Aug 182017
 

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

long distance salvation

Nebraska is the Bruce Springsteen album that it’s cool to like. Springsteen’s previous album, The River, had his biggest hit in “Hungry Heart,” and he was ready to break huge. Instead, he released an album that was literally a demo on a cassette, with all the intimacy and intensity that that entails. “I was interested in writing kind of smaller than I had been,” Springsteen said, and that’s what he did with Nebraska, focusing on individuals in trouble with an intensity that was more cathartic than a mostly-acoustic album would be expected to carry.

The respect that Nebraska has gained over the past three and a half decades has been equally split among fans, critics, and artists. The latter have saluted the album multiple ways, including a 2000 release from Sub Pop called Badlands, a full-album tribute that featured artists from Johnny Cash to Chrissie Hynde to Los Lobos. It had its moments, but a much smaller release called Long Distance Salvation did a much better job at conveying the original’s impact, even as it expanded on Springsteen’s work.
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Jul 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!

sly and the family stone

Sly and the Family Stone hadn’t recorded anything new in a year, and the record label wanted to keep Sly’s name in the public consciousness – and if they could make a little money in the bargain, so much the better. So they put together Sly and the Family Stone’s Greatest Hits. If not a cynical cash grab, it was at least within smelling distance.

But a funny thing happened – they scooped up some of the best singles of the sixties, when Sly Stone was writing songs emphasizing the coming together of all races, creeds, and colors into one big party, and the result was what Robert Christgau called “among the greatest rock and roll LPs of all time.” In his A+ review, he went on:

The rhythms, the arrangements, the singing, the playing, the production, and–can’t forget this one–the rhythms are inspirational, good-humored, and trenchant throughout, and on only one cut (“Fun”) are the lyrics merely competent. Sly Stone’s gift for irresistible dance songs is a matter of world acclaim, but his gift for political anthems that are uplifting but never simplistic or sentimental is a gas. And oh yeah–his rhythms are amazing.

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May 272017
 

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!

Happy birthday to Bruce Cockburn, a curious and spiritual man who finds the wonder where you can’t and who sees the danger when you don’t. The Canadian singer-songwriter has released two dozen albums over the last 45 years, but isn’t too well known outside of the Great White North. Generally speaking, Bruce’s ’70s albums were acoustic, frequently religious, and grounded in nature; perfect Sunday brunch backgrounds. The ’80s recordings were more electric, angrier, yet always hopeful. Cockburn is perceptive, able to explain a complex tragedy by focusing on the victims it created. And regardless of the decade, Cockburn’s love songs were always in the mix. Bruce has won 13 Juno Awards (Canada’s equivalent of the Grammy) and was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2001.

Bruce turns 72 today and we celebrate by offering a selection of other artists covering his work.
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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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Dec 022016
 

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.

echodrone-profile

An article about the shoegazing band Echodrone begins, “Echodrone are one of those bands that I want to be horribly embarrassed to have not been aware of ‘til their fifth album and tenth year…” The writer goes on to add, “Although, apparently many of the band members are yet to even meet each other… So I’m inclined to be slightly less embarrassed… ” Indeed, the band may be based in San Francisco, where it started out as a two-man operation (Eugene Suh and Brandon Dudley), but the addition of its newest members (Mike Funk, Jim Hrabak, and Rachel Lopez) has made them a quintet that records its songs virtually, passing the music files from one set of hands to the next via Dropbox. They may not play together, but you sure hope they’ll stay together.
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Sep 162016
 

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

Marc-Bolan

Marc Bolan died in a car crash 39 years ago today, just short of his thirtieth birthday. Tragic as this was, it was a perfect cap to the legend of the former Marc Feld, a man determined to be a near-myth of a rock star; live-fast-die-young had to be the closing number. But as other would-be legends (hi, Jobriath!) might tell you, an image won’t last without talent to keep it up, and Bolan’s talent for writing simple, catchy glamthems has kept him in the front of public consciousness, even for the ever-growing segment of the public that was born after he moved on.
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