Aug 312018
 

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

Cat Stevens

It feels a little strange saying “spoiler alert” about a movie that’s closing in on fifty years old and is a huge cult favorite besides, but if you’ve seen Harold and Maude, you know the importance the Cat Stevens song “Trouble” has in the movie. The sequence is unforgettable, and one viewing will forever tie the song to that series of images.

Of course, the song didn’t need Harold and Maude to stand out – it was a key track on Mona Bone Jakon, the album that reintroduced Stevens to the listening public as an introspective singer-songwriter over a year and a half before the movie’s release. No longer a chamber-popster, Stevens looked long and hard at himself and humbly reported what he’d found to listeners who could relate. They still do.
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Aug 162018
 

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

do right woman covers

Aretha Franklin’s name does not appear on the writing credits to “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” but as with so many songs she sang: It’s hers. No knock on the great songwriters (who also penned “Dark End of the Street”), but no singer goes in to “Do Right Woman” to cover Chips Moman and Dan Penn. They aim to pay homage to the Queen of Soul, dead today at 76.

As I often say with iconic singers, the best way to pay homage to Aretha’s music is not to try to sing like Aretha. You’re not going to out-belt her, and you won’t deliver any song with more soul, feeling, or passion. That’s not to say there aren’t talented soul singers who ably delivered this track; everyone from Etta James to Phoebe Snow has belted “Do Right Woman.” But if I want to hear the best singing in the world, I’m pulling out Aretha’s version every time.

None of my favorite “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” covers sound like Franklin. Few even fall in the genre of soul music. These artists below tried for something different. Continue reading »

Aug 102018
 

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

sour times

Had hipsters been prevalent in 1994-5, Portishead’s “Sour Times” would have made a perfect hipster wedding song. It had something old (the band was steeped in spy soundtracks of the ’50s and ’60s), something new (they didn’t invent trip-hop, but they did introduce it to millions of Americans), something borrowed (they sampled Lalo Schifrin’s “Danube Incident”), and something blue in Beth Gibbons’ sad vocals. “Nobody loves me, it’s true” she sings, then neatly dodges self-pity by adding “Not like you do.” Neo-noir as ’90s radio got, “Sour Times” was one of those songs that hooked listeners across the musical spectrum from the first seconds of the first listen. Continue reading »

Jul 062018
 

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

froggie went a courtin covers

Most versions you can find of the traditional folk song “Froggie Went A-Courtin'” come from acts with names like “The Silly Billies” and “The Storybook Pixies.” They are unlistenable for anyone over three, and probably for your more discerning toddlers too. Even when folk-dabbling “serious” artists like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen tackle it, their earnest attempts tend to embarrass otherwise worthy projects.

So I ventured to see if I could find some covers to redeem this most clichéd of children’s songs. It took some digging past the endless brightly-colored Wiggles numbers, but eventually I was able to find five adult versions. Just don’t play these for your kids. Continue reading »

Apr 092018
 

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

money for nothing covers

Dire Straits got a raw deal. Their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class that should, in all rights, include Radiohead. This was the first year the band was eligible, and they in particular seemed like a shoe-in. No luck. Instead, Dire Straits are getting lined up right next to Bon Jovi and the Moody Blues in yet another slate of honorees inspiring endless articles about how out-of-touch the Hall is.

And I have nothing against Bon Jovi or the Moody Blues, but I hate seeing Dire Straits lumped in with the “classic rock for aging boomers” crowd. I mean, I get it, but Dire Straits are so much more than that to me. (Sidebar: I’d be remiss without nothing that Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe are getting in, though it’s a shame the Rock Hall voters couldn’t find any living women or minorities to celebrate). Continue reading »

Apr 022018
 

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

The hype and controversy brought on by the release of “God Save The Queen” had barely subsided before the Sex Pistols followed up with their third single. “Pretty Vacant” was released just over a month later, on July 1st of 1977. Both songs rode the UK Top 40 charts simultaneously throughout that month with “Pretty Vacant” ultimately peaking at #6 during an eight-week run. In a half step towards “establishment” legitimacy, the band was invited to perform the song – via a promotional video – for its first and only appearance on the popular BBC television show Top of the Pops. Even this track – and, of course, this appearance – garnered controversy when the special emphasis John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) was placing on the second syllable of the word “vacant” become obvious.

Glen Matlock, an original founding member of the band later replaced by Sid Vicious, cited ABBA’s “SOS” and Small Faces “Wham Bam Thank You Mam” as inspirations for the iconic opening guitar riff and arrangement. The song was lauded by NME magazine as its 1977 “Single of the Year.” It would chart in the UK three more times: in 1992 on its 15th anniversary, a live version from the re-formed group in 1996, and most recently on its 30th anniversary in 2007. According to our research, it’s spawned more cover versions than any other Sex Pistols song outside of “Anarchy In The U.K.”

As you’ll see, the covers here represent an embarrassment of riches. So stick with us as we pogo through five standouts and then call your attention to another more-than-a-baker’s dozen!

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