Mar 022016
 

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.

 
I came early to the Bee Gees. For the barely teenage me they gave a plaintive, yearning sound to well-constructed ballads, with keening mid-range harmonies that totally belied their higher pitched ’70s second coming (which, incidentally, is where I left again). And never mind the earnest re-appraisals of their disco years – when is someone going to give a punt for their still-remarkable ’60s canon? Do we have to wait until the original Bee, Barry, last man standing and eldest sibling of the brothers Gee (Gibb), departs this earth? Whilst today I but celebrate this sole song, “New York Mining Disaster 1941.” Was there a mining disaster in New York in 1941? It seems not, but since when did the truth need to bother a decent song.

This is the song that started the Bee Gees down their yellow brick road – it’s reputedly the one which, when played by their staunch impresario/manager Robert Stigwood to Paul McCartney, led to their being signed to a recording contract. In turn it was their first worldwide hit, reaching #14 on the Billboard chart in 1967. And I dispute the latter-day dismissal given of it by Maurice, who didn’t write it anyway, it being the product of his twin, Robin and aforementioned elder brother Barry. (Maurice had suggested it was a deliberate rip-off of the Beatles, whereas the only Beatle link was to do with some duplicity in the disc jockeys of the day, making out it may have been actually by them.) It appears on their imaginatively titled first LP, Bee Gees’ 1st, and I commend it, along with later double concept album Odessa, as both dated but overlooked artifacts of a time blessed with more ideas and experimentation than is now remembered of the three toothy brothers from Melbourne, Australia (but actually all born in Manchester, England).
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Dec 182014
 

Follow all our Best of 2014 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.

A few months ago, I read an interesting interview with an artist named Nouela. You probably haven’t heard of her, but you may have heard her music. She’s become a specialist in a weird but growing niche: covers recorded for movie and television trailers. Whether doing a piano “Sound of Silence” to promote a new HBO show or a brooding “Black Hole Sun” to promote Liam Neeson punching people, she’s found a quickly-growing way of getting her covers out there.

It struck me as part of a growing trend we’ve seen. More and more great covers seem to come from unexpected places. Sure, you’ve got still your standby sources, your b-sides, tribute albums, and radio shows. But new avenues for covers have increasingly crept in. This year saw a Sam Smith cover that is only available to hear under Grey’s Anatomy dialog (thankfully he’s recorded a few live versions too) and a whole covers album recorded to plug a Canadian TV show. Brands have fully embraced covers too, most recently My Morning Jacket’s “This Land Is Your Land” recorded for North Face ads, or Charli XCX and Bleachers trading covers for Kia.

We don’t care where they originated when we make our year-end lists, though, and we would up with some of everything. In our top five alone, we’ve got a live radio session, a deluxe-edition bonus track, and a cover hiding in plain sight on one of the most acclaimed country records of the year. You have to keep an eye on more places than ever to spot the best covers these days. Wherever they come from, we’re glad to have ’em.

Click on over to page two to begin our countdown, and thanks for reading.

– Ray Padgett, Editor in Chief
(Illustration by Sarah Parkinson)

Feb 142014
 

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

In 1988, Rolling Stone named “Stayin’ Alive” one of the 100 top singles of the last 25 years, and they asked the Bee Gees to comment; how did they feel about the song? The terse response: “We’d like to dress it up in a white suit and gold chains and set it on fire.” It’s an understandable reaction – for all the wealth and fame the song brought them, it also swept aside their estimable back catalog and pigeonholed them as Disco with a capital Dis, so much so that when the genre died, the Bee Gees’ commercial success in the U.S. died with it.

But for all the venom directed “Stayin’ Alive”‘s way, for all its use as a punchline from Airplane! to Ted, people can’t get away from how good a song it is. “Look at great huge Maurice Gibb, singing like Donald Duck on ‘Stayin’ Alive,'” Roger Daltrey of the Who carped in 1978, then instantly added, “And that’s a great song. Bruce Springsteen could sing that lyric.”
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Mar 012013
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Kevin Dotson got the name Linus of Hollywood from his wardrobe bearing a similarity to that of the Peanuts character. A self-described metalhead in his youth, he started out in the pop-punk band Size 14; by the time he was releasing solo work, he was radiating California, from his nom de tune to the good vibrations coming off his sunny melodies in waves. Continue reading »

Sep 012012
 

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!

And then there was one. With his brother Robin’s passing in May, Barry Gibb became the sole surviving Bee Gee; today marks the first time since he was three years old that he doesn’t have a brother Gibb around to see him celebrate his birthday.

“I will live on the music,” he tweeted to his fans, “and no matter what stage I’m standing on my three brothers will be standing there with me.” Continue reading »

Jul 262012
 

In the late 70s the Bee Gees were an integral part of the rise of disco. The brothers Gibb helped create the soundtrack and the title to the 1978 hit film starring John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever. The film was originally going to be called Saturday Night  but Robin Gibb suggested the title from a track they recorded for the film, “Night Fever”. Eventually the producer settled on merging the two and history was made. Two months ago Robin Gibb died after a long-fought battle with cancer, leaving brother Barry as the last surviving Gibb brother. Continue reading »