1989 was a crucial time in my musical education. At age 11, I was several months into taking drum lessons when my teacher asked me a loaded question: “What drummers do you listen to?” Given that it was the ‘80s and I was deeply enthralled with metal, I rattled off a list of big-haired, double-bass drum playing thunder gods, including Anthrax’s Charlie Benante. My teacher, in what was likely a well-rehearsed speech, quickly rattled off a list of drummers I should be listening to including: Neil Peart of Rush, Bill Bruford of Yes, session drummer Steve Gadd and jazz masters Billy Cobham and Art Blakey. All great drummers, who I’ve been listening to for years – the fact that I can still rattle off the list 31 years after the fact is telling.
Amy Helm – Twilight (The Band cover)
We all know “Take On Me,” whether because of its iconic synth melody, that elongation of “two,” or its rotoscoped music video. Though a pretty big hit at the time – #1 in at least 14 countries – it’s become one of the most iconic songs of the decade. When you think ’80s, you probably think this A-Ha song.
When it comes to the sub-genre of acoustic Beatle ballads, Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” from 1968’s White Album tends to get all the glory and attention. And while there’s no denying its greatness, the time has come to give long overdue props to another Macca ballad on the same album that’s equally fine. “Mother Nature’s Son” is sometimes perceived as a light bit of wistful, romantic fluff, especially when held next to to the weightier words of “Blackbird,” but when it comes to the actual melody, “Mother Nature’s Son,” with its descending guitar line and lush, swoon-inducing hook is a far superior animal. It features all the key demarcation points needed to shine in any style of cover.
No Rush song speaks as directly to the tormented teenage soul as 1982’s “Subdivisions.” Its fat synthesizer lines and darkly perceptive lyrics about suburban teen alienation made it the perfect angst anthem to turn up to 11. Forget “How Soon Is Now”; “Subdivisions” is the song that truly understood what you were going through. The song’s release coincided with the launch of MTV, so its video was a frequent part of their daily rotation.
Joan Wasser started out as a violinist, performing in a variety of bands throughout the ’90s including The Dambuilders, Black Beatle, and Antony and the Johnsons. She eventually broke out on her own, assuming the stage name Joan As Police Woman (inspired by the TV show Police Woman) and releasing her first solo album in 2006. After two solo records of original material, Joan As Police Woman released a limited edition covers album in 2009 that included a variety of songs, from T.I. to David Bowie. Four albums and over a decade later, Joan is back with Cover Two, a similarly eclectic batch of cover songs.
Joan As Police Woman describes the process of creating this album: “I start with the question, ‘WHY, exactly, do I love this song?’ I take those elements and reform them, sometimes removing much of the remaining material to refocus them through new glasses.” Her process is evident in the sound of the album. Her covers are sparse, but still evocative.