Mar 252019
 

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!

def leppard covers

It seems like just yesterday. I was listening to the radio, when a song by a previously unheard-of band from Britain – who apparently didn’t know how to spell their own name – came on and my eleven-year-old mind was blown! And while this may sound like a scenario during the height of Beatlemania, this was 1983. This was Def Leppard!

Before I continue, I am not stating that Def Leppard is the Beatles of my generation. However, their album Pyromania was my first purchase, which changed the way I listened to music forever. I am ecstatic that they will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year.  I spent some time during my winter break re-listening to all of Def Leppard’s covers. And even though it was difficult, I was able pick my personal Top Five.
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Mar 252019
 

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

Roxy Music

I know, I know, cheating with a compilation album, but believe me, I tried, hell, I tried. I wanted to cover the 1972 debut, Roxy Music/Roxy Music, not least as it is “their best,” but also to celebrate this year’s inauguration of the band (or brand) into the R&R Hall of Fame. But let’s face it — however good (most of) the songs are, the cover versions, give or take, are decidedly not. And so few anyway, most being limp copies and ersatz imitations. (And I’m talking about you, Velvet Goldmine, with your Thom Yorke and your faux recreations.) Indeed, it seems, as I researched, that the only person regularly covering Roxy was Bryan Ferry himself, either in solo mode or, now and gloriously, in a jazz age great Gatsby style, both ruled out automatically by default. But they are good….. So I have had to resort to this 2nd best, even if it misses out the sole reason I wanted to take this on in the first place, the superb Tin Machine/Bowie take on “If There is Something,” my favorite-ever Roxy track.

I loved the Roxy, being just the right age as they emerged, in my mid-teens, looking for the hit of new to fertilize my hungry ears. I recall listening to the debut in a Brighton record shop. There was a wiring disconnect in the headphones, giving a buzz in the left ear. I didn’t realize this wasn’t part of the sound for some time (years, actually), thinking it part of the process, and it added to the band’s mystique. The succession of records continued to enthrall, arguably better put together songs as more of the experimental gradually fell by the wayside, not that I could allow myself to admit it. As Eno and every bassist in turn left, so the musicianship upped, the Eddie Jobson years an especial highlight. A few years silence and back they bounced, now a smoother beast altogether, a trio of Ferry, Mackay and Manzanera with the pick of sessiondom’s finest, still great, if mellower. Did they ever really officially fold? There was always the promise of some new undertaking, inevitably subsumed into more Ferry solo projects, his live shows increasingly and ever more Roxy-based. I don’t suppose it will ever happen now, but maybe the memories are stronger.

Have some hits…
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Mar 222019
 

There are great drummers and then there was Hal Blaine. As a member of the famed Wrecking Crew of Los Angeles studio musicians, Blaine provided the backbeat to the soundtrack of the ‘60s and early ‘70s. He played drums on countless hits, backing such artist as the Association, the many Phil Spector Girl Groups, the Beach Boys, the Byrds, the Carpenters, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Simon & Garfunkel, Sonny & Cher, and the Mamas & the Papas (we could go on all day). With such a pedigree, it’s little surprise that he not only played on a number of cover songs, he played on some of the greatest covers of all time!

Since his death last week at the age of 90, tributes to have been popping up everywhere. We’ll simply add our own, the only way we know how – by going through some of his best covers.

So to Hal Blaine, we count it off one last time: 1-2, a 1-2-3-4…

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Mar 172019
 

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

dick dale

Many of can say that rock and roll kept us alive and kept us going, but few meant it as literally as Dick Dale did. “I can’t stop touring because I will die,” he said in a 2015 interview, revealing that he needed to keep playing shows in order to raise the $3,000 a month he needed to treat his multiple health problems – rectal cancer, renal failure, diabetes, damaged vertebrae, and more. Four years after that interview, word came out that he’s played his last earthly concert, passing away at the age of 82.
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Mar 152019
 

Despite the controversy surrounding the Best Picture-winning film Green Book, the movie might actually be the best thing to ever happen to the legacy of pianist Don Shirley. Though Shirley’s relatives have objected to the way Shirley was portrayed in the film, before its release his life and music had been largely lost to history.

As of this writing, his biography on Allmusic.com is only one paragraph. Many of his albums don’t even have track listings on the site. The website AllAboutJazz.com lists him twice, both times in articles about the film. In the jazz and popular music encyclopedias at two local libraries, I only found one reference to him, a single small paragraph in The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz.

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Mar 082019
 

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

Wikipedia reports that Imaginary Records, an indie label founded 1985 in Manchester, England, specialized in indie rock and post-punk. What it really specialized in, though, was tribute albums. Roughly a third of their album catalog saluted other artists. These ranged from the usual suspects (Dylan, the Stones) to decidedly unusual ones (Captain Beefheart, Syd Barrett).

In 1992, they released Brittle Days: A Tribute to Nick Drake. This was at a time when Drake was still more a cult favorite than a favorite. Anyone who bought the album was as likely to be being introduced to Drake as to the artists singing his songs therein. These artists were themselves destined to remain cult favorites; no future jackpots here like there were on Imaginary Records’ first Velvet Underground tribute. Instead, devotees expressed their devotion to other devotees, resulting in an album that was quiet, reverent, and more than a little haunting.

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