Nov 172017
 

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.

It’s hard to comprehend that Jeff Buckley should be 51 years old today. He’s forever frozen in our mind’s eye, no older than 30 (still, a couple years older than his father Tim got to be), at the peak of his beauty and talent. These days he’s best known for a cover song (three guesses which one, first two don’t count), but he was no slouch with a pen himself – “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over,” from Grace, was less a breakup ballad than a broken-up ballad, one that showcased remarkable imagery and a truly painful longing just as surely as it showcased Buckley’s remarkable voice.

“Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” gets a lot of covers from YouTube artists, most of them determined to follow in Buckley’s footsteps; this leads to such faithfulness that the covers tend to have a sameness to them, no matter how expressive the performer. But a few manage to break free from Buckley’s binds…

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Nov 062017
 

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.

The Yardbirds’ write-up in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame begins with an immediate reminder that the group started off as a blues cover band. Little did Keith Relf, Jim McCarty, Paul Samwell-Smith, and (probably) Jeff Beck know when they wrote their first band-written, non-cover hit in 1966, “Shapes of Things” would eventually be included in the Hall’s permanent exhibit of “Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.” Much has been written about its recording, composition, arrangement, and socially conscious lyrics. (A check of Wikipedia or SongFacts will suffice.) Cover Me readers might enjoy hearing the jazz bass line from Dave Brubeck’s “Pick Up Sticks” that influenced Samwell-Smith. Legions of rock guitarists have paid their respects to Jeff Beck’s groundbreaking, feedback-laden lead guitar work on the song. Like The Godfather film, the ingredients combined to become a commercially popular and artistically appealing hit; the song reached #11 in the US, #7 in Canada, and #3 in the UK.

When we looked at over 40 verified covers of the song, we could see they pretty much fell into three categories: versions by the original members of the band (“All In The Family”); versions by numerous guitar gods (“The Shredders”); and other rock versions that don’t fit in either of the two previous categories (“Rock of Ages”). So for this special edition of Good, Better, Best, we’ll take a look at the top three for each category…

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Oct 132017
 

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.

Who does the best version of “God Only Knows”?

Accepting that the true answer is probably “Beach Boys, Beach Boys, Beach Boys,” this is a song oft covered and rarely, if ever, bettered, such is its beauty and ubiquity, as reliant on the arrangement as the melody, the lyrics as the singer. Most who have met the cover-me challenge have failed, duplicating and copying, facsimiles falling and failing at the shrine of St. Brian. And at the feet of St. Carl, for it is his sublime vocal that nails it. Some of these are pleasant enough – come in, Elvis Costello and Michael Stipe – but leave a memory that just longs for the original. A distinctive or different voice isn’t enough, as both Joss Stone and P.P.Arnold have discovered.
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Sep 052017
 

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.

 
A newly elected, telegenic-but-polarizing, anti-establishment Republican president. A charged political climate on both sides of the Atlantic. A backlash from progressives in the music and entertainment community. Sound familiar? Yes, folks, we’ve seen this before!

As Ronald Reagan stepped on to the world stage in 1981, Martyn Ware, Ian Craig Marsh, and Glenn Gregory were readying their eventual UK gold-selling debut album Penthouse and Pavement. Keyboardists Ware and Marsh, recently split co-founders of the Human League, joined with fellow Sheffield native and vocalist Gregory to form a new synth-pop outfit named for a fictional band from the novel A Clockwork Orange. Their first single, the frenetic “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang,” became a Top 30 US dance club hit in 1981, but not before being banned by the BBC in the UK over concerns of libel, in particular for the line “Reagan’s president-elect/Fascist god in motion.”

The classic track features Gregory’s velvety vocals over high beats-per-minute electronic percussion, combined with funky guitar, “slap” bass, sax, and synth effects. The still-active band’s website tells us that the song became NME’s record of the week while happening to mention, albeit as comic denunciations, the words “fascist,” “Hitler,” and “racist.”

Time has inspired a handful of musically evolved cover versions. The more recent attempts, if not (ironically) from Germany, do include some updated political sentiments. As it stands…

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Aug 272017
 

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.

Today we conclude our look at six decades of “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me,” the timeless Burt Bacharach and Hal David classic. Click here to read about the ’60s, here for the ’70s, here for the ’80s, here for the ’90s, and here for the ’00s. Then keep reading for the big finish…

Part VI: The ’10s

Two and a half years shy of the end, we’re about to surpass the total number of “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me” covers produced in any decade, including the ‘60s! Like MTV before it, YouTube is helping to drive this output. To be clear, we’re also not considering every bad amateur effort out there. There’s some carryover of the jazz-influenced versions from the ’00s, but the real story up to now is the sophistication and maturity that’s developed. In general, it’s as if the song, to no one’s surprise, is aging like an exceptional cabernet. So far this decade…

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Aug 262017
 

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.

Burt Bacharach with The Sydney Symphony Orchestra in a live 2008 performance at the Sydney Opera House.

This week we’re working through the entire six decades that produced over 150 versions of “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me,” the timeless Burt Bacharach and Hal David classic. We’ve covered the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s, and the ’90s; now it’s time to see the fruits of a new century.

Part V: The ’00s

Jazz proliferated in the cover versions produced between 2000-2010. In total, a few more versions were released this decade than the previous with over a third having roots in one jazz style or another. But for as many as we heard, most were average with one exception. Otherwise, rock & roll made a strong showing, and later we’ll hear from an old friend followed by a few more efforts of note. In the ‘00s…
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