Dec 062016
 
best cover songs

Over the past few months, we’ve been hard at work making our list of The Best Cover Songs of 2016. Narrowing it down to 50 caused some excruciating choices, that’s how many great covers there were this year.

We’ll be posting the full list next week (and “Best Cover Albums” this Thursday), but as a little appetizer, here are our Honorable Mentions, covers we loved and still wanted to spotlight as among the best 2016 had to offer. Continue reading »

Oct 042016
 
VanMorrison

Van Morrison earned his first record deal by covering Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Turn On Your Love Light” with his band Them, and ever since Bland’s music has been important to him. He covered Bland’s “Ain’t Nothin’ You Can Do” on seminal live album It’s Too Late To Stop Now, and even dueted with Bland in 2007 on a new version of “Tupelo Honey.” “I can’t put into words the phrasing and the way he interprets a song,” Morrison said upon Bland’s death in 2013. Continue reading »

Mar 132015
 

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!

When you consider their longevity, the sheer number and variety of their live performances, and influences as diverse as bluegrass, country, soul, rock, psychedelia, blues, and jazz, it is likely that the Grateful Dead may have recorded and/or performed more covers than any other band that is best known for its original songs. (There’s probably a wedding band out there that has a bigger songbook, but that’s not really the point.) Grateful Dead fans have been trading and cataloging their favorite band’s performances since long before the idea of digital music and the Internet even existed, and now there are numerous databases available online — one of which shows 343 separate covers performed by the band (and solo projects and offshoots), including soundchecks and performances with guests.

Therefore, it is somewhat surprising that Cover Me has never turned its lovelight directly on the Grateful Dead. We have written numerous times about covers of Dead songs, but a quick review of the archives indicates that only three covers by the band have been featured—Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row” and Merle Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee” and “Mama Tried.” So, that leaves us a mere 340 to choose from today. To make this project (inspired in part by Phil Lesh’s 75th birthday this Sunday and by the recent announcement of the band’s 50th anniversary shows in Chicago this summer) somewhat less insane, we will limit ourselves only to recordings or performances by the Grateful Dead, proper — no solo projects or anything from after the death of Jerry Garcia.
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May 132014
 

With the possible exception of Martin Scorsese, no movie director has been more closely identified with his soundtracks than Wes Anderson. He has consistently selected songs by well-known artists that, through no fault of their own, have become three-quarters forgotten over the years, and reintroduced them to the world as the classics they had always been. If someone calls a song a prime candidate for the next Wes Anderson soundtrack (Guilty!), an instant and accurate picture is created. The soundtracks show a cohesion that’s rare in these days of we-want-a-hit soundtracks, where the earmarked smash doesn’t play until the final credits have started rolling, and they have become high points in the experience of watching Anderson’s movies. Now the American Laundromat Records label has collected covers of some of those high points on I Saved Latin! A Tribute to Wes Anderson, resulting in the best tribute album of the year.
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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 »

Oct 112010
 

Legendary soul singer Solomon Burke passed away yesterday en route to a European concert. In his seventy years, the “King of Rock and Soul” dominated soul, gospel, and rhythm and blues music like no one else. On early hits like “Cry to Me” and “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” and latter-day classics like “Diamond in Your Mind” and “Make Do With What You Got,” his smooth baritone turned everything it touched to gold. With just a few syllables he could deliver you or seduce you, raise you up or bring you low. Unlike many of his peers, Burke continued performing and recording up through his last days; he released two records this year alone!

Though his commercial fortunes ebbed and flowed, the music community never forgot Burke. His 2002 album Don’t Give Up on Me featured song contributions from Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, and Tom Waits. Pretty impressive Rolodex.

We’ve rounded up some live covers to remember the legend. Few can turn a phrase like Burke can, making his renditions of clichés like “Christmas Song” and Sam Cooke‘s “A Change Is Gonna Come” revelatory. On the less somber side, the raucous onstage party on “Proud Mary” shows his love of the ladies. Anyone who has attended a Burke concert can attest to the unbridled joy filling the room. He will be missed. Continue reading »