Mar 312020
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with covers of his or her songs. Let someone else do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Everyone loves AC/DC. You love AC/DC. Maybe you haven’t yet realized that you love AC/DC, but don’t worry. It’s only a matter of time.

However you feel about the band, you’re probably at least partially familiar with Angus Young, the school uniform-clad lead guitarist who can generally be found soloing wildly while sprinting from one end of the stage to the other. Today is Angus’ 65th birthday, and we’re celebrating by gathering some of the finest AC/DC covers the internet has to offer.

The only problem is that AC/DC are notoriously hard to cover. The unique formula that Angus and his late brother Malcolm created in the ’70s has proved completely inimitable, to the point where even the best attempts to replicate it end up sounding weirdly off.

As it turns out, the only way to successfully cover AC/DC is to think outside the box, which is what the performers below have done – with intriguing results. Happy Birthday, Angus!

Orchestra of The Ministry of Interior of Slovak Republic – Highway To Hell (AC/DC cover)

This wordily-named orchestra has made a habit of adapting hard-rock anthems into classy big band numbers. AC/DC proves well suited to this approach; perhaps the massive sound of Angus and Malcolm’s guitars can only be recaptured by a full orchestra. Arranger/Conductor Oskar Rózsa looks like he’s having a whale of a time.

2CELLOS – Thunderstruck (AC/DC cover)

On the other hand, maybe less is more when it comes to covering AC/DC. Croatian-Slovenian cellist duo Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hauser have been adapting well-known pop and rock songs into cello throwdowns for nearly a decade, and their cover of the bombastic “Thunderstruck” is one of their most innovative.

The Brian Setzer Orchestra – Let There Be Rock (AC/DC cover)

AC/DC have stayed consistently true to their two guitars/drums/bass lineup over the years, with nary a stray horn or keyboard appearing on any of their albums. But what would AC/DC sound like with horns and keyboards? Brian Setzer has the answer. Appropriately, Setzer’s version of “Let There Be Rock” takes AC/DC’s beloved rock & roll back to its roots with a 1950s-style jump blues arrangement.

The Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra – Back In Black (AC/DC cover)

Another orchestra now, with the Qatar Philharmonic’s take on “Back In Black.” Hearing such a large group of musicians crank out Malcolm Young’s iconic riff gives one a new respect for what AC/DC accomplished with two guitars. It’s not entirely clear why the drummer in the video appears to be playing from an entirely different location, but it doesn’t matter. This version rocks.

Check out Five Good Covers of “Back in Black” and “You Shook Me All Night Long” in our archives.

Feb 142020
 
springsteen covers playlist

We are closing in on six decades of amazing music from Bruce Springsteen. In all those years of performing, The Boss has covered over 300 songs. Some he’s covered hundreds of times. Others he’s covered just once.

A new “Songs Under Cover” playlist he just released as part of his Live Series collects 15 soundboard covers spanning several decades and genres of music. Some of the covers are more successful than others, and we’re going to rank them for you right here. (Play along with the official playlist on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music). Continue reading »

Jul 312019
 

Check out the best covers of past months here.

best new cover songs july
Anais Mitchell & The Staves – Strong Enough (Sheryl Crow cover)

For a few years now, long-running French video company La Blogothèque has been filming a series they call “One to One” at Bon Iver’s various European festivals. They blindfold one audience member and bring them into a private room for a concert for one. Bon Iver did one, and Damien Rice’s is a must-watch. Personally, that experience sounds more awkward than enjoyable – especially with all the cameras in your face – so I’d rather just watch someone else’s personal concert on video. This one is a gem, feature The Staves with Anais Mitchell delivering a gorgeously-harmonized Sheryl Crow cover. Continue reading »

Jul 162019
 

In Defense takes a second look at a much maligned cover artist or album and asks, “Was it really as bad as all that?”

Pat Boone

Reasons abound for maligning Pat Boone’s career in popular music. The catalyst for his career was a string of covers of R&B tunes by black artists for whom the legacy of segregation never afforded the same amount of wealth. White artists made substantially more than their counterpart artists of color. Major record labels had larger distribution chains, promotional budgets, and stronger connections to radio and television networks to advantage their artists. By contrast, black musicians on “race records” benefited from none of these privileges. While artists like Little Richard, Big Joe Turner, and Fats Domino have enjoyed staying power and wide acclaim for being architects of rock music, in the early decades of that genre, white covers were commercially more successful. Added to this was the exploitative nature of covers on larger labels that made more money than the originals while paying out no royalties to the black originators. Boone was unapologetic that his career benefited from this exploitation.

It is also noteworthy that Boone’s performance and lyricism of some of rock’s first generation of are a case study in the sanitized tastes of the burgeoning white middle class in the 1950s. His smooth vocal delivery was reminiscent of crooners rather than the raspy, full-throated yowl of Little Richard. And the lyrical changes on “Tutti Frutti” were a nod to teenage infatuation stripped of any of the sexuality in Little Richard’s original.

Despite Boone representing the residuals of white privilege while Jim Crow reigned supreme, there is a note of appreciation to be made for Boone and contemporaries Elvis Presley and Bill Haley in helping to extend the reach of rock music to new audiences at a critical juncture in that genre’s history.
Continue reading »

Jan 082016
 

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

acdc-back-in-black

AC/DC was writing their first album after Bon Scott’s passing, and they wanted to remember him – not by mourning his death, but by celebrating his life. It was a tricky line to walk, but they made it look easy with “Back in Black,” the title cut from their landmark album. They may have dressed in dark clothes, but they wouldn’t bow their heads – not when there were mammoth riffs to rip through, or piledriving lyrics for new vocalist Brian Johnson to stomp about howling. The band paid their respects and got back to business in one fell swoop, creating a hard-rock anthem (or two) in the process.

The story goes that a journalist once griped about how AC/DC had made ten albums and they all sounded the same, and that Angus Young responded, “He’s a liar. We’ve made eleven albums and they all sound the same.” Here are five covers of “Back in Black”; rest assured that none of them sound the same.

Continue reading »

Nov 072011
 

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

AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” is a three-and-a-half minute clarion call about the joy of sex. No “take my heart” sentiments, no “our love’s gonna last” – just one loud, raunchy, glorious celebration of a one-night stand, bypassing the brain and going directly to the gut (and points lower). There’s something primal about it – the simple beat, the easy to remember words, the sheer volume of the performances – that gives the listener a feeling both of power and control over that power. Little wonder that the song is de rigueur for pole dancers: it empowers both the men and the women; its instant familiarity makes hearing the opening notes like welcoming back an old friend; and by God, it’s fun. Continue reading »