Nov 062017
 

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.

The Yardbirds’ write-up in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame begins with an immediate reminder that the group started off as a blues cover band. Little did Keith Relf, Jim McCarty, Paul Samwell-Smith, and (probably) Jeff Beck know when they wrote their first band-written, non-cover hit in 1966, “Shapes of Things” would eventually be included in the Hall’s permanent exhibit of “Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.” Much has been written about its recording, composition, arrangement, and socially conscious lyrics. (A check of Wikipedia or SongFacts will suffice.) Cover Me readers might enjoy hearing the jazz bass line from Dave Brubeck’s “Pick Up Sticks” that influenced Samwell-Smith. Legions of rock guitarists have paid their respects to Jeff Beck’s groundbreaking, feedback-laden lead guitar work on the song. Like The Godfather film, the ingredients combined to become a commercially popular and artistically appealing hit; the song reached #11 in the US, #7 in Canada, and #3 in the UK.

When we looked at over 40 verified covers of the song, we could see they pretty much fell into three categories: versions by the original members of the band (“All In The Family”); versions by numerous guitar gods (“The Shredders”); and other rock versions that don’t fit in either of the two previous categories (“Rock of Ages”). So for this special edition of Good, Better, Best, we’ll take a look at the top three for each category…

Continue reading »

Oct 132017
 

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.

Who does the best version of “God Only Knows”?

Accepting that the true answer is probably “Beach Boys, Beach Boys, Beach Boys,” this is a song oft covered and rarely, if ever, bettered, such is its beauty and ubiquity, as reliant on the arrangement as the melody, the lyrics as the singer. Most who have met the cover-me challenge have failed, duplicating and copying, facsimiles falling and failing at the shrine of St. Brian. And at the feet of St. Carl, for it is his sublime vocal that nails it. Some of these are pleasant enough – come in, Elvis Costello and Michael Stipe – but leave a memory that just longs for the original. A distinctive or different voice isn’t enough, as both Joss Stone and P.P.Arnold have discovered.
Continue reading »

Sep 212017
 
the killers bowie cover

Recently, The Killers took to the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge to plug their upcoming album release. Fittingly, they coupled their new song “The Man” with an iconic, similarly egotistic hit by David Bowie. If you’ve heard The Killers’ new song, you might be able to guess the Bowie song that they seamlessly transition to. And what a transition.

“Fame” is an excellent fit for Brandon Flowers’ piercing tenor. His voice is as instantly recognizable as Bowie’s, and he sings the classic with the same gusto as the original. The band and back up singers are fully invested, covering every instrumental solo and breathy “Fame” that you anticipate. Continue reading »

Aug 162017
 
ramonda hammer

Los Angeles quartet Ramonda Hammer gets compared to vintage 120 Minutes-era grunge a lot. Rolling Stone even said they sound “like an alternate Nineties where L7 was the biggest band in the world.” So it’s appropriate that their new David Bowie tribute comes by way of Kurt Cobain.

“We’re all Bowie fans, and when he passed we wanted to cover one of his songs as a tribute to him,” frontwoman Devin Davis says. “I think ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ was the obvious choice because 1) the lyrics are super powerful, and that has to resonate with me when singing a song, and 2) we’re also huge Nirvana fans, and their cover of that song for MTV Unplugged was mind-blowing. Since we’re a grunge band, we thought we’d try a heavy, fast-ish version of the song and make it our own, while paying homage to both David Bowie and Kurt Cobain.” Continue reading »

Apr 152017
 
HBO Girls music

The first episode of Girls aired on April 15, 2012, exactly five years ago. Six seasons in five years is more aggressive than the usual one-season-per-year pace of most shows. You could say Girls was growing up fast.

The series has featured more than 389 songs (per Tunefinder), not including the music of the finale tomorrow. Music writers routinely covered episodes, reveling in the impact the show’s music had on the depth of the storyline.

Covers of male songs performed by women were sprinkled across the episodes, in many cases spotlighting younger and less famous females. HBO could certainly afford the rights to the original recordings, so using these covers became a deliberate choice, not a plan B. Continue reading »

Mar 102017
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

Scratch_My_Back

Until 2010’s Scratch My Back appeared, Peter Gabriel had been an artist more covered than covering – arguably a pity, given the cracked wistfulness of his croaky beauty. But I guess if you can write material of the quality and diversity that he has, why bother with someone else’s material? The problem was, Gabriel hadn’t been writing that kind of material – this was his first album in eight years.

So was Scratch My Back just, as covers projects can so often be, a stopgap sales pitch to keep his brand alive during a creative lull? Who knows? I think not and hope not, feeling this a deliberate if somewhat failed experiment on two levels. Flawed, maybe, rather than failed.
Continue reading »