Dec 092016
 

Follow all our Best of 2016 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.

tribute records

We’ve done a Best Cover Albums list every year since 2009. That list usually ends up being a reasonably even mix of various-artist tributes and single-artist records. But in all those lists, our number-one pick has been, without fail, a single-artist album (for those keeping score at home, we’ve awarded The Lemonheads, Peter Gabriel, Baaba Kulka, Neil Young and Crazyhorse, Xiu Xiu, Andrew Bird, and Bob Dylan – who didn’t turn up to accept our prize either).

This single-artist streak is no coincidence. It is naturally easier for one artist, if he/she/they are good enough, to maintain consistent quality control over 10 or 15 tracks. Whereas even the best mixed-artist tribute records usually have one or two dud tracks. Take the National-curated Day of the Dead, certainly this year’s highest-profile tribute album. Some of these Grateful Dead covers were so good they’ll appear on next week’s Best Cover Songs of 2016 list. Many others were dreck, filler, or superfluous. So we ranked the record – spoiler alert – at #20, sort of an honorable-mention position.

Even various-artist tributes comprised of uniformly good covers typically don’t add up to more than the sum of their parts. For example, we ranked MOJO Magazine’s Blonde on Blonde tribute pretty high this year because we liked just about every one of the Bob Dylan covers on offer. But there’s little common ground between an aggressive electronic “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” and a tender folk “I Want You.” The record is more a bunch of great cover-song fodder for mixes and playlists than a truly great and unified album.

I sound like I’m being critical, but again, these are among the best cover albums of the year. This is usually the most a various-artist tribute album can aspire to: more good covers, few bad ones.

But this year, for the first time in our eight years making these lists, a various-artist tribute album rose so all the way to the top. This album was not only good top to bottom, but it felt like a real album, not just a collection of covers. It ably walked the finest of lines: showcasing diverse approaches to the source material while just remaining cohesive enough to stand together as a complete listen.

I don’t want to give away what that number-one album is just yet. We’ll get there, and there’s already enough of a tendency with year-end lists to skip straight to #1 and ignore the rest. I no doubt have not helped by hyping this magical album that broke our eight-year streak. But every one of the twenty albums we picked offers something worth hearing.

We’ve got jazz-sax forays through prog-rock and twee-pop covers of vintage punk tunes. There’s a ’60s New York icon honoring her then-competitors in the British Invasion, and a band from that same British Invasion honoring their American inspirations. There are tributes to great musicians who died this year, and tributes to long-dead musicians who there’s no news hook for honoring now, just great songs.

This list itself is as “various artists” as it can get, a whole array of genres and styles with one common thread: musicians honoring their inspirations and influences. Let’s dig in.

– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief

Start the countdown on the next page…

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Sep 102015
 
hollywood v

Back in the 1970s, Alice Cooper was president of The Lair of the Hollywood Vampires.  It was a drinking club of various rock stars that hung out in the loft at the Rainbow Bar and Grill in L.A.  Members included  Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Harry Nilsson and Micky Dolenz.  (John Lennon was also an honorary member.)

Recently, Cooper brought back the Hollywood Vampire name for a super group that includes Johnny Depp, Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Paul McCartney, Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction), Dave Grohl (Nirvana/Foo Fighters), Brian Johnson (AC/DC), Robbie Krieger (The Doors), Slash (G-n-R), Joe Walsh (Eagles), Orianthi and Kip Winger.  (And that’s not even all of them.)

The album, which hits stores on Friday, features covers from Led Zeppelin, T. Rex, Small Faces and Badfinger.  (Along with a couple of new songs written by Cooper.)

Here is their cover of The Who’s “My Generation”.

More about Hollywood Vampires can be found on their website and on Facebook.

Jul 012014
 

Holy Shits! I’ll hope you’ll pardon my French y’all, for this was just the name the Foo Fighters recently gave themselves when returning to the stage after a recent gig in Delaware. For their encore performance they thought they would do something different and perform as a bar band (and introduced themselves under the aforementioned name) bashing out some rock classics. Continue reading »

Nov 222011
 

This week, Cover Me celebrates Freddie Mercury 20 years after his passing. Read Part 1 here.

On April 20, 1992, one of the most impressive collections of musicians ever assembled for one show gathered together to pay tribute to Farrokh Bulsara, better known to the world as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, who had passed away due to complications from AIDS some six months before. Today, as we approach the 20th anniversary of his passing, Cover Me looks back at this monumental concert event, a celebration of covers and of one of the most unique talents ever to grace the performing arts. Continue reading »

Jul 122011
 

Regular readers know that every Tuesday brings another installment in the A.V. Club’s terrific Undercover series. Bands show up in their round room and cover a song from a list. A simple premise that produces terrific results.

Today, though, the preeminent pop culture website is doing something different. In lieu of their normal routine, they recorded seven covers in various Chicago locations of songs having to do with summer. They’ll be posting these “Summer Breeze” covers all day and, as a result, we’ll be updating this post all day. Check back here or follow us on Twitter to see when more get added. Continue reading »

School Days

 Posted by at 4:35 pm  No Responses »
May 262008
 

I’m in the midst of finals these days – hence the less frequent posting – but I’ll tide you over with some school and test themed covers. Now back to “Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity in Contemporary American Society”. Woohoo!

Snatch – Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd)
Sometimes the most interesting cover is the best, sometimes it isn’t. I didn’t do enough research to know which is the case here, but the moment I heard this funk-disco version I knew it was too unique not to post. So love it or hate it, but at least it’s different.

Nils Lofgren – What a Wonderful World (Sam Cooke)
I saw Joan Baez bust this one out a month or so back (read my review here), but I think Lofgren’s cover has it beat. Nils, incidentally, is Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist, but a phenomenal musician in his own right, with a voice way better than the Boss’s.

Bruce Springsteen – High School Confidential (Jerry Lee Lewis)
On energy though, Bruce has him beat. It’s been a while since I was in high school, but I don’t remember it being quite as fun as this live take from ’78.

Julie Doiron – Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard (Paul Simon)
Luckily, my high school career was also not as law-breaking as Paul Simon’s apparently. Doiron gives it a quiet and slow acoustic take. If she was a guy, this would be emo, but as it is it’s just pretty.

Bree Sharp – We’re Going to Be Friends (The White Stripes)
Looking up covers for this post, I discovered that over at Cover Lay Down bowhowdy had done a similar post last month! I limited myself to only stealing one song for this post, but the rest are all worth hearing, so head over here. Oh yeah, and this is way better than Jack Johnson’s version. Surprising? Didn’t think so.

Laibach – The Final Countdown (Europe)
I should have a gothic-techno themed post at some point, but until then this Europe cover will have to suffice. Sounds like the angriest rave ever. Oh, and it’s relevant to the theme cause I’m taking finals, see?

A-Teens – School’s Out (Alice Cooper)
Looking at the artist here, you might expect this to be awful. And you’d be right. But sometimes novelty is good enough, and if you need a pick-me-up from your own finals, this terrible cover (featuring Cooper himself…wtf?) should give you a laugh.