Jul 142017
 

If you are a regular reader of this site, you may remember this post from a couple months back, about the (to my ears) hotly anticipated shared project between English folkstrel Olivia Chaney and Portland quirkmeisters the Decemberists. Well, the lovely people at Nonesuch have now released Offa Rex’s The Queen of Hearts, and mighty fine it is too.

Chaney may not be especially well known to many, unless you were lucky enough to catch the last round of occasional Joe Boyd-curated Nick Drake tribute shows, featuring a host of singers and musicians from varied sources. Chaney was undoubtedly one of the stars of the one I saw, alongside company like Glen Hansard and Sam “Iron and Wine” Beam. This led me to her 2015 release, The Longest River, which I can commend. The Decemberists are much better known and have long been drawn to the canon of trad.arr., especially singer Colin Meloy. Indeed, one might surmise the seeds for Offa Rex were sown by a tour-only EP Meloy produced in 2006, Colin Meloy Sings Shirley Collins. Indeed, Meloy says he invited Chaney to the table by suggesting in a tweet that his band be her Albion Country Band. Queen of Hearts shows them not making a half-bad shot of it, with side-orders aplenty of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, not to mention a little of fellow U.S. travelers 10,000 Maniacs on the keyboard swirl of “Bonnie May.”
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Jul 072017
 

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!

What’s a scruff like me doing with this lot? – Ringo Starr

Richard Starkey, MBE, has always been undervalued by the world, and even by himself. Seen as a happy-go-lucky guy who was himself lucky to fall in with three geniuses to form the most influential rock band of all time, Ringo has been disparaged for everything from his playing (SO undeserved) to his looks. The fact is, Ringo Starr was perfect for the Beatles, the Earth of their four-elements dynamic, and the fact that John, Paul, and George all continued to love him even as they slagged off on each other, in the band’s dying days and long after, shows that the only three people whose opinion of Ringo mattered knew how valuable he truly was.

Ringo celebrated his 77th birthday today by announcing the impending release of his 19th solo album; we’re celebrating it by looking at covers of four of his songs, plus one of the best covers he ever did.

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Jun 302017
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

Wow,  that sounds naïve in today’s world, doesn’t it? Watch the news or go on social media and all we see are people screaming at each other, dividing each other and hating each other. Not to mention, why only smile on your brother? What about sisters? And the gender binary should be rejected anyway, right?

In any case, the Youngbloods‘ “Get Together” has become an easy soundtrack shorthand when referring to the optimism of the 1960s (much as Buffalo Springfield‘s “For What It’s Worth” or Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young‘s “Ohio” is used to illustrate the disillusionment and violence of that decade). You just have to hear the opening notes, and you are transported to a world of flower-festooned long hair, tie-dye, fringed vests and pot smoke. Thus, the song’s ubiquity in films, TV and advertising. 

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Jun 232017
 

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

u2 joshua tree covers

There’s a cartoon circulating on social media mocking U2 for a penchant for nostalgia. And, on its face, it’s pretty funny:

It doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, though. U2 is entirely the wrong group to pick for this joke. “World’s laziest band”? If anything, they have the opposite problem, endlessly hustling and trend-chasing in pursuit of their next hit. Their current Joshua Tree tour is just about the first nostalgia-trip moneygrab in a forty-year career. Unlike just about every other major band from the ’70s and ’80s, they generally avoid the greatest-hits summer tours and Oldchella combos the comic rightly lampoons.

The band is, however, indulging a rare back-pat on their current stadium tour by playing The Joshua Tree from start to finish. It’s one of the front-loaded albums of all time, an insane run of hits on side one followed by relative obscurities on the flip (including “Red Hill Mining Town,” which they’d never played live until this year). Which sounds like it might make for odd concert pacing, but early reviews have been great.

So if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us. As U2 celebrates thirty years of The Joshua Tree, we will too, with covers of every song on the album. Continue reading »

Jun 162017
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

OOGAH-chucka-OOGAH-OOGAH! OOGAH-chucka-OOGAH-OOGAH!

Back in 1974, anybody hearing those syllables for the first time stopped dead in their tracks. “What the hell is that?” tended to be the first thought, closely followed by nodding or singing along. Of course, it was the opening seconds of “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede, a song that went to number one on Billboard‘s charts and has resonated through the decades, with its inclusion on the soundtracks of Reservoir Dogs and Guardians of the Galaxy, not to mention its use in the dancing-baby-hallucination episode of Ally McBeal and the deliberately-bizarre-but-so-what cover by David Hasselhoff. Wired called it “a song that refuses to die, popping up again and again in the zeitgeist when you least expect it. It’s the Highlander of pop music.”

Here’s the thing – many of 1974’s listeners were among the 1969 listeners who put the original version of “Hooked on a Feeling” in the top five in America. How quickly we forget, eh? Well, no – it’s more like, how quickly we adjust to a new reality.
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Jun 092017
 

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

Back in 1988, the Pixies’ Surfer Rosa got a few nice reviews, but didn’t even make the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll; today, it’s recognized as a highly influential classic. “Where Is My Mind?” gets most of the attention, but save some big big love for “Gigantic,” the album’s sole single, featuring co-writer Kim Deal on a rare (for the Pixies) lead vocal. It’s a song about the joys of sex, which instantly makes it edgier than any love song of the day (but not so edgy that it didn’t wind up in an iPhone commercial), and the exhilaration of the lyrics is matched by the quiet-loud performance that would inspire Kurt Cobain and a grungy cast of thousands.

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