Bruce Springsteen is famous for many things, chief among which is the sheer epic-ness of his live shows with the E Street Band (and, now, new addition Tom Morello). “Epic” may be a massively overused word, but it applies to Bruce. One of the best things, especially for cover fans, is that he seems to love performing other artists’ music as much as his own. And that’s what has landed us with this latest news – the Boss adding the classic INXS single ”Don’t Change” to his live repertoire for the first time ever.
I’m not sure there were more great cover songs this year than any other. But there were more good ones.
What I mean by that is, the average quality of the covers we come across in the time we’ve been around has risen, rather dramatically. Whether they’re iTunes homepage singles or some guy emailing us his Bandcamp, more cover songs in 2013 avoid the old pitfalls than ever before. They don’t sound like they were recorded in a cereal box, substitute ear-bleeding volume for actual creativity, or – the worst cover sin of all – try to carbon-copying the original. With the ease of production and distribution available now, artists seemed to record covers only when they felt they had something to add, and do a halfway decent job committing those ideas to 1s and 0s.
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.
Tara Jane O’Neil’s artistic work crosses multiple boundaries – she’s a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and a drawer and painter whose creations have been exhibited worldwide. She calls Portland, Oregon home, with additional residencies in the hearts of thousands. Her website states that “her work innately crosses genres and boundaries,” a point brought home by her collaborating on an album with Nikaido Kazumi, despite their not sharing a spoken language. Perhaps most important, her skills at karaoke are unparalleled – people are still talking about her performance of “Xanadu” at the Experimental Filmmaker Karaoke Throwdown in 2008.
In Defense takes a second look at a much-maligned cover artist or album and asks, “Was it really as bad as all that?”
News flash: Dexys Midnight Runners are more than just “Come On Eileen.” However, Kevin Rowland’s adenoidal voice and over-the-top emotion are not for everyone. Not only that, Rowland’s behavior and strange decisions definitely hindered the band’s popularity. With that in mind, we embark on a defense of the band that released some great music during their brief (if recently revived) career. If you are a Dexys skeptic, or are unaware of their output beyond “Eileen” – and let’s face it, that’s most of the world – maybe this selection of their covers will convince you to dig a little deeper into their catalogue.
In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.
If Doug Fieger hadn’t died of cancer in February 2010, today would be his 61st birthday. By most standards, Fieger had a successful musical career. He was the lead singer for the Knack, whose debut album Get the Knack sold more than two million copies and was the number 1 album on the Billboard album chart for five weeks. The first single, the ubiquitous “My Sharona,” was the biggest song of 1979; the second, “Good Girls Don’t,” hit #11 in the US. The follow-up album went gold and spawned another Top 40 single. Thereafter, the band continued to record and tour until breaking up in 1982, then re-formed in the late 1980s, recording and touring through the early 2000s. Fieger also worked as a guest vocalist for Was (Not Was) (a band co-led by his childhood friend Don Was) and released a solo album. Most musicians — and many wannabes — would take that career in a minute.
Back in 2010, Cover Me posted a Live Collection of the Drive-By Truckers, the Athens, GA band led by Patterson Hood. It featured “every DBT concert cover we could get our hands on,” adding that “Hood’s vast solo repertoire will wait for a later date.” That’s an undertaking for another day, but today we can at least scratch the surface and share a few of Hood’s covers.
It seems tough, when presented with a band named “Diarrhea Planet,” to focus initially on anything other than that name – that is, until they start to play. When that happens, the Nashville band becomes something that could exist without a name at all; it just is rock and roll. Bands – especially punk bands – bring all sorts of attitudes when they approach so-called classics, but Diarrhea Planet brings nothing but talent and enthusiasm to their take on Bruce Springsteen‘s “Born to Run.” Where other acts might imbue their arts with sarcasm or, alternately, overplayed sincerity, they bring music.