Sep 082017
 

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

yardbirds

The Yardbirds are back! Sort of. The quintessential R&B-influenced British Invasion band has made a few recent headlines, and any headline from a group that can boast Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page as alums is probably worth checking out.

Last month, the music press was buzzing when Page announced a November 5th release for Yardbirds ’68. The legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist is producing the newly unearthed compilation of live and studio recordings along with outtakes. Rolling Stone has more about it here. Additionally, in early August still-active founding member Jim McCarty and the bands’ current line-up announced a new Yardbirds studio album to be underwritten by a PledgeMusic campaign. The album promises to be “a totally new recording of original songs with a couple of carefully selected covers.” Fans can find out more and get involved here.

We’ll celebrate all this good news with several Yardbirds-related features leading up to the release of Page’s ’68 in November. Today, we’ll pay our respects with a recap of The Yardbirds’ Greatest Hits. The first of countless compilations, this one passed a significant 50th anniversary milestone in March. Arguments abound among aficionados as to which Greatest Hits / Best Of / Retrospective is their “best,” but only one can claim to be their highest charting US album; Greatest Hits peaked at #28 on the Billboard chart in 1967 and arguably gave the band a second wind at the time. The album is no longer commercially available in its original LP configuration and packaging, but nowadays it can be put together with just a few taps on the screen/keys.

Included on Greatest Hits are all six of their singles up to 1967, plus three B-sides and a live track. Five tracks were written by at least one member of the band. Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf, and Mose Allison are credited with one R&B cover each. Finally, two were written by Graham Gouldman, about whom we’ll have more to say in the near future.

So… let’s get ready, steady, go!

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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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Jul 282017
 

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

sly and the family stone

Sly and the Family Stone hadn’t recorded anything new in a year, and the record label wanted to keep Sly’s name in the public consciousness – and if they could make a little money in the bargain, so much the better. So they put together Sly and the Family Stone’s Greatest Hits. If not a cynical cash grab, it was at least within smelling distance.

But a funny thing happened – they scooped up some of the best singles of the sixties, when Sly Stone was writing songs emphasizing the coming together of all races, creeds, and colors into one big party, and the result was what Robert Christgau called “among the greatest rock and roll LPs of all time.” In his A+ review, he went on:

The rhythms, the arrangements, the singing, the playing, the production, and–can’t forget this one–the rhythms are inspirational, good-humored, and trenchant throughout, and on only one cut (“Fun”) are the lyrics merely competent. Sly Stone’s gift for irresistible dance songs is a matter of world acclaim, but his gift for political anthems that are uplifting but never simplistic or sentimental is a gas. And oh yeah–his rhythms are amazing.

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Jul 072017
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

What’s a scruff like me doing with this lot? – Ringo Starr

Richard Starkey, MBE, has always been undervalued by the world, and even by himself. Seen as a happy-go-lucky guy who was himself lucky to fall in with three geniuses to form the most influential rock band of all time, Ringo has been disparaged for everything from his playing (SO undeserved) to his looks. The fact is, Ringo Starr was perfect for the Beatles, the Earth of their four-elements dynamic, and the fact that John, Paul, and George all continued to love him even as they slagged off on each other, in the band’s dying days and long after, shows that the only three people whose opinion of Ringo mattered knew how valuable he truly was.

Ringo celebrated his 77th birthday today by announcing the impending release of his 19th solo album; we’re celebrating it by looking at covers of four of his songs, plus one of the best covers he ever did.

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Jun 092017
 

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

Back in 1988, the Pixies’ Surfer Rosa got a few nice reviews, but didn’t even make the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll; today, it’s recognized as a highly influential classic. “Where Is My Mind?” gets most of the attention, but save some big big love for “Gigantic,” the album’s sole single, featuring co-writer Kim Deal on a rare (for the Pixies) lead vocal. It’s a song about the joys of sex, which instantly makes it edgier than any love song of the day (but not so edgy that it didn’t wind up in an iPhone commercial), and the exhilaration of the lyrics is matched by the quiet-loud performance that would inspire Kurt Cobain and a grungy cast of thousands.

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May 162017
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

true story of dixie

Everything that makes Abner Jay weird and wonderful can be found in the opening track of his 1974 album True Story of Dixie. At first, you might wonder about why an African American man would record “Dixie,” a song often considered a racist reminder of the Confederacy. Jay knows this. In fact, he only gets thirty seconds in before he begins to explain himself.

“The most-loved song in the south by whites, and the most-hated song in the south by blacks,” he begins, “is the song ‘Dixie’ – and all because of a stupid misunderstanding.” And from there he’s off, spinning a tale that begins as an accurate historical retelling about how the song was written before rambling off into shaggy-dog stories about James Brown, bone houses, and how Jay’s “sixteen young’uns” keep the roaches away. Continue reading »