Stevie Nicks running through the gamut of emotions after her breakup with Lindsey Buckingham, a subject she doesn’t even try to disguise. “Who am I to keep you down?” she asks at the start, before reminding him of the consequences of leaving her – he’ll be alone, trapped with his memories of her. But he’ll come through it all in the end, when (not if) the rain washes him clean. The backing is spare, with Mick Fleetwood and John McVie not just providing the rhythm but the musical focus, while Buckingham adds atmosphere with very occasional guitar flourishes. It all makes for beautiful uneasiness, and the song’s success was much deserved.
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