Apr 122019
 

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!

Scott Walker

When Scott Walker passed away last month, the pieces written in tribute to his work mentioned the splash he made with the Walker Brothers, the Jacques Brel influence in his first few solo records, and his move into avant-garde music. One era of his was rarely mentioned – the early ’70s, which Walker described as his “wilderness years.” Adrift with little to say, dealing with drug and alcohol issues, pressured by his label to put out product, Walker lapsed into a series of albums that focused on covers of pop songs. The albums sold poorly, the critics were unkind, and Walker was content for them to stay out of print when the CD era arrived.

Here’s the thing – when you have a voice and a talent like Walker’s, you can’t help but lift the songs you sing to a better place. Many’s the person who said they would listen to Scott Walker singing the phone book, and songs from the likes of Burt Bacharach, Gordon Lightfoot, and Bill Withers are already several steps past 202-727-9099.
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Aug 102018
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

The story of rock ’n roll is littered with unsung heroes, pioneers, and straight-up madmen, but few—if any—cast as long a shadow as Arthur Taylor Lee, the frontman of the ‘60s Los Angeles band Love. Last Friday, August 3rd, marked 12 years since his passing, but if anything his legend has continued to grow, not diminish, following his death at the age of 61.

Then again, that’s not saying much. For most of his life, Arthur Lee’s renown had nowhere to go but up. Love (the band) was more a theory than a working practice, and outside of a loyal local following in its mid-60s heyday, there were precious few rewards for the band’s labors: A handful of reasonable chart positions and occasional airplay, but little to no financial or critical acclaim, particularly after the essential lineup of the band quit (or were fired by Lee) following their late 1967 album Forever Changes.

After that, Lee spent the next couple of decades issuing a sporadic series of solo albums and half-hearted reboots, none of which garnered—or, frankly, deserved—much attention. So why celebrate him now? What about this troubled, and often troublemaking man deserves our attention?

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Jun 152018
 
best cover songs 1978

Welcome to the third installment in our Best Cover Songs of Yesteryear countdown, where we act like we were compiling our usual year-end list from a year before we – or the internet – existed. Compared to the first two, this one has significantly less grunge than 1996 and less post-punk than 1987. It’s hard to have post-punk, after all, before you have punk, a new genre starting to hit its peak in 1978. And don’t forget the other big late-’70s sound: disco. Both genres were relatively new, and super divisive among music fans. Lucky for us, both genres were also big on covers.

Disco, in particular, generated some hilariously ill-advised cover songs. We won’t list them all here – this is the Best 1978 covers, not the Most 1978 covers. If you want a taste (and think carefully about whether you really do), this bonkers take on a Yardbirds classic serves as a perfect example of what a good portion of the year’s cover songs looked and sounded like: Continue reading »

Dec 042017
 
2017 cover songs

Our official list of the Best Cover Songs of 2017 comes next week. But first, we’re continuing the tradition we started last year by rounding up some of the songs it most killed us to cut in a grab-bag post. No ranking, no writing, just a bunch of knockout covers. Continue reading »

Aug 272017
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

Today we conclude our look at six decades of “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me,” the timeless Burt Bacharach and Hal David classic. Click here to read about the ’60s, here for the ’70s, here for the ’80s, here for the ’90s, and here for the ’00s. Then keep reading for the big finish…

Part VI: The ’10s

Two and a half years shy of the end, we’re about to surpass the total number of “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me” covers produced in any decade, including the ‘60s! Like MTV before it, YouTube is helping to drive this output. To be clear, we’re also not considering every bad amateur effort out there. There’s some carryover of the jazz-influenced versions from the ’00s, but the real story up to now is the sophistication and maturity that’s developed. In general, it’s as if the song, to no one’s surprise, is aging like an exceptional cabernet. So far this decade…

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Aug 262017
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

Burt Bacharach with The Sydney Symphony Orchestra in a live 2008 performance at the Sydney Opera House.

This week we’re working through the entire six decades that produced over 150 versions of “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me,” the timeless Burt Bacharach and Hal David classic. We’ve covered the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s, and the ’90s; now it’s time to see the fruits of a new century.

Part V: The ’00s

Jazz proliferated in the cover versions produced between 2000-2010. In total, a few more versions were released this decade than the previous with over a third having roots in one jazz style or another. But for as many as we heard, most were average with one exception. Otherwise, rock & roll made a strong showing, and later we’ll hear from an old friend followed by a few more efforts of note. In the ‘00s…
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