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

Considering The Beatles’ impact on music, pop culture and beyond, surprisingly few filmmakers have taken on the challenge of telling the legendary band’s story on the big screen. Director Iain Softley stands apart as one of the few who wasn’t daunted; his very first film, Backbeat, tells the story of the Beatles’ raucous early years as a cover band, performing in the seedy red-light district of Hamburg, Germany. The film concentrates on the love triangle amongst John Lennon, then-bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, and German photographer Astrid Kirchherr.
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Jul 082011

Live Collection brings together every live cover version we can find from a prolific artist.

Warren Zevon had paid his dues for years before his self-titled 1976 release would finally get him a fair amount of critical attention and a modest amount of airplay. In his first pass through L.A. he was a session musician and jingle writer, penned a few songs for the Turtles and released a forgettable solo debut in 1970. Then he spent a couple years on the road with the Everly Brothers, both together with Phil and Don and then with each of them solo, like a child of a divorce custody battle, as the brothers were beginning their estrangement. A self-imposed exile in Spain would follow and when Zevon returned to L.A. in late 1975, his pal Jackson Browne was there to help him get a record deal. Zevon had some things in common with his laid-back Asylum label contemporaries, but what separated his music from Browne, Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles was his ability to write caustic and satirical songs about unconventional people often in awkward situations. Continue reading »

Rockabilly artists, playing a hybrid of rock’n’roll and country music, formed the vanguard of musicians who broke a new form of music to the nation in the mid ‘50s. Though known as rock and roll pioneers, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent and Bill Haley really played rockabilly. In an industry dominated by men, some women managed to find success, and none more so than Wanda Jackson. Crowned “The Queen of Rockabilly,” she released a series of singles in the ’50s and 60’s still coveted by genre aficionados today.

Recently recruited by the inexhaustible Jack White for his Third Man Records label, she recorded her latest album, The Party Ain’t Over, with his assistance as producer and bandleader. The album starts with a Dap-Kings-style horn intro leading into White ripping into “Shakin’ All Over”. The band sounds tight but not over-rehearsed, and White summons hellfire with his solos. Jackson deftly handles the vocal on the next track, Little Richard’s “Rip It Up” and the band plays as the title demands.

White’s presence looms large over the album, from the warm, analog sound of his production – you can almost feel the glow of the tubes - to the high-energy performances and inspired arrangements. Jackson seems, at times, unable match the sound White creates. She sounds out of her element vocally on tracks like “Busted” and “Like A Baby.” She falls flat on Amy Winehouse‘s “You Know That I’m No Good,” struggling to hit the notes and stripping the song of its drama.

Perhaps the error is in the song selection – apparently White’s domain – because Jackson nails the vocals on some of the tracks. She kills on Bob Dylan’s “Thunder on the Mountain”, never missing a beat. No easy task; many have tried to sing Dylan and failed miserably. If White had taken the limitations of Jackson’s voice more into account – she always did sound ‘unique’ – a better album would have resulted.

The Party Ain’t Over Tracklist:
01. Shakin’ All Over (Johnny Kidd & The Pirates cover)
02. Rip It Up (Little Richard cover)
03. Busted (Harlan Howard song most associated with Johnny Cash)
04. Rum and Coca Cola (The Andrews Sisters cover)
05. Thunder on the Mountain (Bob Dylan cover)
06. You Know That I’m No Good (Amy Winehouse cover)
07. Like a Baby (Elvis Presley cover)
08. Nervous Breakdown (Eddie Cochran cover)
09. Dust on the Bible (Gospel song most associated with Kitty Wells)
10. Teach Me Tonight (Sammy Cahn cover)
11. Blue Yodel #6 (Jimmie Rodgers cover)

Check out more Wanda Jackson on her website.

Jack White returned to [Insert Show Title Here] with Conan O’Brien last night for the umpteenth time. He didn’t bring the White Stripes, Raconteurs, or Dead Weather along this time though. Instead, he brought his ace in the hole: Conan O’Brien. Backed by Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band, White and O’Brien rocked Conan’s first night out with a reprise of “20 Flight Rock.”

The pair first performed the song at White’s Third Man Records over the summer, jamming out the Eddie Cochran tune with horns and plenty of soloing. Last night the reprise featured snappier dressing, but the same dirty guitar work. Seeing Jack front a swinging big band was…different. If his raw blues doesn’t entirely work with their über-polished swing, well, it was a fun night regardless. Watch it, along with the subsequent O’Brien-White interview, below. Continue reading »

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