Oct 042017
 
mark erelli cover

In addition to being an acclaimed songwriter, Boston’s Mark Erelli knocks us out whenever he puts the pen aside to sing someone else’s songs. His murder ballads collaboration with Jeffrey Foucault, Seven Curses, is one of the best covers albums of the decade, and every time he speckles an album with a Tom Waits or R.E.M. tune, it’s invariably fantastic. So we were thrilled to learn he’s prepping a full-length covers albums called Mixtape, for which he’s currently raising funds on Kickstarter now.

Mixtape won’t come out until January, but he was kind enough to share a track with us now, his version of Don Henley’s classic “The Boys of Summer.” Erelli starts slow and subdued, but the track gradually builds to a high-lonesome holler that sounds like what I imagine Springsteen’s full-band version of Nebraska must be. A couple years ago, we ranked the best covers of “The Boys of Summer”, and this deserves to live in that company. Continue reading »

Jul 222016
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

donhenley

My love must be as free/As is the eagle’s wing,/Hovering o’er land and sea/And everything. – Henry David Thoreau

The name “Don Henley” conjures up images of the American West – dust swirling in canyons, expansive desert highways, the smell of colitas rising up through the air – but for me, Don Henley is damp, cold London afternoons spent tucked behind the couch in a small, cozy home. When I played Barbies, my dolls were raven-haired beauties, pretty mamas, and blondes dressed up in lace and lies, and it was Don Henley who sang the stories of their lives.
Continue reading »

Feb 072016
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Garth Brooks was my first musical hero. Looking back now, it feels a little weird saying that. I didn’t have a great love for music as a young kid. The few albums I owned when I was 10 were Beach Boys cassettes. I think I only liked them because they reminded me of being on vacation when I was stuck in a winter fog. So why Garth?

It started slowly. The songs from his self-titled first album were always on the radio. I must have heard “The Dance” a thousand times. Things cranked up a little when No Fences came out in 1990. “Friends in Low Places” was everywhere.  Ropin’ the Wind took things to another level not too long after. All the kids at school in Bean Station, Tennessee were going crazy over Garth. Heck, everybody everywhere was going crazy over Garth. Rolling Stone put him on their cover; he was crossing over into the mainstream. This Is Garth Brooks played on TV, and I watched it with my dad. He was mad that Garth smashed a guitar. I was thrilled that Garth changed the words to “Friends in Low Places” and told some lady she could kiss his ass. I was in.
Continue reading »

Sep 182015
 

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.

 
When all the bien-pensant trendsetters diss the Eagles (and they do, they do), “Boys of Summer,” written post-Eagles 1.0 and pre-hell freezing over by Don Henley, their best singer and their best writer, is the song that leads my opening statement for the defense. I remember the first time I heard it; I’d long before grown weary of the old band, but this song astonished and delighted. The combination of sound and lyric served to kick me into a mythical time remembered, irrespective of impossibility, brown skins shining in what little sun made it into my drab surroundings, lifting me into celebration, looking back, yes, always looking back. (I recall actual Deadheads kicking up over the perceived lyrical put-down, but to me, hell, it was a reminder and a kick-start.)

It’s a difficult song to do well, as the original hits all the bases available. Second Hand Songs tells me at least twenty-three have tried, with YouTube adding several more risible attempts to the list. One was even a successful hit in Eurodisco land, as some may remember. Wanna hear that one again? Tough, it ain’t here tonight. But here are three others, in ascending order of quality.
Continue reading »

Aug 052011
 

Some songs are synonymous with a particular season. Don Henley‘s “The Boys of Summer” was a Top Ten when it was released in 1984, and when it was re-released in 1998 it still hit #12. That’s a song with some longevity. Unlike so many summer songs, Henley’s ode to summer is a real downer, a remembrance of summers past rather than a celebration. Many covers of the song maintain that sense of melancholy, including a version by the Ataris that became a hit in its own right. Earlier this summer, Au Revoir Simone bucked the trend with their dream-pop version, but ultimately it fell a bit short. Papercuts, another band that can be lumped into the dream-pop genre, recently tried their hand at the summer classic. Continue reading »

Jun 292011
 

Sometimes it’s cool to take a classic song and use entirely new instruments to play it. Maybe they’re instruments that don’t necessarily fit together or fit with the original. It works…sometimes.

Using that approach, Au Revoir Simone’s cover of Don Henley‘s “The Boys of Summer” presents an interesting dichotomy. They kick it off with some very cool synth-organs, overlay those with a sweet ’80s electronic drum beat, and throw in a tambourine about halfway through. Disparate as the sounds are from one another, they fit together magically, like some crazy summertime electro Midnight Mass. Continue reading »