Aug 192016
 

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

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With Out of Time, R.E.M. completed their transition from college band to global stardom, and they wanted their next album to move away from Time‘s gentle lushness and move into harder-rocking territory, more suited to the grunge-y times. But when the band members reconvened, they found they were no longer of a mind to write loud ‘n’ angry. Result: Automatic for the People, a meditation on loss that’s downbeat without being depressing, from a band turning away from a world begging to be conquered so it could consider its disquiet. The record wasn’t what they originally promised, but it didn’t disappoint either – it went top-five worldwide, and today it’s considered the band’s masterpiece, the kind of album you put on and then you just lie down and you let it engulf you (or so it is said).

“Every one of its 12 songs is worthy of attention,” MOJO said, and in 2007 the website Stereogum proved it with their tribute album Drive XV: A Tribute to Automatic for the People. A celebration of Automatic‘s 15th anniversary, the tribute featured artists who grew up with R.E.M. as a constant in their lives, and hearing that familiar band speaking with a new voice clearly made an impression on these musicians who were still discovering their own voices and the ways they could be raised.
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Aug 182016
 
Jozzef

Due to a certain Volkswagen commercial, Nick Drake may be most often thought of these days as an guitar-strumming-songwriter type. But anyone who’s listened beyond Pink Moon knows Drake’s first records were elaborate orchestral affairs helmed by producing legend Joe Boyd, the man behind Fairport Convention and early Pink Floyd. One of those ornate beauties is Drake’s second album Five Leaves Left (we posted covers of every song a few years ago), which contains the stunning single “River Man.” And on his soaring new cover, Israeli singer Jozzef pays tribute to the orchestral side of Nick Drake with his own layered production. Instead of just orchestra, though, Jozzef adds in more modern touches like layered vocals and even the occasional subtle synthesizer. Continue reading »

Aug 172016
 
Florence-And-The-Machine

On Florence and The Machine’s most recent album How Big How Blue How Beautiful, much was made of the absence of Florence Welch’s trademark harp. Well for any early fans who missed it, the harp is back in full force on her new cover of Ben E. King’s classic “Stand By Me.” It’s a very different song choice than the Justin Bieber and Skrillex song she tackled last year! The cover was teased months ago as part of the Final Fantasy XV video game, but the full version just came out on a new EP. Continue reading »

Aug 152016
 
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Preparing for this past weekend’s “Day of the Dead” concert – the all-star band rendition of The National-lead Grateful Dead tribute album of the same name at Bon Iver’s Eaux Claires festival in Wisconsin – I interviewed a handful of involved artists and kept asking a question that no one knew exactly what to do with. My question: “Given the legacy of the Dead as a live band, what is going to be different about playing these covers live, as opposed to recording them for a tribute album?”

After a thoughtful silence that may have been tinged with a little bit of puzzlement, everyone said something about it being a terrific opportunity to harness the additional energy of having a live crowd.

“No [it’s not going to be harder],” Megafaun’s Phil Cook told me, “mostly because people are just stoked as shit to hear a Dead cover. Whenever people in the audience recognize it, they just lose their shit. They’re so happy that you’re doing it. It’s a completely welcome enterprise.” Continue reading »

Aug 152016
 
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A few days ago, country star Eric Church treated a crowd at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheater to a new cover: Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” He said it had special meaning for him there: “Last time I was here — this is a true story — I played here, and…I was leaving here, and we pulled out, and the light was still on the rocks, like it is right now, and this song was playing in my headphones.”

Church did the cover solo on electric guitar, and did a fine job. But “Hallelujah” has been covered thousands of times, and it’s hard to argue that this one adds much. Which isn’t to knock Church: it was probably exciting if you were there! And it’s fun to watch once even if you weren’t. But I doubt we’ll be playing this video again in a year’s time. Continue reading »

Aug 122016
 

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

After The Gold Rush

Surely After the Gold Rush, this “uniformly dull” record, as Rolling Stone magazine put it at the time, is the peak of Neil Young’s output?

Yet somehow I always seem to forget it, tending to immediately opt for the feistier, zeitgeistier options of Zuma and Ragged Glory, and the civilians always go for the milquier toast of Harvest. But nowhere is there such simple beauty as on this 1970 record, his third solo album after leaving Buffalo Springfield. It captures most of Shakey’s tropes on one disc – his ragged guitar, his playing always suggesting playing in mittens if not boxing gloves, his delicate acoustic whimsy, and the left-field oddness, exemplified here by “Cripple Creek Ferry.” True, volume and feedback are restrained, maybe 8/10 rather than his later 11 (at least), and it’s possible that the record is even the better for that.

So when I do remember After the Gold Rush, when I come back to it, it astonishes. I can play it side to side (yes, of course vinyl) and be instantly transported to a teenage me, dreaming of a future I couldn’t ever quite picture (and indeed haven’t quite yet), all hopes and fears, intermingled with tears and joy.
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