Sara Stoudt

Sara is a statistician, but during her free time she is crafting the perfect playlist for any occasion. Her dad trained her well in the art of music appreciation (for which her live music trivia team is thankful for), and she is definitely judging you by your karaoke song choice. Follow her on Twitter or check out her website.

Jul 102020
 

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

Coldplay Parachutes covers

Band members Chris Martin (vocals and piano), Jonny Buckland (guitar), Guy Berryman (bass), and Will Champion (drums) met at college and started a band in 1996 (plus their original manager, Phil Harvey, is often considered the fifth member of the band). They settled on the name Coldplay (other names like Pectoralz and Starfish don’t have quite the same ring to them) and released two EPs before embarking on their first full-length album. Parachutes was released twenty years ago on July 10, 2000. Time sure flies! Continue reading »

Jul 062020
 

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

Ride Wit Me covers

Hot shit! Nelly’s debut album, Country Grammar, turned twenty at the end of June. The album brought Nelly into the spotlight and made the public aware of the hip-hop scene in St. Louis (check out that famous arch on the album cover). Other St. Louis rappers followed, such as Akon (“Smack That”), Chingy (“Right Thurr”), Huey (“Pop, Lock & Drop It” ), and J-Kwon (“Tipsy”).

The album’s third single, “Ride Wit Me,” had the highest US charting of all the songs on the album, reaching number three on the Billboard Hot 100. The song features Nelly’s friend, City Spud, who also produced four songs on the album. City Spud ended up going to jail thanks to an unfortunate choice of person to ride with. Under the circumstances (and mandatory minimum sentencing laws), City Spud was in jail during the ascent of “Ride Wit Me.”

Although we probably won’t be riding with anyone outside our immediate household any time soon, we can dream while listening to these new spins on a 2000 classic (although, sadly, City Spud’s verse is missing from them all). Go ahead and scream “MUST BE THE MONEY” into the void. And for all of you wanting to celebrate another one of Nelly’s masterpieces, “Hot in Herre,” you’ll have to wait two more years for Nellyville to turn twenty. (By the way, Nelly’s iconic bandage on the face on this album’s cover is a reference to his friend, City Spud.)

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Jun 292020
 

Saving for a Custom Vanjenn champion the blue album

Adam Schlesinger died on April 1st from COVID-19 complications. Not even three months later, “collaborators, tourmates, friends, and fans” put together Saving for a Custom Van, an extensive tribute album spanning songs from his varied career. Schlesinger is best known for being a founding member of Fountains of Wayne, but he also was in the more indie band Ivy and the supergroup Tinted Windows (with members from Hanson, Cheap Trick, and The Smashing Pumpkins). He also wrote songs for a variety of movies (Music & Lyrics, That Thing You Do!, Josie and the Pussycats), television shows (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), and Broadway (the postponed show, The Bedwetter) that also make an appearance on this tribute album.

The resulting collage of covers is heartfelt and plays like a personal mix tape of sorts. This makes it hard to pass any judgment. Overall, it is a powerful homage that also educates listeners on the history of Schelsinger’s work. In the sad context of the album, lyrics stand out as especially poignant, from the sad irony of “All Kinds of Time” to the evergreen “Troubled Times.”

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Jun 242020
 

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

Nina Revisited

Nina Simone, the “High Priestess of Soul,” had a storied career, producing over 40 albums throughout her life. She gained popularity with her original music as well as through reinventions of standards (including a Hall and Oates tune later in her career). She was formally trained on the piano from a young age, and although she never reached her dream of being the first African-American classical pianist, she did become the first African-American woman to play piano at Carnegie Hall (even if she wasn’t playing classical tunes). Simone went to Julliard, but she was denied entrance to the Curtis Institute of Music, which she suspected was due to her race. She had the last laugh, though; a couple of days before she died, she was awarded an honorary degree by this institute.

