Mar 302016
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

Guns-N-Roses

Guns N’ Roses’s “November Rain” is a huge song. Its size doesn’t just come from its length (it’s almost nine minutes long, making it the longest single ever in the Billboard Top 10). It’s not its long gestational period, either (Tracii Guns says that Axl Rose already had a working version of it in 1983, back when he was still with the L.A. Guns). Nor is it only the cryptic video (Axl lost somebody, for sure, but otherwise who knows was was going on exactly?). “November Rain” is an epic because in addition to all these elements, it takes the listener on a journey, and it’s one we’ve all been on before.

When the song begins, we’re dropped into a relationship on the edge. It’s been on-again, off-again, and both parties are unsure of where they stand. Slash’s first two solos during this part of the song soar, making you feel like everything is going to work out for these two. The last verse reinforces this feeling. When Axl sings “Never mind the darkness, we still can find a way. And nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain”, we feel like this couple has turned the corner and is on the right path.

And then comes the apocalyptic coda. Instead of tenderness, we get intensity. Between the thunder of the piano and the snarl of the third guitar solo, it’s clear that we ended up getting two songs for the price of one. This is the story of a relationship on the rocks, surviving through its ups and downs; and then the bloody aftermath, when nothing is left but loneliness and the need to rage.

Because of all the territory the original spans, any cover of “November Rain” has fertile ground for interpretation. An artist could focus on any part of the myriad emotions crammed into the original and explore further. Here are three covers that did a particularly good job with this power ballad.
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Mar 262016
 

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!

steven tyler

Steven Tyler has had one of the most remarkable careers in rock ‘n’ roll history. With his band Aerosmith, he was big in the ’70s and huge in the ’90s, and his hard-earned sobriety allowed him to enjoy the second peak even more. His willingness to change with the times, moving from hard rock to rapping with Run-D.M.C. to pop-tinged rock to power ballads, kept the band relevant for multiple generations. He and the band haven’t forgotten the small towns, either – they’ve appeared on Aurora, IL cable access TV with Wayne & Garth, and they’ve enjoyed a Flaming Moe in Springfield.

He’s shown some skill apart from Aerosmith as well. Tyler has performed guest vocals with Alice Cooper and Carlos Santana. He famously judged on American Idol for two years, putting his flamboyant and playfully filthy personality on display. Now he has a solo country album in the works, proving that even a now-68-year-old dog can learn new tricks.

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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 »

Nov 222011
 

It’s the end of the era of Etta and her more than fifty year stretch of hit singles, cross-genre awards and industry-shaking influence concludes with a dream. A dream that features Axl Rose… without being a nightmare!

With her most recent release, The Dreamer, Etta James announced her retirement from the music business. Her family recently disclosed that the 73-year-old suffers from leukemia, along with a number of other physical complications, and revealed her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in 2009. While her decision to end her career is no surprise, what does startle is the nature of the final album with which Etta chose to take her bow. A curious collection of covers in which a handful of true blue soul and R&B standards rock alongside the likes of Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle.” Continue reading »