May 192017
 

It’s an uneasy feeling knowing that one of the most powerful voices of your generation is now gone. Listening to Chris Cornell’s music, just a day after his death, and realizing that the living soul behind some of the most heavenly music we will ever hear on earth is gone leaves a major void in all of our souls. There are so few artists who create and perform with the talent, ingenuity, and depth of feeling that Cornell possessed. Losing someone who has had so much impact on generation upon generation, and especially knowing that he could have had many years of creating and performing left to gift to us, is heartbreaking to say the least.

Going back through the immense library of covers Cornell has performed throughout the years is like listening to the soundtrack of a movie starring every major artist and group in music history. Few singers could equally convincingly cover the Beatles, Whitney Houston, and Michael Jackson – let alone sway us into favoring the cover over the original in some cases. Cornell could. Cornell even graced our top covers of 2015 with his rendition of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares to You.” Continue reading »

May 192017
 

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!

The man’s been stuck hearing “Hope I die before I get old” jests for a good half-century now, so we’ll just wish Pete Townshend a happy 72nd birthday and leave it at that. Except to add that he’s written some of the best songs played on classic-rock radio, as well as some of the best that classic-rock radio doesn’t play. Townshend’s writing gift has always been the ability to express achingly personal sentiments in a way that speaks for millions, from youth well into middle age, and the musical world is all the richer for his sharing it.
Continue reading »

May 172017
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Today we introduce a new recurring feature titled, “That’s A Cover?” Our goal is to shine a light on original songs that are not nearly as well known as their cover version(s) and to analyze what factors combined to make the cover more popular than the original. Oftentimes the cover is simply better than the original. Sometimes it’s a generational thing; put 25 years between an original and a cover and it’s no surprise when Generation Y doesn’t recognize Generation X’s original. (No Billy Idol reference intended.) A cover version of an old, semi-obscure song featured in a new hit movie or TV show can also explain how a cover can overwhelm an original. Never underestimate popularity, either – who among us hasn’t offered a great idea at school or work and had it ignored only to see the same concept embraced later when proposed by a more popular, fair-haired classmate/co-worker?

For our inaugural piece, we’re taking a look at a band too small to have a cult following – until a quartet from Athens, Georgia plucked one of their B-sides from obscurity seventeen years later.
Continue reading »

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 »

May 122017
 

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

Blood on the Tracks

Tired of hearing hoary old crooners covering hoary deceased crooners? Try this as an antidote. 1975’s Blood on the Tracks was Bob Dylan’s fifteenth studio album, and is usually in the critical running for his best, vying with the earlier Blonde on Blonde (covered here). (Of course, whenever a new Dylan record is released, it is compulsory to be proclaimed as a “return to form,” that status seldom lasting until the ink dries and Blonde or Blood regains its rightful pole position.) Let me go on record here: Blonde is a bit meh, with rather too much filler for my tastes, so it is always Blood for me.

Blood on the Tracks was also my first full immersion in Bob, Greatest Hits not quite counting. See, a pal o’mine had access to discounted CBS recordings, half price if I recall. I had my eye on a witchy boho girl, like me newly arrived at University. She had her eye on my discount and, beyond a serious 40 minutes of otherwise silence, as we listened to my purchase of Blood, a prompted and suggested gift for her, that was that. She thanked me, apologized for giving me the bum’s rush, but she had to go out, you see, with the flash harry further along the corridor. I was so hurt, my emotions imbued by and immersed in Bob’s own heartbreak, that I bought a second copy. Probably full price, too.
Continue reading »

May 102017
 
offa rex

At the first show of their recent three-night run in NYC, The Decemberists brought out singer Olivia Chaney for a mysterious song they didn’t really explain. Featuring Chaney leading on harpsichord and vocals, it was weird and proggy in a similar way to the Decemberists’ own album Hazards of Love. Now, a few weeks later, we know what the performance was teasing: an upcoming Decemberists/Chaney covers album under the band name Offa Rex. Continue reading »