Nov 092018
 

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

The Smiths

If you Google “perfect Smiths song,” you’ll find a lot of different titles – “The Boy with the Thorn in his Side,” “How Soon Is Now,” “I Won’t Share You,” “Half a Person,” and “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” just to name the results on the first page. But some opinions are bigger than others, and in lead singer Morrissey’s opinion, the perfect Smiths song – or at least, in his words, “very close indeed” – was “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want.” Allmusic.com calls it “a minimal yet lush two minutes of almost otherworldly beauty… Almost impenetrably sad, [it’s] a masterpiece both musically and emotionally.”

Starting life as a Johnny Marr instrumental called “The Irish Waltz,” the song became something more once Morrissey sang his lyrics of longing in a voice far gentler and quieter than his usual melodramatic croon. “Please Please Please” turned into a hymn to the art of pining and yearning, the anthem of the unrequited lover, cf. Duckie in Pretty in Pink. And it did so in a minute and fifty seconds, making it the shortest Smiths song ever. Why so short? Morrissey explained:

When we first played it to Rough Trade, they kept asking, “where’s the rest of the song?” But to me, it’s like a very brief punch in the face. Lengthening the song would, to my mind, have simply been explaining the blindingly obvious.

Continue reading »

Oct 122018
 

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

alanis morissette

“You Oughta Know” represented a handful of firsts for Alanis Morissette. It was the first single off her 1995 Jagged Little Pill album and the first release based on her collaboration with Glen Ballard, who shares writing credit and produced the song. While it’s also technically her first public break from the pop-leaning sound she’d previously engaged, that Alanis – like Robin Scherbatsky’s “Robin Sparkles” days, for How I Met Your Mother fans – was really known only to her native Canada.

For most American listeners, “You Oughta Know” was the first time they’d heard Alanis Morissette, period – and a demure introduction it was not. The song also marked, for more than a few JNCO-clad girls in their teens and twenties, the first time that 1990s alternative rock seemed not just open to frustrated female energy but perfectly suited to it. Its combination of smartly conceived jabs and soaring emotion ensured the song would stay lodged in musical memory for a long time to come – and that many other artists would want to give it a try.
Continue reading »

Sep 212018
 

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

Leonard Cohen

Well Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.

And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.

Continue reading »

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.
Continue reading »

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 »