Aug 302011

As you might imagine, quite a few Bob Dylan covers come across our desk. So many that I often don’t get to listen to them all. So when I had the opportunity to press play on “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”  by Tom Russell with Lucinda Williams and Calexico, I was surprised to find myself listening over and over. With his catchy tex-mex country sound, Russell is no stranger to covering Dylan. Back in April, when we brought you 33 discs of live Dylan covers, we included his performance of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” as a standout. Continue reading »

May 262011

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

An excerpt from Bob Dylan’s Chronicles: Volume One (Simon & Schuster, 2004):

When I finally did arrive in California, my songs and my reputation had preceded me. I had records out on Columbia and I’d be playing at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and meeting all the performers who had recorded my songs-artists like The Byrds, who’d recorded “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Sonny and Cher, who’d done “All I Really Want to Do,” The Turtles, who recorded “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” Glen Campbell, who had released “Don’t Think Twice,” and Johnny Rivers, who had recorded “Positively 4th Street.”

Of all the versions of my recorded songs, the Johnny Rivers one was my favorite. It was obvious that we were from the same side of town, had been read the same citations, came from the same musical family and were cut from the same cloth. When I listened to Johnny’s version of “Positively 4th Street,” I liked his version better than mine. I listened to it over and over again. Most of the cover versions of my songs seemed to take them out into left field somewhere, but Rivers’s version had the mandate down-the attitude and melodic sense to complete and surpass even the feeling that I had put into it. It shouldn’t have surprised me, though. He had done the same thing with “Maybellene” and “Memphis,” two Chuck Berry songs. When I heard Johnny sing my song, it was obvious that life had the same external grip on him as it did on me.

Yes, today’s installment boasts a special distinction: It contain Dylan’s favorite cover of his own work. Rivers’ “Positively 4th Street” is indeed spellbinding. We’d venture that if Bob heard some of these other covers, though, he might have to reconsider. The Ghosts of Electricity’s 11-minute “Standing in a Doorway” takes a live jam to the stratosphere. Guy Davis’ “Sweetheart Like You” is so beautiful it redeems all of Dylan’s output in the ’80s (well, almost). If nothing else, John Doe (of X)’s soaring “Pressing On” from the I’m Not There film would surely be a contender.

We’ve also got a few of those “left field” covers he apparently disdains. Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Subterranean Homesick Blues” roars even harder than he ever intended. World Wide Message Tribe’s “Precious Angel” takes the holy message to the club floor. Cheap Trick’s 10-minutes “Please Mrs. Henry” doesn’t sound much like it did with the Band in that Woodstock basement. Check out these and dozens more on the next few pages and see if you agree with Dylan that Rivers tops the lot.

P.S. After you’ve reached your verdict, you might also compare it to the 170 covers we’ve presented in previous installments, linked here:
Part 1: “Absolutely Sweet Marie” – “Everything Is Broken”
Part 2: “Father of Night” – “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”
Part 3: “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” – “Oxford Town”
Part 4: “Peggy Day” – “Sweetheart Like You”
Part 5: “T.V Talkin’ Song” – “4th Time Around”

Continued on Page 2…

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 »

Nov 232010

Arcade Fire continued their run towards world domination earlier this year with their highly anticipated new release, The Suburbs. It debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts, proving their popularity and exhibiting the total acceptance of indie music by the mainstream culture. The Suburbs is also proving to contain a rather coverable group of tunes; folks seem to love singing “We Used to Wait” in particular (as we have pointed out before). Calexico continued the Suburbs love, but bucked the trend with the brooding “Ready to Start” at their set at the Festiwal Ars Cameralis in Katowice, Poland on November 18. No surprise the song’s in their heads; the group recently completed a three-week tour opening for Arcade Fire. Continue reading »

May 032010

The first post of the month features covers of every track on a famous album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

clash london calling covers

London Calling entered into the world in December 1979, but didn’t make its stateside debut for another month.  That makes 2010 the album’s 30th anniversary on this side of the pond.  It’s aged well.  While many classic albums sound very much of their time — that’s not to say dated — London Calling sounds like something that could have been made yesterday.  With the cover image and the cover songs, the politics and the pop, the ambitious two-disc package set a bar that no double album has since matched.  So, all together now: “And I…live by the river!”

Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Dave Grohl and Little Steven Van Zandt – London Calling

Many artists cross genres with “London Calling,” ranging from bossa nova (Bruce Lash) to surf instrumental (The Pyronauts).  Somehow though, kicking this set off with anything besides a balls-to-the-wall rocker seemed wrong.  This all-star performance comes from a Grammy tribute to Joe Strummer.  [Buy]

The Brian Setzer Orchestra – Brand New Cadillac (Vince Taylor)

The Clash wasted no time getting to the rockabilly, turning Vince Taylor’s 1958 twelve-bar b-side into a full throttled rave-up.  Setzer and his orchestra jump, jive and wail through their unique brand of big band punk, adding in a touch of the Theme from Peter Gunn[Buy]

Skarabazoo – Jimmy Jazz

You may never have noticed the subdued whistle in the intro to this one, but Skarabazoo pushes it front and center.  The Italian accent adds a suitably sinister touch.  [Buy]

No Doubt – Hateful

Before all the B-A-N-A-N-A-S nonsense, Gwen Stefani could pull off some real punk swagger.  [Buy]

The Cocktail Preachers – Rudie Can’t Fail

The Charlie Does Surf tribute album settles comfortably into the über-niche genre of instrumental surf-rock.  The Cocktail Preachers buck the trend though, shouting out “Rudie can’t fail” one whole time!  Such rebels.  [Buy]

Brady Harris – Spanish Bombs

Brady’s fantastic Cover Charge album polishes everyone from Motörhead to the Killers with a country-folk gloss.  Check out the “Heart of Glass” cover he recorded for Cover Me back in February. [Buy]

Southern Arts Society – The Right Profile

In 1956, screen star Montgomery Clift was driving home from a party at Elizabeth Taylor’s.  Having had one too many, he smashed his car into a tree, destroying his famous good looks with one crunch of glass and metal.  His next ten years have been described as the “longest suicide in Hollywood history.”  The Clash wrote this song about it.  [Buy]

Petty Booka – Lost in the Supermarket

Joe Strummer wrote this song imagining the childhood of guitarist Mick Jones (who sang lead on the track).  Japanese ukulele player Booka adds a dose of cute without losing the sad.  [Buy]

The National – Clampdown

In music history, 2010 may be remembered as the Year of the National.  Everyone from Rolling Stone to NPR is stumbling over themselves praising High Violet, the most anticipated album of the spring.  The stream over at the New York Times indicates it might live up to the hype.  [Buy]

Calexico – The Guns of Brixton

Fun trivia fact: Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong named his son Brixton after this song.  Must be cheery growing up as an homage to police repression.   [Buy]

Buck-O-Nine – Wrong ‘Em Boyo (The Rulers)

The classic death-ballad tale of Stagger Lee, a southern pimp convicting of murdering William “Billy” Lyons on Christmas Eve 1885, gets twisted around.  In the Rulers’ version, Stagger Lee is the hero of the tale.  St. Louis’ Riverfront Times hosts a telling[Buy]

Social Distortion – Death or Glory

Following a few years behind the Clash, Social Distortion gave punk anger a West coast spin.  They didn’t get around to covering the Clash until 2005 though, on the soundtrack to the skateboard film Lord of Dogtown[Buy]<

La Furia – Koka Kola

La Furia are a Clash cover band with a twist: every song gets translated into Spanish.  [Buy]

James Dean Bradfield – The Card Cheat

The Manic Street Preachers singer busted out this relative obscurity at a 2006 festival appearance.  This underrated narrative describes the rise and fall (mostly fall) of a dishonest gambler.  [Buy]

Mauri – Lover’s Rock

If one had to name London Calling’s Achilles heel, this song might be it.  It aims for insight into the tension between love and sex, but quickly devolves into blowjob puns.  [Buy]

Creation Rockers – Four Horsemen

The Clash roiled punk purists by incorporating outside styles like reggae.  Shatter the Hotel: A Dub Inspired Tribute to Joe Strummer pays it back.  [Buy]

Thea Gilmore – I’m Not Down

Gilmore popped up here last week, beautifying Dylan’s “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine.”  Now she’s back with an anthem for society’s trampled on.  [Buy]

Los Fabulosos Cadillacs – Revolution Rock (Jackie Edwards & Danny Ray)

And we’re back to Spanish, on a track from these prolific Argentineans’ 1994 album Vasoc Vacíos (Empty Glasses).  [Buy]

Dwight Yoakam – Train in Vain

Johnny Cash once called Yoakam his favorite country singer, which is about as much endorsement as anyone should need.  [Buy]

Last month’s album: So, by Peter Gabriel.

