Welcome to the third installment in our Best Cover Songs of Yesteryear countdown, where we act like we were compiling our usual year-end list from a year before we – or the internet – existed. Compared to the first two, this one has significantly less grunge than 1996 and less post-punk than 1987. It’s hard to have post-punk, after all, before you have punk, a new genre starting to hit its peak in 1978. And don’t forget the other big late-’70s sound: disco. Both genres were relatively new, and super divisive among music fans. Lucky for us, both genres were also big on covers.
Disco, in particular, generated some hilariously ill-advised cover songs. We won’t list them all here – this is the Best 1978 covers, not the Most 1978 covers. If you want a taste (and think carefully about whether you really do), this bonkers take on a Yardbirds classic serves as a perfect example of what a good portion of the year’s cover songs looked and sounded like:Continue reading »
That’s the question New York goth-punk singer Shilpa Ray wrote on Bandcamp introducing her new cover of Cooper’s “Is It My Body” – and it’s a good one. He actually tried to make that point himself when he was on Marc Maron’s show a few months back, pointing to a song like “Only Women Bleed” (which Etta James, of all people, has covered). A track like that, he argued, was a far cry from the horrorshow makeup and on-stage guillotine.Continue reading »
Follow all our Best of 2016 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.
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.
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.)
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 »
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 »