Dec 062013
 

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

By now it’s hard to find a little-known Rolling Stones song that deserves to be better known, but “Back Street Girl” absolutely qualifies. Originally on their 1967 album Between the Buttons, it was stripped from that release in the U.S. and slapped onto the odds ‘n’ ends collection Flowers. It’s a showcase for Mick Jagger to be even more unpleasant about a woman than he is in “Under My Thumb,” as he’s dismissing a girl to her face, calling her “rather common and coarse,” but still wanting her at his beck and call when nobody’s looking. All this is done in waltz time, with a truly pretty melody; put them together and you have a song that’s a prime candidate for the next Wes Anderson soundtrack.
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May 242011
 

Dylan Covers A-Z presents covers of every single Bob Dylan song. View the full series here.

We began our celebrations yesterday, but today, in fact, is the big day. On May 24th, 1941, Bob Dylan was born at St. Mary’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota. Twenty-one years later he released his first album and ever since…well, you know.

We continue our week-long series presenting covers of every single Dylan song with “Father of Night,” one of several Dylan songs that Manfred Mann rescued from obscurity. From there we hit songs by Jeff Buckley, The White Stripes, George Harrison, and, oh, about 54 more. Hours of music, and we’re not even halfway done! Continue reading »

Apr 132011
 

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!

You might know Daniel Johnston from Kurt Cobain's t-shirt, his iconic mural in Austin or the many artists who have covered him.  Or it's quite possible you've never heard of him. I had the pleasure of  learning about Johnston during a panel at SXSW last month that featured his brother, manager, and others who have worked with him over the years. Emotions ran high as they discussed Johnston's eccentric artistic habits, as well as how his personality was altered by bipolar disorder and how that affected his career as an artist. Continue reading »

Aug 302009
 

Shuffle Sundays is a weekly feature in which we feature a cover chosen at random by my iTunes shuffle. The songs will usually be good, occasionally be bad, always be interesting. All songs will only be available for one week, so get them while you can. After you listen, discuss this week’s tune in the comments.


Randy Newman seems to be the songwriter of choice for over-the-top emotive sings. Linda Rondstadt has covered his songs, and Harry Nilsson has done a whole album of them. So ol’ Bobby Darin, musical slut whose hits range from “Splish Splash” to “Mack the Knife” is unlikely to grasp the subtlety that Newman’s songs require.

And he doesn’t, not really. Every cringe-inducing production flourish is here, from soaring strings to a superfluous gospel chorus (listen to them repeat “Jesus” three lines in for no obvious reason). What redeems this performance, rising it above “Barry Manilow sings the classics” level is simply that a good singer is a good singer, and even singing about the slave trade, Darin’s effortless charm oozes through.

To be honest, I wondered whether Darin even KNEW this song was song by a slave ship captain, recruiting Africans by promising that in American they’ll be “as happy as a monkey in a monkey tree.” Apparently he did though, a socially conscious singer who wanted to begin his first album for Motown records with a statement song.

The release – titled simple Bobby Darin – was the last before his untimely death in 1973. That context renders “Sail Away” with a whole other meaning, one unrelated to slaves, Africans or colonialism, but a gospel song about heaven (for which the singers are far more appropriate). I’m not saying Bobby meant it that way – and Randy sure didn’t – but, as they say, timing is everything.

Bobby Darin – Sail Away (Randy Newman) [Buy]

What do you think? Discuss this song in the comments section below.