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

B. Mitchel Reed, one of the most influential DJs in LA, had just played the first single off the new Fleetwood Mac album for the very first time. “I don’t know about that one,” he said dismissively to his millions of listeners. Within minutes he got a call from Lindsey Buckingham, the song’s author, demanding to know what the problem was. “I can’t find the beat,” he said. Suffice it to say that other listeners had a lot less of a problem with “Go Your Own Way” than Reed did.
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Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

Weird Al Yankovic got a lot of attention this summer (and deservedly so) for releasing a new album that made it to number one on the charts, but he’s not the only novelty master from the ’80s to be doing well for himself lately. Big Daddy, the band that sprayed american graffiti all over the hits of the day back in the day, have a new album coming out next week – Smashin’ Songs of Stage & Screen, which Big-Daddifies songs from hit musicals ranging from Wizard of Oz to Saturday Night Fever. Earlier this year, they also put out a collection of their greatest hits of the ’80s and early ’90s, Cruisin’ Through the Rhino Years, that cherry-picks highlights from the four albums they released for the Rhino Records label. If you’ve already got The Best of Big Daddy, their 2000 compilation, you’ll have sixteen of these songs already – but you’ll want to spring for this to get five more.
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Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Loaded, released forty-four years ago this week, was the album that marked the end of the Velvet Underground as we knew them – or, more accurately, as we never knew them until after they broke up, when those few thousand who bought the first record formed their own bands and named them as an influence. Trying to make the slickest, most commercial album they could, they still failed to crack Billboard‘s Top 200, but they scored some of the best reviews of their career; Rolling Stone‘s Lenny Kaye wrote, “Each cut on the album, regardless of its other merits, is first and foremost a celebration of the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, all pounded home as straight and true as an arrow.”
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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!

When it comes to religion and spirituality, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. The paint-by-numbers elements of most religious rituals leave me cold. I am not moved by scripture, nor am I frightened by hellfire and brimstone preachers – all fury, self-righteousness, and condemnation, their empty words matched by their outstretched empty palms.

In my darker and much more cynical moments, I wrestle with the notion of a human soul. Does a soul really exist, or is it something that we conjured up to serve as a salve?

And then I remember Bruce Springsteen.
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Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

The Beatles being the Beatles, they’ve had several permutations of their work served up in full-album form. Reggae, bluegrass, punk, C&W, lullaby – you name it, somebody out there’s done it. What’s surprising is that it took a good quarter of a century after the genre’s arrival before someone thought of doing an all-shoegazing album of Beatle covers. With their 2013 album Beatless, the Meeks proved that it was absolutely worth the wait.
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Sep 122014

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

Eleven years ago today, Johnny Cash breathed his last. Two weeks before, Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” beat Cash’s “Hurt” for Best Male Video at the MTV Video Music Awards. Timberlake began his acceptance speech by saying, “This is a travesty. I demand a recount.” He went on to say, “My grandfather raised me on Johnny Cash… and I think he deserves this more than any of us in here tonight.” In a career that’s had far more right moves than wrong ones, this may have been Timberlake’s wisest move – not only did he cede the spotlight to a true legend, he acknowledged that Cash’s already-legendary cover of the Nine Inch Nails song was and would ever after be the true winner.
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In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

He sounds like a slowed-down Jeff Buckley on female hormones. – Listener quoted in The Times of London
Antony Hegarty has a voice that sounds like it belongs to a Dostoyevsky character. Every song rides on an undercurrent of mournful reflection. – NPR
[W]hat a discovery: a voice like St Theresa’s arrow to pierce the soul. – The Australian
Every emotion in the planet is in that gorgeous voice. – Diamanda Galas
When I heard him, I knew that I was in the presence of an angel. – Lou Reed

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

Are the Decemberists a band that “craft theatrical, hyper-literate pop songs that draw heavily from late-’60s British folk acts like Fairport Convention and Pentangle and the early-’80s college rock grandeur of the Waterboys and R.E.M.,” as described by Allmusic, or are their songs an “unbearable exercise in indie high-quirkiness, with each new release deepening the impression that Meloy thinks he’s Edmund Spenser or, at least, the only rock singer smart enough to keep a copy of The Faerie Queene on his bedside plinth,” as writer Jody Rosen wrote in Slate?

Although I lean toward the former, I can understand believing the latter.

There can be no doubt that the Decemberists’ focus on tales of pirates, highwaymen, shape-shifters, and interpretations of myths and legends from around the world, plus primary lyricist Colin Meloy’s empty-the-thesaurus writing style, not to mention their practice of performing live historical reenactments in their shows, set them up for being mocked by some, and beloved by others. And that is what makes life interesting.
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