Jul 012019
 

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

best elton john covers

The first big film to to emerge in the post-Bohemian Rhapsody biopic boom is Rocketman. Compared to the Queen movie, critics like Rocketman better (somewhat), fact-checkers call it more accurate (somewhat), and LGBT advocates praise it for more honestly addressing the star’s sexuality (somewhat). Also – and hopefully this is unrelated – it has fared worse at the box office. Again, somewhat worse; it’s done fine, but does not seem to be the smash Bohemian Rhapsody was.

Unlike Queen, though, Elton John didn’t really need a mega-blockbuster to return to the public eye. He never left (after all, it’s hard to look away from clothes that sparkly). The farewell tour he launched last year will take him through 2020, and 2018 also saw two tribute albums featuring megawatt performers: from Lady Gaga to Ed Sheeran on the pop one, Miranda Lambert to Willie Nelson on the country one. For Elton, the Rocketman biopic is just the latest tribute in a career full of them.

And nowhere has tribute been paid more often than in the world of cover songs. From his second, self-titled album onward (no one covers songs off his 1969 debut), Elton’s songs have been covered constantly. Hell, Three Dog Night released their cover of that second album’s “Your Song” a month before John’s original even came out. Though artists inevitably gravitate towards the huge hits, John’s songbook boasts a long tail, with even some relative deep cuts generating classic covers. So this month we count down the thirty best Elton John covers ever.

Best so far, at least. At the rate he earns tributes, it won’t be long before the next batch lands.

Mar 262019
 

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!

the zombies cover songs

Few Americans born after the decade might know it, but the British Invasion of the mid-1960s was a watershed. If it was sparked by a single musical appearance—the Beatles’ epochal performance on The Ed Sullivan Show on the evening of February 9, 1964—it was much more than a mere moment of mass hysteria. Long before there was an internet to shrink the globe down to seeming pocket size, and years before the term “underground” would become a marketing angle, the British Invasion was an atomic thunderclap, linking the youth cultures of the US and the UK and stoking what would become a global furnace of musical and cultural ferment.

The Beatles may have initiated the British Invasion, but they were far from the only game in town. The Zombies may have been one of the least-known bands of the British Invasion, but in their afterlife they would grow to become one of the best-loved.

This year, at long last, the Zombies will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Though their latter-day fame largely rests upon their final LP, Odessey and Oracle, long before its release they learned their trade the old-fashioned way: By covering other artists’ songs.
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Feb 272018
 

elise legrow playing chessChess Records, considered by many ears to be the redheaded step-child to the Motown and Stax labels and immortalized in the movie Cadillac Records, was the preeminent blues record label of the 1950s and ’60s. At the forefront of the birth of Rock and Roll with the release of “Rocket 88” by Ike Turner and His Delta Cats, the label was the musical den of inequity for Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Chuck Berry, Etta James and many others. And now, at last, with definitely a particular place to go, Elise LeGrow has released a tribute to the denizens of 2120 South Michigan Avenue: Playing Chess.

Having now spent several listening sessions with this gem, it looks like, to borrow some Olympics imagery, a spot on the “Covers Albums of the Year” medal stand should be reserved for this one. Bronze at least. Certainly not taking the easy approach, LeGrow has meticulously researched and curated every song that she presents. Take the relatively obscure Sugar Pie DeSanto tune “Going Back Where I Belong”; the even more esoteric “Searching for My Love,” a hot 100 hit for Bobby Moore and the Rhythm Aces’ or album-closer “Sincerely,” the last single for The Moonglows. Every song will have you cranking up the way-back machine to search out the original versions. Continue reading »

Sep 082017
 

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

yardbirds

The Yardbirds are back! Sort of. The quintessential R&B-influenced British Invasion band has made a few recent headlines, and any headline from a group that can boast Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page as alums is probably worth checking out.

Last month, the music press was buzzing when Page announced a November 5th release for Yardbirds ’68. The legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist is producing the newly unearthed compilation of live and studio recordings along with outtakes. Rolling Stone has more about it here. Additionally, in early August still-active founding member Jim McCarty and the bands’ current line-up announced a new Yardbirds studio album to be underwritten by a PledgeMusic campaign. The album promises to be “a totally new recording of original songs with a couple of carefully selected covers.” Fans can find out more and get involved here.

We’ll celebrate all this good news with several Yardbirds-related features leading up to the release of Page’s ’68 in November. Today, we’ll pay our respects with a recap of The Yardbirds’ Greatest Hits. The first of countless compilations, this one passed a significant 50th anniversary milestone in March. Arguments abound among aficionados as to which Greatest Hits / Best Of / Retrospective is their “best,” but only one can claim to be their highest charting US album; Greatest Hits peaked at #28 on the Billboard chart in 1967 and arguably gave the band a second wind at the time. The album is no longer commercially available in its original LP configuration and packaging, but nowadays it can be put together with just a few taps on the screen/keys.

Included on Greatest Hits are all six of their singles up to 1967, plus three B-sides and a live track. Five tracks were written by at least one member of the band. Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf, and Mose Allison are credited with one R&B cover each. Finally, two were written by Graham Gouldman, about whom we’ll have more to say in the near future.

So… let’s get ready, steady, go!

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Jul 122013
 

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

Considering The Beatles’ impact on music, pop culture and beyond, surprisingly few filmmakers have taken on the challenge of telling the legendary band’s story on the big screen. Director Iain Softley stands apart as one of the few who wasn’t daunted; his very first film, Backbeat, tells the story of the Beatles’ raucous early years as a cover band, performing in the seedy red-light district of Hamburg, Germany. The film concentrates on the love triangle amongst John Lennon, then-bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, and German photographer Astrid Kirchherr.
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Aug 242010
 

At Cover Me, we like to give stuff away. Read on to learn how that stuff can be yours.

Tribute albums to famous artists are a dime a dozen. Tribute albums to famous labels though…well, that’s something else entirely. The Morlocks Play Chess is a great title with a greater concept behind it. San Diego garage rock quintet the Morlocks cover the hits of Chicago’s legendary Chess Records. And what hits! Without the 45s of Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley and other Chess artists, rock and roll wouldn’t be where it is today.

Though shut down in 1975, the label has experienced something of a revival in the popular imagination recently. The 2008 film Cadillac Records spotlighted the label with help from Adrian Brody (who played Leonard Chess), Mos Def (Chuck Berry), and Beyoncé (Etta James). Just a few weeks ago Chicago podcast Sound Opinions devoted a whole show to unearthing some of the label’s history.

Enter the Morlocks. The band first popped up in southern California in 1984. Three years and a few local hits later, things collapsed. They returned a decade later with their raw garage sound as frenetic as ever. The Chess Records catalog fits them perfectly and they know it. Continue reading »