Sep 042019
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

L7 cover songs

L7 formed in Los Angeles, outside of the riot grrrl hub of the Pacific Northwest, in 1985 with just two members. Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner both provided guitar and vocals. Jennifer Finch on bass and Anne Anderson on drums joined shortly after. The bass and drum spots changed throughout the band’s career, but Sparks and Gardner have been through it all. L7 may not formally identify as a riot grrrl band, fitting more into the grunge scene, but their timing and musical content make them relevant to the broader movement. 

L7’s politics are no secret. Early in their career, the band organized the Rock for Choice benefit concert to raise money for abortion access. This benefit, started in 1991, continued every year until 2001, when the band started their “indefinite hiatus.” The venue featured both fellow riot grrrl bands like Bikini Kill and allies like the Foo Fighters and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. L7’s activism is still strong. Their first new song after the conclusion of their 18-year hiatus, “Dispatch from Mar-a-Lago” was released in 2017. They followed this with “I Came Back to Bitch” in 2018, with lines like “throw some bloody rags of fun” referring to their earlier days when Donita Sparks took out her tampon on stage and threw it into a mud-throwing crowd. (Forget bra burning, tampon throwing is the riot grrrl way.) Their latest album, this year’s Alfa Y Omega, even includes the line “make no mistake – lock us up, lock us up” in the song “Burn Baby.”

Outside of their original work, you can find hints of L7’s feminism in their covers. Hear/see for yourself…

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Aug 092019
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

blondie parallel lines covers

It’s been a mere 41 years since Parallel Lines was released, a fact that finds this writer flat on his back. How can it possibly be that long? But is is and it was, 1978 being a particularly good year for Blondie, themselves already far from spring chickens.

Debbie Harry, astonishingly already 33, just two years younger than Mick Jagger (and two older than Ronnie Wood), was the mother hen of the band, together with her partner, Chris Stein, half a decade younger. The pair of them and drummer Clem Burke, were the heart of the band, and the only omnipresent members, rounded out at that time by keyboardist Jimmy Destri, guitarist Frank Infante, and bassist Nigel Harrison. Of course they all hated each other and all hated their producer, Mike Chapman, drafted in for this record to widen their appeal.

This would be the band’s third album, the first two having been helmed by Richard Gottehrer, who maximized their punky charm and promise, turning them into the counter-intuitive leaders of the pack at and from Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s. Chapman, an Australian, had produced UK chart toppers like the Sweet, exiled Music City maven Suzi Quatro, and Mud; he was immensely successful, but looked down upon by any serious musician or fan.

In truth, they didn’t actually all hate each other, Stein was allegedly far too stoned to know much of what was going on, but there was no love lost elsewhere, not least as Chapman felt that Infante was the only one up to it, musically. Burke could not keep time, it seemed; Destri couldn’t play; and whatever Harrison could or couldn’t do, Chapman’s criticism was enough to have Harrison throw a synthesiser at him. But Harry could sing, that much Chapman could sense, carefully restricting her involvement to both protect her voice and prevent costly meltdowns, weeping in the restroom.

Despite all of this, Parallel Lines still came in a full 4 months ahead of schedule, and, amazingly, this line-up and Chapman went on to make four more albums before the band’s 1982 disintegration. It wasn’t until 15 years later they reformed, the original trio with (for a while) Destri, augmented by any number of additional sidemen. They still play on.
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Jul 312019
 

Check out the best covers of past months here.

best new cover songs july
Anais Mitchell & The Staves – Strong Enough (Sheryl Crow cover)

For a few years now, long-running French video company La Blogothèque has been filming a series they call “One to One” at Bon Iver’s various European festivals. They blindfold one audience member and bring them into a private room for a concert for one. Bon Iver did one, and Damien Rice’s is a must-watch. Personally, that experience sounds more awkward than enjoyable – especially with all the cameras in your face – so I’d rather just watch someone else’s personal concert on video. This one is a gem, feature The Staves with Anais Mitchell delivering a gorgeously-harmonized Sheryl Crow cover. Continue reading »

Feb 252019
 

‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

buddy holly covers

The so-called “Day the Music Died” occurred 60 years ago this month. One night after an Iowa concert, that fateful plane crash took out a host of young pioneers of the first wave of rock and roll: Ritchie Valens, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson (in a last minute seat-trade with Waylon Jennings), and, of course, Buddy Holly.

Over at 22, Holly’s career had barely begun. But in a few short years, he’d written and recorded some of the most foundational tracks of rock and roll. So, to remember him six decades on, we’re ranking the best covers of his songs – from “Rave On” to “Not Fade Away” to a host of deep-cut gems that deserve wider recognition.

We were going to include 22 covers to honor Holly’s age but – in a testament to how much he accomplished in such a short time – that turned out to be not nearly enough. So we expanded the list to 36, his birth year. And frankly, we could have easily doubled it. That’s how often his songs have been covered by his admirers of yesterday and today. So rave on, Buddy, with these 36 fantastic covers of your songs.

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Dec 172018
 
best cover songs of 2018

Two things strike me as I scan through our list this year. This first is that many of the highest-ranking covers are tributes to recently-deceased icons. No surprise there, I suppose. But none actually pay tribute to artists that died in 2018. They honor those we’ve been honoring for two or three years now – your Pettys, your Princes, your Bowies. Hundreds of covers of each of these legends appeared in the first days after their deaths, but many of the best posthumous covers took longer to emerge.

Good covers take time. That principle – the cover-song equivalent of the slow food movement, perhaps – holds true throughout the list. Sure, a few here appear to have arisen from sudden moments of brilliance, flash-arranged for some concert or radio promo session. But many more reveal months or even years of painstaking work to nail every element. Making someone else’s song one’s own isn’t easy. These 50 covers took the time to get it right.

– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief

Start the countdown on the next page…

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Nov 142018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

erin mckeown cover songs

After almost two decades of critically acclaimed albums, singer-songwriter-guitarist Erin McKeown just added another hyphenate to her resumé: “theatrical composer.” She wrote music and lyrics for the new Public Theater musical Miss You Like Hell in New York. Variety wrote after seeing the show, “Erin McKeown makes an impressive stage debut with music that is eclectic and appealing.” Here’s a taste, two-time Tony nominee Daphne Rubin-Vega singing McKeown’s new song “Mothers”: Continue reading »