May 222020
 

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

Fleetwood Mac album covers

It seems that we like the Mac over here at Cover Me. This is our third Full Album Fleetwood Mac feature, following on from Rumours and Tusk, the other exemplars of this most acclaimed iteration of the ever-evolving band. Sure, loads of us (myself included) adore the 60’s into 70’s UK white-boy blues band, but c’mon–only a real curmudgeon would deny the greater pulling power of the Buckingham-Nicks Mark 1 years. Not that this pair, accomplished songwriters both, were the only pull; Christine McVie continued to add value with a constant drip feed of classics. And, looking back, given the “other” music breaking through in 1975, the so-called year zero of punk rock, how was it that this epitome of smooth found (and still finds) such purchase?

The story is well-trodden. A blues band down on their luck, reeling from the loss of all their most potent forces, and of several replacements of lesser merit, come close to throwing in the towel. Mick Fleetwood, drumming mainstay from the start, chances on Lindsey Buckingham, offers him a gig with the band. Buckingham said yes, but only if his girlfriend could also be recruited. What could go wrong? Well, the relationship of Buckingham and Nicks, as well as that of John and Christine McVie, were both going rapidly south. Fleetwood was also divorcing his wife (not a band member). Luckily the rot didn’t really hit until 1975’s eponymous LP had been made and released to no small success. Mind you, the mayhem didn’t stop the follow-up, Rumours, from doing better still, and the various co-sanguinous shenanigans thereafter making Tusk the critics’ favorite. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. This piece is to celebrate that brief window, possibly, of relationship harmony, maritally and otherwise. Possibly.
Continue reading »

May 212020
 

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!

When the indie band Grant Lee Buffalo burst on the scene in the early 1990s, they seemed destined for stardom. Emerging from a residency at L.A.’s Largo nightclub, the fresh young band got snatched up by a major label or two, and embarked on world tours with more seasoned pros–first R.E.M., and later Pearl Jam. Rolling Stone magazine pronounced the guy behind it all, Grant Lee Phillips, the male vocalist of the year in 1994, and Michael Stipe practically started a GLP fan club.

But instead of parlaying the attention into fame and fortune, Phillips grew disillusioned with the star-maker machinery, and the pressure to deliver instantly likable hits. His songs needed time to warm up, he said, like an old car or an old tube amp. By 2000 he had disbanded Grant Lee Buffalo and dissolved their Warner Records contract. He got to work as plain old Grant Lee Phillips. Allying himself with independent labels (Rounder, Yep Roc), he’s been recording and touring on smaller scales ever since. His work earns the critical adoration, and he doesn’t go through gyrations to transform his sound or his image. He has a knack for interesting side hustles, like composing for film and television, and acting, too. You might have seen him on seasons 1-7 of the Gilmore Girls, in the role of the wandering troubadour.

Continue reading »

May 202020
 

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.

At Last I Am Free

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Chic? The pretty much guaranteed #1 answer is of course “Le Freak,” the 1978 stone cold classic anthem that has come to epitomize disco in its every manifestation; from the overall sound, to the sartorial style, to the era it happened in as a whole. There’s a good chance that the track following that on your mental turntable would be Chic’s other absolutely killer floor filler, the gorgeously soul stirring “I Want Your Love.” As it happens, both songs featured on Chic’s sophomore album C’est Chic, a ridiculously prescient piece of art that quickly established bandleaders Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards as indisputable musical masterminds as well as genius seers of production.

But underneath the pounding glamour and virtuosic Edwards bass-playing, Chic had a secret talent. While they could expertly turn out seminal late-night party anthems like nobody’s business, they were also capable of crafting the most incredible, evocative, lonely, 2 AM in the city ballads. Case in point: “At Last I Am Free,” from the aforementioned C’est Chic.
Continue reading »

May 192020
 

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

Salt N Pepa

Salt ‘n’ Pepa were change-makers from the beginning. Can you believe their very first track on their very first album was the immortal “Push It”? The group paved the way for female rappers, picking up the first Grammy for a female rap act in 1995 for the song “None of Your Business.” That award-winning song was part of a powerhouse record, Very Necessary, the group’s fourth album that included other gems such as “Shoop” and “Whatta Man.” The latter was a team effort between Salt ‘n’ Pepa and En Vogue, another up-and-coming female trio who had just come off of hit singles like “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)” and “Free Your Mind.”

The music video for the song won the trifecta of MTV Video Music Awards in 1994: Best Dance Video, Best R&B Video, and Best Choreography in a Video (see why the video was such a hit below). However, you may not know that Salt ‘n’ Pepa reimagined this tune after it stirred up some drama for its original artist.

Continue reading »

May 182020
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Alex Skolnick routinely straddles the line between two different musical universes. He is known to legions of metalheads as the lead guitarist for the thrash band Testament. Yet, for nearly two decades, he has had a side hustle as a jazz guitarist for the Alex Skolnick Trio, playing an eclectic blend of fusion jazz.

He credits this genre-fluid existence to a moment in the late ‘80s when he was in Ithaca, NY recording Testament’s sophomore album The New Order. According to his memoir, he and a bandmate were flipping through the channels in a hotel when he came across a PBS concert film featuring Miles Davis performing with one of his electric fusion bands. (Given the date and Skolnick’s description it was likely Miles Davis – That’s What Happened: Live in Germany 1987.) “I had to find out more about this music. It had spoken to me, in an almost mysterious way, as though it were reaching out and calling for me to come closer. … I’d soon own more Miles Davis albums than any other artist (even Kiss),” he wrote.

Already an accomplished guitarist, having studied under the legendary instructor Joe Satriani (whose former students include Kirk Hammett and Steve Vai), Skolnick wanted to expand his horizons beyond metal. So, when the recording sessions ended, he tapped several music instructors at his hometown college, the University of California, Berkeley, to help him expand his skills.

Continue reading »

May 162020
 

‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

britney spears covers

Last year, Rob Sheffield called 1999 “the year music exploded, the year when nothing made any damn sense, the year fans had to throw out any old-school rules for how pop worked.” If that’s true, then 2000 was the year when those new trends became the accepted norm. Back in January, we looked at covers of one of the year’s defining phenomenons – boy bands – and this month was tackle another: Britney, a pop supernova so massive she didn’t need a last name.

Her sophomore album Oops!… I Did It Again came out 20 years ago today, setting the record for the highest debut-week album sales by a female artist (it held for 15 years, until Adele’s 25). Though Spears was primarily a singles artist, her albums sold so much that even the deep cuts wormed their way into millions of teenage brains. When we compiled this list, I was pleasantly surprised it wasn’t just the half-dozen biggest hits being covered. Those songs got covered plenty, and still do (our number-four best cover of 2019 was a “Baby One More Time” – not a bad lifespan for a song written by a Swede whose grasp of English was a little rough), but musicians also dig into the album tracks and the singles that flopped.

Spears has shifted into the Vegas-residency stage of her career in recent years (not to mention Instagram star and cause-celebre hashtag). But even if she doesn’t have any more world-conquering hits in her, other artists are keeping her songs alive. Of the thousands of covers out there, here are the 25 best.

The list begins on Page 2.