If you are not hip to the Greta Van Fleet scene, these four young men from Frankenmuth, Michigan are the latest band to be duly designated as the saviors of Rock and Roll. With a sound that soars somewhere between Black Sabbath, Bad Company, and Led Zeppelin, these guys are masters of throwback ’70s heavy riffage rock and wear the crown quite proudly. The band announced themselves in 2017 with a couple of smokin’ EPs that came together with From the Fires, a set that featured the hit “Highway Tune,” a song that hit number one on the mainstream rock radio charts. For what that is worth. Currently touring the country in mostly sold-out House of Blues sized venues with the Robert Plant worthy wail of Josh Kiszka as frontman, these guys should be poised to be the next big thing. Unless of course, they aren’t.
At the end of every year, we work for weeks curating our annual Best of the Year list (here’s last year’s). We’re monitoring what comes out all year though, so this month I thought: why wait? Here’s a more impulsive and spontaneous list, some songs we’ve written about already and others we didn’t get to. Just some great covers that stood out as the month comes to a close.
“When We Were Young,” Adele’s second single off 25, peaked at #14 on the pop charts. Amazing by most artists’ standards, but middling by hers (particularly following “Hello” topping every chart in existence). But as with so many of her songs before it, it’s lived on well past its chart run through endless covers. The latest, and maybe greatest, comes from Sweden’s The Tallest Man on Earth.
He performed it on the Swedish game show På Spåre, backed by local pop group Augustifamiljen. It’s a bigger and more lavish production than most of Kristian Matsson’s covers, which tend more towards fingerpicked folk tunes. But he sells it perfectly, finding a middle ground between his singer-songwriter sensibilities and Adele’s bigger soul belting.
In Defense takes a second look at a much maligned cover artist or album and asks, “Was it really as bad as all that?”
It’s clear that many people despise the erroneously titled Punk Goes cover compilation series. Much has been said and written about how awful they are. Yet, just like the emo and pop-punk genres generally, they are wildly popular with teenagers despite not getting any critical respect. Since the series began in 2000, there have been 17 volumes and over two hundred songs released in the series. In the U.S. the cover series has sold one million albums, nine million tracks, and it streams in the hundreds of millions. But most people out of high school seem to hate them.
Well, I’m here to defend some of these as great cover songs. I’m an insider, you could say – I was the Fearless Records salesperson behind nearly all of these albums. During my 13 years at the California independent label, I was the head of sales and also served as general manager. I didn’t contribute to the Punk Goes compilations as a curator or A&R. My role was to make sure the albums and tracks had the best positioning at major retailers like Target, Best Buy, iTunes, Amazon, etc.
Today is the day! At long last, Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time is in stores and online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, Powell’s, and many other places (including, hopefully, your local independent bookstore!).
A lot has happened since I first announced the book back in May. The New Yorker published an excerpt about Devo’s meeting with Mick Jagger. I was interviewed on SiriusXM about the Hendrix, Cash, Aretha, Pet Shop Boys, Elvis, and Creedence Clearwater Revival chapters. And most importantly for you reading this, I put together an exclusive bonus mix that blog fans can get when they buy the book (it says “pre-order,” but we’ll say “week-of-release order” counts too).
And I wanted to share one more thing, another blog exclusive: An audio companion to the book.
—November update: The book is now out, but if you review it on Amazon or elsewhere, the mixtape can still be yours! Just send proof of review to the email below.—
Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Songs Of All Time comes out October 3. It dives deep into twenty iconic covers, from Elvis’s “Hound Dog” through Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love.” I interviewed artists like David Byrne and Roger Daltrey to get the untold stories behind their greatest covers. You can read all about it here.
Now we’ve got a special bonus for anyone who preorders: a free digital album of other covers of those same songs.
What’s the greatest “Take Me to the River” that’s not by Al Green or the Talking Heads? My favorite “Hurt” untouched by either of those men in black? An “I Will Always Love You” that sounds like the artist has never heard either Dolly Parton or Whitney Houston’s versions? This mix answers all those questions.