Jun 142019
 
 crosby stills nash covers

Before Woodstock made them legends. Before the drugs took control. Before the rivalries, the breakups and the reunions. Before the memoirs, the biographies, the documentaries, and yet another breakup. Heck, before Neil Young joined the party. Before all that, there was simply Crosby, Stills & Nash.

Fifty years ago, in May 1969, the supergroup comprised of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash released their self-titled debut album. It catapulted the three singers, all of whom had enjoyed success in other bands, into superstardom. As band biographer Peter Doggett put it, “They cut a debut album that caught the mood of the times.” In retrospect, the record could have been called Greatest Hits: Volume 1. The album contains numerous classics, including “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” “Helplessly Hoping,” “Marrakesh Express,” “Wooden Ships” and “Long Time Gone.”

Surprisingly, given this record and CSN’s place in rock history, the songs haven’t been covered that much. Secondhandsongs.com lists only 77 known covers of all the tracks on the album. By comparison, there are 208 covers of the tracks from Déjà Vu (that includes 86 versions of “Woodstock,” which was written by Joni Mitchell). Stills’ solo track “Love the One You’re With” has inspired 69 covers. These numbers do not provide a complete picture, as the site usually does not include music on YouTube or SoundCloud. But they give you an idea of just how few artists have decided to tackle these songs.

Still, we found some great covers by such luminaries as Stan Getz, Miles Davis, Richie Havens, and Trey Anastasio. There are also countless home recordings by guys and gals with acoustic guitars and one of best harmonizing bar bands you’ve never heard of. Let’s “set a course and go”…

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May 242019
 

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

time out of mind covers

For Bob Dylan’s 78th birthday today, we wanted to post covers of every song on one of his classic albums. Problem was, we’d already given the “Full Albums” treatment to so many contenders: Highway 61 Revisited, Blood on the Tracks, Blonde on Blonde, Bringing It All Back Home, and John Wesley Harding. We’d even done a couple of the oddballs: Empire Burlesque and Street Legal.

So, for the first poll on our new Patreon account, we put the question to our backers. Time Out of Mind beat out its competitors Desire and Freewheelin’ by a single vote – a testament to the power of Dylan’s latter-day work. Turns out, Dylan has a lot of classic albums.

Calling Time Out of Mind Dylan’s comeback, as many do, overstates it a bit. After, he was only eight years on from his last “comeback” album – 1989’s Oh Mercy – and had released several quite respectable records in between (though the less said about “Wiggle Wiggle” the better). Continue reading »

Mar 252019
 

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

Roxy Music

I know, I know, cheating with a compilation album, but believe me, I tried, hell, I tried. I wanted to cover the 1972 debut, Roxy Music/Roxy Music, not least as it is “their best,” but also to celebrate this year’s inauguration of the band (or brand) into the R&R Hall of Fame. But let’s face it — however good (most of) the songs are, the cover versions, give or take, are decidedly not. And so few anyway, most being limp copies and ersatz imitations. (And I’m talking about you, Velvet Goldmine, with your Thom Yorke and your faux recreations.) Indeed, it seems, as I researched, that the only person regularly covering Roxy was Bryan Ferry himself, either in solo mode or, now and gloriously, in a jazz age great Gatsby style, both ruled out automatically by default. But they are good….. So I have had to resort to this 2nd best, even if it misses out the sole reason I wanted to take this on in the first place, the superb Tin Machine/Bowie take on “If There is Something,” my favorite-ever Roxy track.

I loved the Roxy, being just the right age as they emerged, in my mid-teens, looking for the hit of new to fertilize my hungry ears. I recall listening to the debut in a Brighton record shop. There was a wiring disconnect in the headphones, giving a buzz in the left ear. I didn’t realize this wasn’t part of the sound for some time (years, actually), thinking it part of the process, and it added to the band’s mystique. The succession of records continued to enthrall, arguably better put together songs as more of the experimental gradually fell by the wayside, not that I could allow myself to admit it. As Eno and every bassist in turn left, so the musicianship upped, the Eddie Jobson years an especial highlight. A few years silence and back they bounced, now a smoother beast altogether, a trio of Ferry, Mackay and Manzanera with the pick of sessiondom’s finest, still great, if mellower. Did they ever really officially fold? There was always the promise of some new undertaking, inevitably subsumed into more Ferry solo projects, his live shows increasingly and ever more Roxy-based. I don’t suppose it will ever happen now, but maybe the memories are stronger.

Have some hits…
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Jan 182019
 

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

blue

At that period of my life, I had no personal defenses. I felt like a cellophane wrapper on a pack of cigarettes. I felt like I had absolutely no secrets from the world and I couldn’t pretend in my life to be strong. Or to be happy. But the advantage of it in the music was that there were no defenses there either. – Joni Mitchell, 1979

As many a person has pointed out, Blue works really good if you’re really low. These five girls came up to me once in a bar and said, “Joni, before there was Prozac, there was you.” – Joni Mitchell, 1996

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Oct 022018
 

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

wildflowers covers

One thing I’ve noticed since Tom Petty’s death, one year ago today, is that he’s been re-appreciated as an album artist. Unlike many of his peers, he never had a world-conquering Born in the U.S.A. or Rumours. His best-selling album – by far – is 1993’s Greatest Hits. But when icons pass, their catalogs get re-assessed.

Some have made the case for Damn the Torpedoes or Full Moon Fever as the best Petty album, and those two – one recorded with the Heartbreakers, one sounding like it might as well have been – certainly offer quintessential Petty-brand rock. But as a complete album statement, Wildflowers tops the list for me. It had a few radio-ready hits – didn’t they all? – but on the whole it presented a softer singer-songwriter side of Petty, harmonies and strummed acoustics subbing in for the big arena-rock choruses.

So, though we’ve paid tribute to Petty before, on the one-year anniversary of his death we wanted to complete a project that we’ve been working on for a while: giving Wildflowers the Full-Album treatment. One roadblock that previously kept us from completing this was that, as in so much of Petty’s career, the hits loomed large. We found ourselves with hundreds of “You Don’t Know How It Feels” covers to choose from, but nothing for some deeper cuts.

So, to quote a band Petty revered as much as any musician, we got by with a little help from our friends. Two of the below songs are exclusives recorded just for this, the first covers – the first good covers, at any rate – of several lesser-known gems. Having songs like this sneaking under the mainstream radar is proof that Petty was, in the end, an album artist as good as they come. Continue reading »

Aug 282018
 

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

devo covers

Devo released their brilliantly-titled debut album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! forty years ago today. Though later albums would yield bigger hits (we’re still a few years from “Whip It”), their debut remains their most iconic record. Blending their poppiest hooks with their artiest quirks, it works wonderfully as a statement of purpose.

As Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale told me when I wrote about their “Satisfaction” cover for my book (you can still read an excerpt of that chapter at The New Yorker), even completing the album became a monumental pain. Having Brian Eno produce your debut record would seem a coup, but sessions quickly became fractious. Devo wanted to record the album with zero studio experimentation. They’d honed the songs over several years of concerts and rehearsals, and saw no reason to change them. Eno did not go for that approach, sneaking into the studio with his pal David Bowie after the band left and adding new instruments at least once. The next morning, Devo caught on and wiped them. Devo’s instincts have rarely led them astray, but boy I’d be curious to hear what Bowie was trying to add to the tracks. Continue reading »