Oct 092016
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

john-lennon-rock-n-roll

By the time he recorded Rock ‘n’ Roll, John Lennon had been through quite a lot. From the dissolution of the Beatles to the fracturing of his marriage to the ever-present threat of deportation, he clearly had a great deal weighing on him. It was during this same time that he embarked on his legendary “lost weekend” in Los Angeles while estranged from Yoko Ono. Tearing through the city with drinking pal Harry Nilsson, Lennon seemed to fully embrace his chaotic path of self-destruction. While he would eventually come around enough to bring himself out of his increasingly fraught downward spiral, there was a clear spiritual line of demarcation between what came before and what was cut tragically short just a few years later.

It is within this self-reflective/post-self-destructive climate that Lennon embarked on the sessions that would produce Rock ‘n’ Roll. Not only would it represent a return to the music that inspired him in the first place, it also served as a swan song/love letter to fans, as he would, for all intents and purposes, retire from music and the public eye for the next half decade to concentrate on being a father to his son Sean. Because of this, there’s a heavy air of nostalgia at play. From the cover image (John in 1961 Hamburg, with a blurred Paul, George, and Stu Sutcliffe walking past him) down to the track listing, Rock ‘n’ Roll represents something of a mid-life reanalysis of self for the erstwhile Beatle. By returning to his roots, he was able to reassess his own position within and feelings toward the world of pop music.
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Sep 022016
 

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.

Dan Reeder

The first Dan Reeder song I heard was his meditation on death, “Maybe,” featured on an Oh Boy Records CD sampler. Oh Boy is an indie label founded by John Prine, who signed Reeder after hearing his demo cassette. His first album, Dan Reeder, was as one-man-show and homemade as you can get – he wrote it, played it, recorded and engineered it, did the artwork, did all the harmonies, and even made his own instruments. The songs are brief, thoughtful, humorous, and direct – profanity is sprinkled throughout in a way that somehow manages to be organic and not crude. It was the (NSFW) “Work Song” that made me a fan for life; it’s a song with one line repeated over and over, to perfection and beyond. As NPR said, “you’ll want to play it because it’ll ring true inside you, not because it’s gratuitously vulgar.”

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Aug 172016
 
Florence-And-The-Machine

On Florence and The Machine’s most recent album How Big How Blue How Beautiful, much was made of the absence of Florence Welch’s trademark harp. Well for any early fans who missed it, the harp is back in full force on her new cover of Ben E. King’s classic “Stand By Me.” It’s a very different song choice than the Justin Bieber and Skrillex song she tackled last year! The cover was teased months ago as part of the Final Fantasy XV video game, but the full version just came out on a new EP. Continue reading »

Sep 172012
 

Quickies rounds up new can’t-miss covers. Download ‘em below.

Frequent cover champ Benjamin Francis Leftwich takes a giant leap away from the singer-songwriter source material he often gravitates towards, bringing his echoing vocals and distant guitar to M83’s “Midnight City.” He also covers INXS and Frightened Rabbit, which you can download on his website.
MP3: Benjamin Francis Leftwich – Midnight City (M83 cover) Continue reading »

Sep 272011
 

This weekend, Sting celebrates his 60th birthday with an all-star concert in New York. One of the featured performers is Lady Gaga, and the duo gave us a preview of what they might do at Las Vegas’ I Heart Radio festival over the weekend. The two came together to belt the classic “Stand By Me,” a song they tackled once before, in May 2010. They follow it up here with the Police’s “King of Pain.” Continue reading »

Aug 232011
 

Jerry Leiber, the famed songwriter, passed away yesterday at 78. He was the lyricist in the songwriting duo Leiber and Stoller while Mike Stoller handled the composing. Together they penned such classic pop songs as “Hound Dog,” “Kansas City,” “Stand by Me,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Yakety Yak,” among many other hits which were originally performed by artists like Elvis Presley, The Drifters, and Ben E.King. In 1995 Leiber and Stoller’s catalog of hits was turned into the Broadway musical Smokey Joe’s Cafe, which was nominated for seven Tony Awards. The duo was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Continue reading »