Dec 042015
 

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

linusandlucy

This week saw the 50th anniversary airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas, the animated special that’s become a part of the national fabric. We all know what a Charlie Brown Christmas tree looks like; we all know how the kids dance, and we all know “Linus and Lucy,” the jazz composition by Vince Guaraldi. Originally written for a documentary on Charles Schulz, the jazz piano instrumental now serves as the unofficial Peanuts theme song, as well as being the centerpiece on the special’s soundtrack (one of the top ten bestselling holiday albums).
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Nov 282015
 

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!

randynewman

The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 saw New Orleans receiving 15 inches of rain in 18 hours, with parts of it under four feet of water. Forty-seven years later, Randy Newman released “Louisiana 1927,” a lament about the devastation the disaster caused and the government’s callous response. Thirty-one years after that, Hurricane Katrina struck, and the song took on a new life. It takes a remarkable writer to compose a song about the long-ago past that can be relevant in the far-ahead future, and that’s just what Randy Newman is.

As he celebrates his 72nd birthday today, Newman can look back on a career of critically praised albums, memorable film scores, a couple of fluke hits, twenty Oscar nominations and two wins. He’s the absolute master of the unreliable narrator, which allows him to explore the uncomfortable side of humanity with dark humor. Journalist Paul Zollo writes, “There is no other songwriter who has shown us bigotry, ignorance, and human weakness as convincingly as Randy Newman.” People who only know him as the guy who writes for Pixar movies and gets mocked by Family Guy need to take a closer look; fortunately, many cover artists have been all too happy to take that closer look for us.
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Nov 202015
 

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

bob ramona

Bob Dylan scholars have determined that “To Ramona” is a song about Joan Baez; Dylan’s warning her that the folk protest movement will draw her in deep, but he recognizes that she doesn’t necessarily have a problem with that, and much as he loves and wants her, he has to let her think for herself, both for her sake and for his. That’s a pretty specific interpretation, yet the song resounds in the hearts of thousands, millions, as a love song they can relate to their own lives, in their own ways. It speaks to Dylan’s genius that he can draw the universal from the singular instead of the other way around.
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Nov 132015
 

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

lz3

When Led Zeppelin III was released 45 years ago, it seemed destined to disappoint both the fans who wanted “Whole Lotta More Love” and the critics who weren’t all that keen on the band to begin with. Oh, sure, “Immigrant Song” was an instant hard-rock classic, and “Since I’ve Been Loving You” was blues as slow and heavy as you could hope for, but this album’s heart and soul lay with its acoustic numbers on what was then called Side Two. This wouldn’t do – hadn’t these guys already set up camp in the heavy metal slums? How dare they pretend to be other than what they were?

Of course, time has proven Zeppelin the wiser. III proved them capable of expanding their palette, showing more sides and more shades than the wannabes who were only capable of following one set of Zep’s footprints. The critics have come around, taking note of the bucolic dimension Jimmy Page and Robert Plant brought to their songwriting after a recharging stay in a quiet cottage in Wales named Bron-Yr-Aur. And the fans? Well, Led Zeppelin was never going to lose their fans.
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Nov 062015
 
Bond Week

This is Part Two of our countdown of the 24 best Bond theme covers (for the 24 movies). Read the introduction and download the first set of 12 covers at Part One here.
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Nov 052015
 
Bond Week

For a musician, the honor getting to sing the James Bond theme song is in its own category. Many movies need songs, but you never see articles wondering who will do the next Fast and the Furious song (even though more people would likely hear your song there than in Bond). Giving their music to sell a product is something musicians regularly do, but rarely take as a career honor.

But given the track record Bond theme songs have had, the appeal makes sense. James Bond songs might even have a higher batting average than James Bond movies (and certainly higher than James Bond actors). And there’s a prevailing sense artists are chosen for abilities beyond just star-power, despite plenty of counterexamples over the years. Some of the most iconic songs were sung by singers who rarely topped the charts elsewhere – three by Shirley Bassey alone – whereas attempts to grab zeitgiesty performers have flopped. Continue reading »

Nov 042015
 
Bond Week

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

double o heaven

With James Bond Part XXIV being released this week, the time seemed right to take a look at some Bond-related covers. Tune in tomorrow for some of the best ever made; for today, we’re whetting your appetite with a look at an all-Bond cover album that’s not like all the others.
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Oct 302015
 

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

Light_of_Day

Bruce Springsteen may not be rock ‘n’ roll’s future anymore, but he’s been so prolific – by 1998, three-quarters of his catalog consisted of unreleased songs – that we could very well see new albums coming out from him long after he’s gone. That abundance of gifts he’s given have not only made him a natural for the tribute album treatment, they’ve also given the covering artists a lot to work with – top-ten hits stand shoulder to shoulder with the barely bootlegged, and with no loss in song quality. The 2003 tribute album Light of Day: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen showcased the breadth of Springsteen’s catalog – two and a half hours long, holding over three dozen songs – just as surely as it showcased the depth of his songwriting.
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