Simone was active in the civil rights movement (she even performed at the Selma march), and she wasn’t afraid to speak (or sing) her mind despite how this affected her career. She was more in the Malcolm X school of thought (and was his literal neighbor) than in Martin Luther King Jr.’s, but King’s death still affected her and led to a tribute song.

Simone’s accolades are many. She has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Grammy Hall of Fame, and her legacy lives on. Her songs remain in the public ear, including being sampled in modern hip-hop and rap songs by Kanye West, Jay-Z, Timbaland, and Lil’ Wayne, among others.

To coincide with the release of the original Netflix documentary about her life, What Happened, Miss Simone?, in 2015 this tribute album was released with liner notes by Angela Davis. Let’s listen to some reinterpretations of some of her most iconic songs.

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Jun 152020
 

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

Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald, “the First Lady of Song,” the “Queen of Jazz,” or simply “Lady Ella,” got her first big break at an Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater, a place where many stars first got their start (Diana Ross & the Supremes, Aretha Franklin, and Lauryn Hill, to name but a few). She went on to have an almost 30-year-long career, recording over 200 albums and collecting many awards, including 14 Grammys (making her the woman with the fifth most overall), the National Medal of Arts (given by President Ronald Reagan), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (given by President George H. W. Bush), and internationally, admission into France’s Order of Arts and Letters. She even got her own stamp and was featured in the Google Doodle.

Fitzgerald was a trailblazer. She was the first African American woman to win a Grammy for Best Vocal Performance and Best Jazz Performance and the first woman to be nominated for Album of the Year during the first-ever Grammy awards in 1959. Eight years later, she became the first woman to win the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

She collaborated with many others musicians throughout the course of her career (as we’ll see below), often making old songs her own. Despite her popularity and her status as a major jazz influencer, Fitzgerald still faced discrimination (she once was arrested backstage at her own show). Fitzgerald had powerful advocates though, including Marilyn Monroe, a big fan who used her popularity to advocate for Fitzgerald to perform at a popular club, Mocambo.

Today, on the anniversary of her death and in her memory, we listen to covers of some of her originals (for the cover sticklers) and covers of her own covers (although arguably she popularized these tunes). Before reading on, I encourage you to listen to Fitzgerald’s response to Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, a song called “It’s Up to Me and You.” Her message, “let’s not hate and let’s not wait,” rings true today.

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Jun 032020
 

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

Terrible Thrills, Vol. 2

Jack Antonoff gives us serious writer/producer/performer triple threat vibes (a la Timbaland and Pharrell). He’s been in a variety of musical acts himself, including Steel Train, fun., and Bleachers, and been involved behind the scenes in the creation of others’ award winning albums. Just to give you a sense for all of the pies he has his fingers in, Antonoff:

  • co-wrote and co-produced some songs on Taylor Swift’s 1989, Reputation, and Lover,
  • co-wrote and co-produced Lorde’s Melodrama album,
  • co-produced Lana del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell! album,
  • co-wrote and co-produced the soundtrack for Love, Simon,
  • co-wrote Sara Bareilles’s song “Brave,”
  • co-produced Saint Vincent’s Masseduction,
  • co-wrote and co-produced songs on The Dixie Chicks’ upcoming album, and
  • co-wrote and co-produced tracks on Carly Rae Jepsen’s Dedicated (including the B-Side version).

We see some of these collaborations either forming out of or being foreshadowed by ties within this cover album.

The “Terrible Thrills” tradition started with Terrible Thrills, Vol. 1an all female cover album of Steel Train’s eponymous album. Terrible Thrills, Vol. 2 was a follow-up project that again featured all female covers, this time of Bleachers’ first album, Strange Desire. Afterwards, although it does not include covers of the entire album, Terrible Thrills, Vol. 3 followed, containing female covers of four songs from Bleachers’ second album, Gone Now, as well as demos and new versions of songs from the album. (I was bummed to not have a female cover of “Don’t Take the Money.”) This cover album was only sold on vinyl, but you can listen to it here.

Every single one of these covers is great, so I had a hard time choosing just a handful to write about. But here goes…

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