Mar 062020
 

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

Moondog Matinee

Just five years on from the release of the rapturously-received Music From Big Pink album in 1968, simmering tension had already begun to erode The Band’s all-for-one-and-one-for-all dynamic. “We couldn’t get along… ‘Up On Cripple Creek’ and all that stuff was over,” drummer Levon Helm told GRITZ magazine in 2002.  The decision to record an album of covers appears to have been something of a tension-relieving exercise, a chance for The Band to let their hair down and remind themselves why they had started making music together in the first place. No Civil War epics or songs lamenting the plight of the American farmer to be found here: Moondog Matinee was designed to be nothing more than a straight-up party. Ironically, however, it’s the diversions into more sombre territory that provide some of the the album’s strongest moments.
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Feb 212020
 

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

Strange Little Girls

Wham, Steely Dan, Bette Midler, Bill Withers, Rihanna, Led Zeppelin, Madonna, Eagles, the Stones – Tori Amos has covered ’em all, and anyone and everyone left in between. (OK, maybe except maybe boybands – it wouldn’t surprise me if she tackled, say, “Back For Good” at least somewhere live, but I couldn’t find it in the pages and pages and pages of YouTube Tori Covers links.) Not necessarily successfully every time, it’s true, but always challengingly and usually well worth the ride.

Despite this evident love for the songs of others, Amos has officially issued only the one covers project, such is her own prolific muse, with well over a dozen discs of her own. (There’s also Midwinter Graces, a festive album with several traditional songs, and Night of Hunters, reimagining several classical pieces of inspiration to her over her years, but they don’t really count as cover albums.) Strange Little Girls, which came out in 2001, had a specific intent. Rather than a outpouring of personal favorites, this was a procession of songs delineating a masculine view of the world. By men and about men. With Amos’s acknowledged feminist opinions and activism, this was a deliberate stance, with the aim of subverting them and offering a female perspective thereto.
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Feb 042020
 

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

natalie imbruglia male

“Nothing’s fine, I’m torn!” Oops, wrong Natalie Imbruglia cover song (and yes, that is a cover). Today we celebrate Imbruglia’s 45th birthday by revisiting her cover album, Male, where she covered, you guessed it, songs by a variety of male artists.

You may know Imbruglia from her debut album, Left of the Middle, which has the highest sales for a debut album by an Australian female artist. After her debut, Imbruglia recorded three other albums before taking a break from music and leaning into acting.

This cover album followed the five-year musical drought and got Imbruglia back into touring, where she traveled around Europe and the UK in 2017 and 2018. We’re currently in another quiet period, but Imbruglia has plans to release a new album this year. Can’t wait!

Imbruglia’s Male holds many enjoyable gender-reversals with song choices from a variety of genres, from electronic to country and from pop to rock, and eras spanning 1970 to 2013. Below are a few stand-outs.

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Jan 212020
 

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

Return In Kind

This being the time of year when we are reminded of those we have lost, the retrospective review of deaths within the last year, I have found myself returning often to the works of Neal Casal, who tragically took his own life last August. A quintessential journeyman performer, hired guitar for many a singer/band seeking some additional gravitas, he had also a productive solo career, with about a dozen albums to his name. If he is best known for his lead guitar for Ryan Adams in the Cardinals, the band that also backed Willie Nelson on 2007’s Songbird, that is understandable. From there he became right hand man to Chris Robinson, in his eponymous Brotherhood, squeezing in the same role for Todd Snider in Hard Working Americans at the same time. The title of that band was surely meant for Casal, his ongoing list of sessions inspiring awe and respect, both in the quality of those who chose him, and the added value he provided to each. In the final years of his life, he was also increasingly absorbed into the diaspora of the Grateful Dead legacy, working both with Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, as well as being commissioned to write the incidental music for the run of shows celebrating the 50 years of the Dead, the Fare Thee Well gigs of 2015. This he then toured as Circles Around the Sun, finding time as well to form and play alongside members of Beachwood Sparks as the Skiffle Players.

Prolific or what?
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Oct 312019
 

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

Nightmare Revisited

Is The Nightmare Before Christmas a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie? Regardless of which team you are on, the soundtrack of the movie is still a good way to get in the spooky spirit. The premise of the movie originated from a poem written by Tim Burton in 1982. Jack, the Pumpkin King, rules over Halloween Town, home to a variety of monsters. When he discovers Christmas Town, he wants to shake things up and try out the novel holiday in Halloween Town. Hijinks abound and go awry, with plenty of opportunities to sing along.

In 1990, Walt Disney Studios took the project on as a full-length movie. However, the stop-motion, animated movie was released in 1993 under the Touchstone Pictures moniker because Walt Disney doubted its kid-friendliness. The movie defied expectations and became popular, receiving positive reviews from critics and audiences alike. The music itself also received accolades. Danny Elfman, the singing voice of Jack, wrote the songs and score of the original movie. The soundtrack won the Saturn Award for Best Music, awarded by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.

Upon the 15th anniversary of the movie, a cover album of the original soundtrack, Nightmare Revisited, was released in 2008. Studded with covers from a variety of alternative rock, punk, and (some may say) emo acts, the cover album reached the US Billboard 200. Listen to a few covers spanning the story line and then check the track list to see if your favorite angsty band of the aughts features.

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Jul 252019
 

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

McLemore Avenue

From their earliest records, The Beatles acknowledged their debt to the African-American artists who informed their sound. Much of their first two records were a tour through soul, R&B, and female vocal groups. By the end of the 1960s, as The Beatles were breaking up, African-American musicians were paying back the tribute by performing covers of the Fab Four.

One such notable cover was the entire album reinterpretation of Abbey Road by Booker T. & the MGs titled McLemore Avenue. The entire artistry of this album is an homage to Abbey Road. Released in April 1970 when The Beatles officially broke up, McLemore Avenue is like a musical funeral for the band and for the decade that they, in part, helped to define.
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