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.

Apr 182014

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

The Elektra label has a history of celebrating itself with various books and anthologies, but then, there’s a lot to celebrate. Started by a teenaged Jac Holzman in his dorm room in 1950, it grew into major label status while retaining an eclectic roster of musicians who were given the chance to spread their artistic wings, just as likely to reach pinnacles of cult fandom (Tim Buckley, Love) as pinnacles of worldwide success (the Doors, Queen). In 1990, Elektra celebrated its 40th anniversary by releasing Rubaiyat, a 4-LP/2-CD/2-cassette box set with a unique premise – the label’s current artists covering songs from the label’s prior artists. Rarely have such disparate musicians rubbed shoulders as they do on this release, whether on levels of dissimilarity (Tracy Chapman and Metallica – together again!) or familiarity (the Shaking Family was infinitesimally as well known as the Cure), but that was the point, and they all got together here for some fine and enlightening work.
Continue reading »

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.

When your share your name with a father who’s a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame… when you grew up living next door to George Jones and Tammy Wynette… when you have Shel Silverstein for a mentor… a life in the music business would seem preordained. That’s what Bobby Bare Jr. has made for himself, from duetting with his father in 1973 to selling t-shirts and working lights at concerts to becoming a full-time musician when he was about thirty. It’s been a hard life [the documentary Don't Follow Me (I'm Lost) follows him and his band down the long road of touring], but it’s paying off. This year alone he stole the show at SXSW’s Lou Reed tribute with his take on “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’,” and he released his very first cover of a song of his father’s, “Shame On Me,” saying that he “figured after 8 of my own albums I can’t be accused of ‘coat tailing’ at this point.”
Continue reading »

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

David Bowie’s appearance on Top of the Pops in 1972 electrified a nation. “I had to phone someone, so I picked on you,” he sang, pointing directly into the camera with the slyest of smiles, and within 24 hours young Britons were answering that call, draping their arms over their friends’ shoulders and buying The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in droves. (Many of them would be part of the New Romantic movement a decade later and would cite that show as the moment their world shifted.)

It didn’t hurt that Bowie had sung “Starman,” a track with more hooks than Moulty’s closet. It was added to Ziggy at the last minute, in the belief that it was just the hit single the album needed – a belief that turned out to be very well founded indeed. Both the singer and the song have enraptured listeners ever since.
Continue reading »

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.

 
In 1939, MGM was trying to edit The Wizard of Oz down from its near two-hour length, and one of the prime candidates for cutting was the song “Over the Rainbow.” The powers that be felt it slowed the picture down, went over the heads of the target audience of children, and was not a song suited for “a little girl singing in a barnyard.” Three-quarters of a century later, it was being sung by Pink at the Academy Awards ceremony. In between it had become Judy Garland’s signature song and was named the greatest movie song of all time by the American Film Institute.
Continue reading »

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

At the time, did you consider yourself to be a Baroque popper?

No… to put myself in a category, okay, pop, yeah, definitely pop. But ‘Brrr-roke?’ Come to think of it, I was brrrroke my whole life! Yeah, a brrrrrrrroke popper! That’s exactly what I am! — Emitt Rhodes, in a 2010 interview

If you want the prototypical example of a record company killing the goose that laid the golden egg, look no further than the story of Emitt Rhodes. An incredibly talented teen who’d had a couple local hits with his band the Merry-Go-Round, Rhodes released a self-titled album in 1970 that featured him on all vocals and instruments, and which earned favorable comparisons to Paul McCartney’s similar one-man-band home-recorded solo debut released earlier that same year. But after that, the suits stepped in, and it was all downhill.
Continue reading »

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

In 1988, Rolling Stone named “Stayin’ Alive” one of the 100 top singles of the last 25 years, and they asked the Bee Gees to comment; how did they feel about the song? The terse response: “We’d like to dress it up in a white suit and gold chains and set it on fire.” It’s an understandable reaction – for all the wealth and fame the song brought them, it also swept aside their estimable back catalog and pigeonholed them as Disco with a capital Dis, so much so that when the genre died, the Bee Gees’ commercial success in the U.S. died with it.

But for all the venom directed “Stayin’ Alive”‘s way, for all its use as a punchline from Airplane! to Ted, people can’t get away from how good a song it is. “Look at great huge Maurice Gibb, singing like Donald Duck on ‘Stayin’ Alive,’” Roger Daltrey of the Who carped in 1978, then instantly added, “And that’s a great song. Bruce Springsteen could sing that lyric.”
Continue reading »

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

When Grant McLennan died of a heart attack in 2006, far too young at age 48, it was a tremendous blow to the Austalian music world. More than a thousand people attended his funeral, and there was an outpouring of tributes to his life and his work, paying homage to him as one of the country’s greatest songwriters. He was even saluted on the floor of Australian Parliament. But in America, where sales never equaled critical hosannas, only a select few thousand knew to mourn – thankfully, those few (The Village Voice‘s Robert Christgau and The Big Takeover‘s Jack Rabid among them) were eloquent in their explanation of what had been lost.
Continue reading »

Feb 082014

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

Joe Raposo taught America’s children how to sing. – Charles Kuralt

Joe Raposo died a quarter century ago this week; today would have been his 77th birthday. The name might not ring a bell, but the music sure does – he was the very first person to ask, “Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?”

Yes, Raposo’s songs helped many a sunny day sweep the clouds away, whether they were performed by Cookie Monster or Frank Sinatra (who called Raposo “the genius”). His melodies were catchy and uplifting, while his lyrics were simple enough for kids to grasp, but sophisticated enough that adults could find true meaning in them. Put together, they defied you to not sing along.
Continue reading »

© 2012 Cover Me. All rights reserved. Creative Commons License About | Contact | Staff | Subscribe | Write For Us Suffusion WordPress theme by Sayontan Sinha