This year marks the 40th anniversary of The Band’s legendary The Last Waltz final concert and to celebrate, NYC’s Lincoln Center hosted an all-star tribute concert Saturday night. Held down by Levon Helm’s longstanding Midnight Ramble Band, special guests included Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin, and even Dr. John, reprising the song he sang at the original Last Waltz.
From time to time at Cover Me, we like to dip into the world of live fan bootlegs. We did a few months ago with a bunch of rare and unreleased covers Tom Waits has performed over his career, and we just stumbled across another collection worth sharing: a two-disc compilation of Jerry Garcia covering his favorite New Orleans songs. Whether with the Grateful Dead, his own Jerry Garcia Band, or solo, over the years he took on classics by Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, James Booker, and many more, often extended them into ten minute or longer jams. Download it below.
Though New Orleans is a long way from San Francisco, Garcia’s affinity for the city’s music makes a certain amount of sense. New Orleans jazz and San Francisco psychedelia both valued spontaneity, improvisation, and letting the moment carry the music. And there’s been a certain amount of cross-pollination. In 1976 Garcia performed four shows with R&B piano icon James Booker (some of those collaborations are included here). Since the ’70s, New Orleans has had its own jam band community, spearheaded by bands like the Radiators and more recently Galactic. And in a fun historical footnote, New Orleans was the site of a famous 1970 Dead drug bust that later made it into the “Truckin'” lyrics: “Busted, down on Bourbon Street / Set up, like a bowlin’ pin / Knocked down, it gets to wearin’ thin / They just won’t let you be, no.”
Follow all our Best of 2014 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.
Back when we redesigned the site in 2010, we created basic star icons to represent the ratings we’d give an album when we reviewed it. 2 stars, 3.5 stars, etc. When we posted an album review, we’d find the corresponding icon where we last uploaded it. However, earlier this year we couldn’t find one of the icons we were looking for. Why? It turns out we’d never used it. We’d never before given an album a perfect five stars.
This year, for the first time, we did. Which should suffice to say it’s been an excellent year for cover albums. True, a few of the marquee tributes we most eagerly anticipated fell flat, either too formulaic (The Art of McCartney) or too out-there (that Flaming Lips’ Sgt. Peppers tribute we’ll never speak of again). But in the cracks and under the radar, cover and tribute albums thrived.
In our list of the twenty best, we’ve got everything from big names on major labels to DIY projects thrown up on Bandcamp. We’ve got New Orleans jazz, Parisian dub reggae, and songs that were popular when your great-great-great-great grandfather was calling town dances. Something for everyone, I guess. Something for all our fwends (sorry, that was the last time, promise).
Start the countdown on Page 2…
Song of the Day posts one cool cover every morning. Catch up on past installments here.
Bandcamp is a fantastic resource for cover fans. Thousands of bands put their music on there to download for free, the quality is generally higher than MySpace/YouTube (for now), and just searching “cover” yields a wealth of music. Today’s Song of the Day comes from an artist discovered that way.
Anyone who has seen Drake or MGMT on tour recently has seen Jake Rabinbach. He plays guitar in Francis and the Lights, the NYC soul-dance band recently on tour with both. You can listen to their entire discography on Muxtape (including Tom Waits, John Lennon, and Kanye West covers) and the longer you wait to do so, the longer your ears will deprived of Francis’ smooth white boy soul.
The Academy Awards were last night. The competition was fierce, the dresses were stunning, the upsets were upsetting, the…alright, I admit, I tuned out after fifteen minutes. What I do know is that for the first time the Oscars removed the live musical performances from the show, killing the one enjoyable part about the whole thing. So instead we’ll bask in nostalgia with covers of ten classic movie themes.
Steve Tyrell w/ Dr. John – You’ve Got a Friend in Me (Randy Newman)
Randy Newman’s been nominated for an Oscar 19 times. That’s three more than Meryl Streep, who holds the acting record. The Academy always seems to figure they can give it to Randy next year though, since he’s only won once. Last night he lost. Again. Twice. Though it didn’t win in its day either, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story is surely Randy’s most enduring movie song, and the only one he ever touches in concert. [Buy]
Phish – Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001: A Space Odyssey)
Phish has done this one many times, its epic scope making it a good vehicle for extended jamming. This nine-minute version comes from Brooklyn’s Keyspan Park in 2004. Maybe someone who knows more about Phish than I do can tell us how it stacks up compared with other performances. [Buy]
Surf Champlers – “James Bond” Theme (Monty Norman)
Surf Champlers is a project by Kenji Yano, a Japanese musician who combines the traditional katcharsee style of music from his home of Okanawa with modern styles. Like surf. [Buy]
Kuricorder – The Imperial March (Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back)
This song make you wonder why they didn’t do the whole Star Wars soundtrack with a ukulele, tuba and recorder. Off the Ukulele Star Wars Aloha Force album, a comp I’m glad exists. [Buy]
Tito Rodriguez – Theme from “The Apartment” (Charles Williams)
Puerto Rican singer and bandleader Tito Rodriguez gives the theme from this 1960 Billy Wilder flick. Fun fact: Rodriguez has got to be the only non-rapping musician whose Wikipedia page includes a section titled “Feuds.” [Buy]
The Smithereens – Batman Theme (Neil Hefty)
I caught the Smithereens last week, but sadly it was a Who tribute show so no Batman (or Tommy, which is strange, since they dedicated their most recent album to Tommy covers). This Batman comes packing: with drum solo. [Buy]
Tenacious D – Flash’s Theme (Queen)
Posted this one back in our tribute to Queen, but the link’s down so no harm in another go. I still can’t believe they allowed such an absurdly theatrical song to soundtrack an action movie. The video’s even better. [Buy]
Van McCoy – Theme from “Shaft”/Lara’s Theme (Isaac Hayes/Maurice Jarre)
From 1962 through his death in ’79, Van McCoy penned hits for the Shirelles (“Stop the Music”), Gladys Knight and the Pips (“Giving Up”) and himself (“The Hustle”). An accomplished conducter, McCoy here leads some group billed as his “Magnificent Movie Machine” through disco-fied hits. [Buy]
Socci and Pency – Lux Aeterna (Requiem for the Dream)
No question, Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet’s soundtrack for Requiem for a Dream has to be on a shortlist for best film scores soundtracks of the past decade. It’s unsettling as hell, making you want to cry even as it sends shivers down your spine. This acoustic guitar duet does justice to several of the film’s motifs. [Buy]
Xentrix – Ghostbusters (Ray Parker, Jr.)
This thrash metal quartet’s take on the classic 1984 call and response is predictable loud. Who you gonna call? [Buy]