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.
Continue reading »

Jan 102020
 

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

hand in my pocket covers

As 2020 gets off to a rocky start, if you “haven’t got it all figured out just yet,” that is okay. Alanis Morissette is back to remind us that “everything’s gonna be fine, fine, fine” with a (super relatable) new single, the promise of a new album in May, a new tour featuring guests Garbage and Liz Phair (“all I really want” is a ticket to that show), and the debut of the Broadway musical based on her iconic album, Jagged Little Pill. That album, her international debut, won five Grammys and made Morissette the first Canadian to have an album go double diamond (selling 20 million copies). Here are just a few albums that Jagged Little Pill has sold more copies than: The Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road, Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A., and Nirvana’s Nevermind. Not bad!

A New York Times Magazine feature by Rachel Syme sets the scene for the release of the album:

The riot grrrl ethos was “girls to the front” — a communal taking up space — while Morissette’s was more like “girls to your car,” where you could process your baggage in private. One was like being at a protest, and the other is like being in therapy — different impulses, but both about making conscious changes.

The album hasn’t yet been featured on Pitchfork’s Sunday Reviews, but it is destined to be. Hit me up, Pitchfork Editorial Staff, I’m happy to do it.

“Hand In My Pocket,” the second single off of the album, followed another classic, “You Oughta Know.” It was Morissette’s first number one single in Canada, but it did not make the Hot 100 in the USA (it was never released as a CD single there, though it posted high on other US charts). These five artists appreciate the song’s depth, paying their homage via a cover. And to all of you musicians out there, keep the Alanis covers coming! I dream of a Full Albums post for Jagged Little Pill.

Continue reading »

Nov 192019
 

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

livin on a prayer covers

“Once upon a time, not so long ago,” Bon Jovi followed up their first Billboard Hot 100 single, the #1 smash “You Give Love a Bad Name,” with another number one hit: “Livin’ On a Prayer.” The second single off of Slippery When Wet , Bon Jovi’s breakthrough third album, “Prayer” is number one in many people’s hearts, including voters for VH1’s 2006 list of the Greatest Songs of the ’80s and readers of this blog.

Bon Jovi has evolved over time, continuing to produce music consistently since the ’80s and unafraid to tour through different genres, even going country and teaming up with Jennifer Nettles and LeAnn Rimes (though, to be fair, Jon Bon Jovi has been a cowboy from early on). The band just doesn’t quit; they even released a thank-you song to veterans earlier this month.

But “Livin’ On A Prayer” remains a classic. You’ve belted it at karaoke; you’ve pumped your fist to it at a wedding reception. The song speaks to the masses, and we need the song’s message just as much now as we did when it was released in 1986. A good cover of this song will channel the original’s spirited perseverance, hope in the face of adversity, and faith in the power of love to overcome all. It’s a tall order, but these five artists “give it a shot.”

Continue reading »

Oct 312019
 

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

Ghostbusters covers

The movie Ghostbusters has never been without controversy. Dan Aykroyd’s original premise, featuring himself and John Belushi, was seen as financially prohibitive, and was sent back for a re-write. Casting issue abounded. The studio doubted it would make its money back. (Spoiler alert: it did.) The very idea of the 2016 reboot was met with derision, and the reboot itself fell far short of its financial goals. On a somewhat higher profile, the band that director Ivan Reitman wanted to provide songs for key segments, Huey Lewis and the News, turned the job down. Reitman finally tapped Detroit guitarist Ray Parker, Jr., a former session musician who had found commercial success with his band Raydio, to come up with a theme song. That theme, while a massive hit (three weeks at Number One on the Billboard Hot 100), provided further controversy, as Huey Lewis later sued Parker, claiming the Ghostbusters theme was plagiarized from his song “I want a New Drug.”

The case was settled out of court, but the controversy didn’t end there. Several years later, Ray Parker Jr. sued Huey Lewis for violating the original settlement’s non-disclosure agreement by discussing it on VH1’s show Behind the Music.

None of this drama should, nor does, detract from the song itself. The Ghostbusters theme is easily one of the most popular, hook-filled, memorable movie themes of all time, and it’s a Halloween staple at parties and on the radio. Popularity, of course, invites imitation; secondhandsongs.com identifies about 40 cover versions, from artists as disparate as David Essex and Andrew Gold to the Leningrad Cowboys. There are lots of note-for-note recreations, and many that reflect the style of the performer. Here are five of them, in no particular order, each bringing something a little bit different to the party.
Continue reading »

Oct 182019
 

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

rock and roll zeppelin covers

Even if you can’t quite stomach the whole full-on vibe of Led Zeppelin — me, I have to admit to some yawning over the self-reverent mythologizing that can abound whenever one J. Page gets interviewed — you have to admit that “Rock and Roll” is one prime slice of, well, rock’n’roll. Astonishing, even, and one that has me almost believing it all. To be fair, at the time Zeppelin were bigger than huge, bigger than massive, and the sheer impact of side one of IV, on headphones, in a record store in Eastbourne, Sussex, U.K., had this 14-year-old boy smitten. I’d found II too guitarry (!), but this had me on their team immediately. (Side 2 less so, but that’s another story.)

Anyhow, it was in one of these long fawning articles the rock music glossies are so fond of that I discovered the back story of how “Rock and Roll” practically wrote itself in minutes, or at least the melody line. Messing around in the studio, John Bonham suddenly kicked off into an embellished drum intro, “borrowed” from Little Richard’s “Keep a Knockin’.” Jimmy Page instinctively banging in with the riff that basically is the song. With lyrics come from ye olde school rocke thesaurus, Robert Plant’s keening banshee of a vocal somehow imbues a meaningful basis for it all, whilst John Paul Jones’ subterranean bass underpins the whole thing. And, just when you are thinking it all a bit derivative, a final touch of brilliance: single note piano pounding it into the home stretch, courtesy of sixth Stone Ian Stewart.
Continue reading »

Oct 042019
 

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

friends theme song covers

The television show Friends debuted on September 22, 1994. Twenty-five years later, the memorable theme song with its iconic four claps is still an adulting anthem. Could the song be any more catchy?

Friends enjoyed ten seasons of popularity and collected over 60 Emmy nominations throughout the course of its run. Netflix viewers are currently wailing and gnashing teeth, as the show is slated to leave the platform in 2020, bringing to an end its five-year reign as one of Netflix’s most streamed shows. Whether you relate more to Chandler, Joey, Monica, Phoebe, Rachel, or (heaven forbid) Ross, we can all unite in appreciation of the life lessons and hearty laughs that the show has brought us.

The Rembrandts, made up of Danny Wilde and Phil Solem, formed in 1989. Prior to teaming up as The Rembrandts, Wilde had worked on solo albums, and the two of them had collaborated in another group, Great Buildings. Their new band released two albums and had minor success before “I’ll Be There For You” kicked off their third, and Friends brought them into the spotlight. The song started as a minute-long theme, but the duo later re-recorded and expanded it into a full length song.

From mellow to punk, these five covers are here for you “when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year.”
Continue reading »