Jul 232014

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

The 27 Club is one of the most enduring legends of rock and roll apocrypha, and although the member list is distinguished, no one’s really clawing to get in. It refers to the peculiarly high number of prominent musicians who died at the age of 27 – blues legend Robert Johnson, Jim Morrison, Big Star’s Chris Bell, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones founding member Brian Jones, and Kurt Cobain, amongst (too) many others.

In 2011, the club expanded its membership yet again with blue-eyed soul ingénue, Amy Winehouse.
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Jul 212014

In high school, a friend and I drove two hours to a blues festival in rural Maine one Saturday. When we got to the gate we found tickets to be well outside of our meager budget, but there was only one artist we’d wanted to see anyway: Johnny Winter. So we found a low fence we could peer over, and sat, and waited. Continue reading »

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!

Matthew Sweet’s career is a textbook example of what happens if you are exceedingly good at something that is not considered to be cool. In this case, that thing is the musical genre of “power pop.” Sweet is almost universally considered to be a master of the genre (usually defined as being a cross between hard rock and pop, with serious Beatles influences), and his best album, 1991′s Girlfriend, is generally considered to be a masterpiece, even by people who generally look down their noses at “power pop.”

As a result, Sweet is a cult hero to some critics and fans who appreciate the tight, hook-filled yet intelligent songwriting that typifies the genre, while remaining unknown to the masses who may – may - have heard one of the two or three Sweet songs that occasionally sneak into a radio or streaming playlist. Of course, the music geeks who write for Cover Me are Sweet fans; we’ve featured his cover work repeatedly, even giving him a birthday tribute featuring covers of his songs by other artists. But never before has he received the sort of career-affirming fawning adulation that can only be found in an “In the Spotlight” feature.
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Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

 
“Baby Don’t You Do It” was written by the premier Motown songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. As with other Motown songs, it got passed around the stable a bit; originally meant for the Supremes, it wound up going to Marvin Gaye, who had a minor hit with it, and Stevie Wonder and the Isley Brothers recorded it as well. It also got a toehold across the pond, showing up in setlists of the Small Faces and the Who, among others. And let’s not forget other forgotten versions, like those by the Wailers and Barbara Randolph (well worth an exploratory visit to YouTube). In other words, for a song that’s not often mentioned as one of Motown’s greatest hits, it’s made a deep, deep impression.
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Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.

Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).

Today’s question: What’s a song you didn’t know was a cover song?
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We here at Cover Me like our occasional long holiday weekends too. We’ll leave you with a few of our favorite patriotic pieces, and wish you all a happy Fourth of July (hope you enjoy the 5th & 6th, too)!
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Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Bob Dylan recorded “Simple Twist of Fate” for one of his most popular albums, 1975′s Blood On the Tracks. Overanalyzed by critics and Bob fans everywhere, Tracks was dismissed by Dylan for having been influenced by the drama of a failing marriage, but there’s no denying how much pain comes through on the album’s songs, particularly this one.
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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!

Astral Weeks, insofar as it can be pinned down, is a record about people stunned by life, completely overwhelmed, stalled in their skins, their ages and selves, paralyzed by the enormity of what in one moment of vision they can comprehend. — Lester Bangs, 1979

I was so shocked when I was teaching a seminar at Princeton just a couple years ago, and out of 16 students, four of them said their favorite album was Astral Weeks. Now, how did it enter their lives? We’re talking about an album that was recorded well before they were born, and yet it spoke to them. They understood its language as soon as they heard it. — Greil Marcus, 2009

To paraphrase the singer of “Sweet Thing,” Astral Weeks is dynamite and we don’t know why. The album Van Morrison created in his early twenties has detonated in more psyches than thousands of better known works, but when its biggest fans try to explain its greatness, more often than not, their tongues get tied every time they try to speak.
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