Jan 212020
 

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

Return In Kind

This being the time of year when we are reminded of those we have lost, the retrospective review of deaths within the last year, I have found myself returning often to the works of Neal Casal, who tragically took his own life last August. A quintessential journeyman performer, hired guitar for many a singer/band seeking some additional gravitas, he had also a productive solo career, with about a dozen albums to his name. If he is best known for his lead guitar for Ryan Adams in the Cardinals, the band that also backed Willie Nelson on 2007’s Songbird, that is understandable. From there he became right hand man to Chris Robinson, in his eponymous Brotherhood, squeezing in the same role for Todd Snider in Hard Working Americans at the same time. The title of that band was surely meant for Casal, his ongoing list of sessions inspiring awe and respect, both in the quality of those who chose him, and the added value he provided to each. In the final years of his life, he was also increasingly absorbed into the diaspora of the Grateful Dead legacy, working both with Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, as well as being commissioned to write the incidental music for the run of shows celebrating the 50 years of the Dead, the Fare Thee Well gigs of 2015. This he then toured as Circles Around the Sun, finding time as well to form and play alongside members of Beachwood Sparks as the Skiffle Players.

Prolific or what?
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Jan 202020
 

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

Old Man covers

The tale of Neil Young’s rustic and glorious “Old Man” is a pretty well-trodden one at this point, as he’s told it prior to performing the song at many, many a live show. To review: The song was inspired by conversations between Young and Louis Avila, the elderly foreman at Young’s beloved homestead, Broken Arrow Ranch (christened as such by Young). Young’s usual line regarding Avila is that “he came with the place when I bought it” in 1971. Upon meeting Young for the first time, Avila was gleefully flabbergasted at how someone so young could afford to buy such a huge piece of land. Young, inspired by his conversations with Avila, soon penned “Old Man,” musing on his own high life at the time as well as the overarching human need to be loved no matter what your physical situation, old or young, rich or poor.

The song ultimately appeared on 1972’s Harvest album and features James Taylor delicately plucking out the most memorable 6-string banjo solo in the history of pop music, as well as the legendary Linda Ronstadt on backing vocals. After almost 50 years, it’s still as wistfully perfect as the day it was born, a rousing singalong that still requires you to have a crying towel at hand.
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Jan 172020
 

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty-odd years.

black and white covers

Unlike most #1 hits we’ve covered so far, Three Dog Night’s 1972 chart-topper “Black and White” is itself a cover. The song, written by Earl Robinson and David Arkin (Alan Arkin’s father), was first recorded by Pete Seeger in 1956. Even in Three Dog Night’s marginally more rockin’ arrangement, it still sounds like a Seeger song, and not exactly a top-tier Seeger song at that. “A child is black, a child is white / A whole world looks upon the sight” sounds like folk music’s “Ebony and Ivory.” The fact that Three Dog Night took this well-meaning trifle to number one shows just how high the band was riding after the previous year’s “Joy to the World.” Continue reading »

Jan 152020
 

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

In 1982, talented multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield was looking for a change. It had been nearly nine years since Virgin Records had released his debut Tubular Bells, with a title track that had gone on to be featured as the theme to The Exorcist. His follow-up releases had followed much the same format (minus the somewhat creepy distinction): long form, avant-garde, eclectic orchestral pieces, with names like Hergest Ridge and Incantations. While his records were critically praised, commercial success was proving to be elusive.

In 1979, Oldfield started writing songs that were shorter and more commercially viable, in addition to some longer pieces. 1982’s Five Miles Out featured five songs: the nearly 25-minute “Taurus II” and four shorter songs, including the breakout hit “Family Man.” Oldfield wrote all the music to that song; five other writers are credited with the lyrics. This synth- and echo-heavy tune featured Scottish vocalist Maggie Reilly (one of the credited lyric writers; she would remain a regular collaborator) on vocals, ostensibly telling the story of a prostitute attempting to pick up a man in a bar. The man continually turns down her propositions, protesting that he’s a “family man.” The intensity increases with each verse, reflecting the female’s growing frustration with his repeated rejection. Neither the single nor the album charted in the US, although the single did reach #29 in Canada.

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Jan 142020
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with covers of his or her songs. Let someone else do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

foo fighters covers

Dave Grohl turns 51 today, and in half a century he has managed to be part of legendary bands such as Nirvana and the Foo Fighters as well as play with Scream, Them Crooked Vultures, Late!, Probot, and Queens of the Stone Age. He is also raising a kick-ass daughter who is brimming with musical talent.

The Foo Fighters have recently been releasing live and acoustic songs from the “Foo Files.” Since July, 10 EPs have appeared, giving fans a fresh take on old favorites and a trip down memory lane for those lucky enough to hear them live. New music is in the works for the Foo Fighters as well, and this headline says it all. Oh, the anticipation!

Speaking of fresh takes, we wish a “Happy Birthday” to Grohl with homages to some of the Foo Fighters hits. If you are more in the mood for Nirvana covers, we understand! Check out our post on their MTV Unplugged album and our list of the Best Nirvana Covers.

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Jan 112020
 

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

Neil Peart, the deep-thinking, world-traveling, book-reading, book-writing, virtuosic drummer and primary lyricist for the Canadian power trio Rush, has died at age 67. Peart died of glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, that had first affected him just over three years ago. He joined Rush in 1974, replacing original drummer John Rutsey, who had to leave the band due to health-related issues. Peart was a drummer’s drummer, with dozens of industry and press awards and hundreds of accolades from his peers. While his technical prowess is beyond impeccable, he received nearly as much attention for the lyrical direction in which he steered the band. As we mark his passing here at Cover Me, we’ll look at cover versions of Rush tunes that honor both of these equally important contributions.
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