In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Imagine, if you will, a place where Elvis is still the King. Not the slim, young, rockabilly Elvis, shaking hips and pouting lips, but a rotund, sweaty, Vegas Elvis, one who is adorned in sequins, karate-kicking and crab-clawing his way through an entire set of Led Zeppelin songs. And just for shins and grits, imagine those oh-so-familiar classic rock tunes tuned to a reggae beat and backed by a band that’s a cross between Bad Brains and Bob Marley.  Amazingly, what can be imagined can – and has – become reality. Welcome to the world of Dread Zeppelin.
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Apr 042014

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Rock history is full of bands who created something truly special, with inherent value, that for whatever reason never got their due in the music marketplace. The dB’s (that stands for decibels, don’t you know) could be a case study in how to make great music and influence other musicians, but miss out on commercial success. Passed over by labels hunting for the next Knack, the band, led by guitarists Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple, signed with British label Albion Records at the very beginning of the ’80s, which meant that both their stellar debut and its follow up weren’t officially released in America for years.  The band only signed with an American label, Bearsville, after founder Stamey left to forge a solo career. When they submitted a video  to MTV for their suicide-themed song “Amplifier,” they were rejected.
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Mar 142014

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

In the early ’70s, two sets of brothers and their friends, art students at Kent State University, developed a theory. It began as a kind of joke based on a religious pamphlet that alluded to the D-evolution of the unenlightened man. As artists tend to do, they created some performance art and music around this theme for their own amusement. Then the terrible tragedy of the Kent State shootings happened. Four of their classmates were killed by those who were supposed to be protecting them. Suddenly the de-evolution of man and of society in general seemed more than just a joke. The band Devo was born.
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Mar 072014

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Dave Edmunds plays rock and roll in a particular style. It’s the version of rock and roll that existed in the late ’50s and early ’60s. And he’s been very true to it. But don’t be too quick to label him “retro” – he just continues to mine a vein of rock and roll that most musicians abandoned throughout the last third of the century. Those few others who have stuck with that early rock and roll blueprint (Brinsley Schwarz, Flamin’ Groovies, Ducks Deluxe) have probably worked with Edmunds. His sound is consistent, and being a good singer, guitarist and producer, that’s a fine thing to be. But he doesn’t discriminate when picking covers – he’s as likely to do something classic as he is something contemporary.

When looking at a career that is full of covers, it can be tough to figure out which ones best represent the artist. Many of Edmunds’ early singles are very precise covers of classic R&B. Maybe too precise. But once he shed a bit of his perfectionist tendencies (and started working with Nick Lowe), he provided the covers room to breathe and made many an old song into something fresh.
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In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

In the 1980s, there was one artist that Minneapolis became known for. And that was Prince.

But if you took the bus to the bad part of town, watching the blight and the snowy misery go by through fogged up windows, you would eventually spot a burned-out, abandoned, and graffiti-tagged little red Corvette: perched up on blocks, stuffed with liquor bottles in the back seat, and harboring a coffee can in the front filled to the brim with cigarette butts. If you opened the door, you would find a floor littered with cassettes. K-Tel. Kiss. Big Star. And if you ran the VIN number, you’d find the owner to be the Replacements.
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Feb 192014

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

For most of their lifetime, the Silver Jews never toured and rarely played live. In fact, they hardly existed between albums. All that changed in 2006 when, after emerging alive from drug addiction, head Joo David Berman gathered players from the band’s 2nd and 4th albums to hit the road in support of Tanglewood Numbers. They promised to try their best and, generally, fans were pleased, if not ecstatic, to hear the songs they had long listened closely to on headphones blasted from a stage. But all that excitement may have been the beginning of the end. The band’s next album — the first written “post-applause” — would be their last. In January 2009, Berman announced that the Silver Jews were no more and he was “moving over to another category. Screenwriting or Muckraking.”
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In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

In their, yes, 40 years as a band, Los Lobos have demonstrated that not only can they play pretty much any style of music, they can play it very well. They have excelled with albums that have included blues, rock, R&B, experimental sounds, numerous styles of Mexican folk music, American folk music, Americana, and Tex-Mex, all performed and played brilliantly. They play acoustically and electrically. Their songs can be simple rockers, sinuous jams, complex sound collages, or heartbreaking stories of life on the margins. They tour regularly, with different sets each night. The core members of the band – David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, Louie Pérez and Conrad Lozano – have been together from the start. Sax player Steve Berlin joined in the early 1980s, and they have had a few different drummers (though not quite to Spinal Tap levels of turnover), with the excellent Enrique “Bugs” Gonzalez currently occupying the stool. Considering their longevity, the breadth of their output, and the quality of their songwriting and musicianship, they should be in contention for the mythical title of Greatest American Band, and it’s sinful that they’re not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
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In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Arcade Fire has a new album out. Reception: a trifle mixed, shall we say. But don’t let that stop you from engaging in a little cover love.

Their songs can be sweeping, epic, with almost a cinematic quality about them. Indeed, “Wake Up” was heavily featured in the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are (which was arguably the best thing about that film). We thought we’d invent some movie and television synopses to go with the covers below, both widely featured on the internets and by some newer unknown artists. Coming soon to a delusional theater in your mind…
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