Jan 122018
 

Cover Classics takes a look at great covers albums of the past, their genesis and their legacies.

doc pomus tribute album

“Why now,” you ask. “Why focus on this album in 2018, more than 20 years since it was made and getting on 30 since the recipient of the tribute died? And who he anyway? He didn’t have any hits.”

Well, that’s where you are wrong. Doc Pomus wrote many of the 1950s songs we now see as standards – standards across many genres, encompassing blues through rock (and roll), with a hefty side influence into country and soul. Few people won’t have at least a whistling memory of at least one of these songs, probably more, in versions played by artists as diverse as ZZ Top, Engelbert Humperdinck and the Searchers. Continue reading »

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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May 162017
 

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

true story of dixie

Everything that makes Abner Jay weird and wonderful can be found in the opening track of his 1974 album True Story of Dixie. At first, you might wonder about why an African American man would record “Dixie,” a song often considered a racist reminder of the Confederacy. Jay knows this. In fact, he only gets thirty seconds in before he begins to explain himself.

“The most-loved song in the south by whites, and the most-hated song in the south by blacks,” he begins, “is the song ‘Dixie’ – and all because of a stupid misunderstanding.” And from there he’s off, spinning a tale that begins as an accurate historical retelling about how the song was written before rambling off into shaggy-dog stories about James Brown, bone houses, and how Jay’s “sixteen young’uns” keep the roaches away. Continue reading »

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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Mar 102017
 

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

Scratch_My_Back

Until 2010’s Scratch My Back appeared, Peter Gabriel had been an artist more covered than covering – arguably a pity, given the cracked wistfulness of his croaky beauty. But I guess if you can write material of the quality and diversity that he has, why bother with someone else’s material? The problem was, Gabriel hadn’t been writing that kind of material – this was his first album in eight years.

So was Scratch My Back just, as covers projects can so often be, a stopgap sales pitch to keep his brand alive during a creative lull? Who knows? I think not and hope not, feeling this a deliberate if somewhat failed experiment on two levels. Flawed, maybe, rather than failed.
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Feb 032017
 

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

Rutles+Highway+Revisited

Until such time as a record company can be persuaded to put together a Spinal Tap tribute album (and really, how did that never happen?), the award for Best Tribute Album To A Fictional Band has to go to Rutles Highway Revisited. The Rutles were a takeoff on the Beatles with songs written by Neil Innes that were SO close to the originals that Innes now has to share royalties with Lennon and McCartney. They had a brilliant (and little-seen at the time) TV special with many Saturday Night Live members and a few quality musicians (including a heavily disguised George Harrison). The Shimmy Disc label saluted the band in 1990 with an album designed mostly to promote the label’s frequently eccentric artists, but with such cheerful pastiches to work with, the hits-to-misses ratio was pretty darn good.
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