Goin’ Grammy

 Posted by at 3:06 am  No Responses »
Jan 292008

The Grammys are coming up two weeks from yesterday (assuming they don’t get the old Writer’s Strike axe), but since next week’s is taken with Full Album week, we’ll do a little Grammy preview this time. They get more wrong than they get right, but bitching about awards shows is even more fun than watching them.

First up let’s look at the Record of the Year nominees. Why Stronger isn’t on that list is beyond me, but let’s look at what is.

D – Irreplaceable (Beyonce)
Lord knows who “D” is, but his (their?) slow mellow take turns the bouncy club number into a mournful dirge, as if he doesn’t believe a word he’s singing. Who knew “to the left, to the left” could sound so sad?

Lots of people – The Pretender (Foo Fighters)
I couldn’t find a proper cover of this one (pass one along if you’ve got it), but luckily there’s a back-up plan, from the Grammy folks themselves. For a feature called “My Grammy Moment” they’ve invited anyone who wants to do a 60-second cover on youtube, the best performer of which will get an invite to perform the song at the show itself, with a new rearrangement courtesy of Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones. Whether you think this is a tacky ploy to attract viewers the self-congratulatory hoopla of a dying industry (which it is) or a truly ingenious way to liven up the show (which it also is), some of these people are worth checking out. They’ve narrowed it down to the semi-finalists, so there’s some good arrangements, from sax to mandolin.

Brave Horatius – Umbrella (Rihanna)
Easily the most covered song of ’07, the shocking thing is that most of the covers are actually quite good (check out here for a lot more). This is the only one I’ve found that changes the tempo though, slowing it way down with xylophone and slow cymbal rolls.

Marilyn Manson – What Goes Around…Comes Around (Justin Timberlake)
You won’t be surprised to hear this doesn’t sound much like Timberlake, but it doesn’t particularly sound like Manson either. No dark industrial noises, but just a 12-string guitar behind his straight-forward singing. Still about two octaves lower than the original though.

Hot Hot Heat – Rehab (Amy Winehouse)
Since she’s actually in Rehab (and may not even be allowed at the Grammys due to her legal troubles), it’s a good thing plenty of other artists have stepped up to keep her hit alive. From a live radio session, the Heat boys infuse some funky riffs and spastic drumming to make it sound more like a Franz Ferdinand cover.

And here are a few more up-for-Grammys songs/artists/albums.

Kendra Morris – Can’t Tell Me Nothing (Kanye West)
I didn’t even believe this was the same song when I first hear it, the tune sounds so natural I couldn’t believe it had been superimposed. Maybe not as good as the cover of Stronger I posted a few weeks back, but damn close. And if Kanye doesn’t get album of the year, I’ll…complain about it in a future post. So take heed, Academy!

The White Stripes – Conquest (Patti Page)
In the Jolene vein of take-no-prisoners country crooner covers, Jack and Meg add mariachi horns and a thumping beat to this revenge man-hater. Icky Thump was overrated, but this was the clear highlight. Check out the video too, featuring a beautiful tale of man-bull love.

Calexico – Ocean of Noise (Arcade Fire)
Norah Jones covered this one live too, but as I can’t stand her, we’ll go with a band much easier on the ears, Calexico. They got a little publicity this fall as the house band for I’m Not There, the Dylan biopic. This take on a Neon Bible track takes out the weird instruments, instead propelling the song along with emotive singing and an arrangement that gains more with each listen.

Herbie Hancock ft. Leonard Cohen – The Jungle Line (Joni Mitchell)
In all honesty I’m not a huge Joni fan or a huge Herbie fan, but to see an all-covers disc up for Album of the Year is worth a mention. So here’s the last track off it, featuring William Shatner-esq “singing” by my man Leonard.