Apr 282010
 

It seems every week a new “Best Dylan Covers Ever” article surfaces, but each new list reads much like the last.  Hendrix tops it (fair enough) and Peter, Paul and Mary and the Byrds follow behind (really?).  At Cover Me we like to break out of the mold though, so let us present the second and final installment of The Best Dylan Covers You’ve (Probably) Never Heard.  This week we tackle songs Dylan recorded after his fabled 1966 motorcycle crash.

Barb Jungr – Things Have Changed
Dylan’s past few albums signaled a comeback, the legendary songwriter finally matching his sharp songwriting with smart production.  His greatest song since the ‘70s can’t be found on them though, but rather as an Oscar-winning one-off for the Wonder Boys soundtrack.  [Buy]

World Wide Message Tribe – Precious Angel
True, Dylan’s widely reviled born-again period inspired a lot of Armageddon preaching from the stage, but it also sewed the seeds of the most successful dance cover of a Dylan tune to date.  [Buy]

Giant Sand – All Along the Watchtower
Once the most recognizable three chords in rock hit, Giant Sand deliver a somewhat conventional cover.  But it takes sixty seconds of cello feedback to get there.  [Buy]

Elliott Murphy – Blind Willie McTell
Mark this one as one of the best live covers of all time.  Discoveries like this utterly brilliant acoustic duet reward obsessive bootleg collectors.  [Buy]

The Everly Brothers – Abandoned Love
Dylan recorded this song in 1975, but it didn’t see official release until a mediocre studio recording on 1985’s Biograph collection (track down his 1975 live version at the Bitter End for the definitive reading).  That fantastic chord progression makes it a cover favorite, with everyone from George Harrison to Chuck Prophet having a go.  [Buy]

Townes Van Zandt – Man Gave Names to All the Animals
Many fans would rank this song up with the worst songs Dylan has ever written.  And it would be, except for that final line that turns all the nursery rhyme verses on their head.  Dylan’s least ambitious Christian song may just be his most powerful.  [Buy]

Thea Gilmore – I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine
Gilmore turns up on just about every covers CD Britain’s Uncut magazine compiles, delivering superb performances of The Clash and the Boss.  This artist boasts some serious folk cred though; Joan Baez hand-picked her to open a tour and covered Gilmore’s “The Lower Road” on her latest album.  [Buy]

Delta Cross Band – Legionnaire’s Disease
What, you don’t know “Legionnaire’s Disease”?  Well, a recording of Dylan performing it has never surfaced.  Written after a 1976 outbreak of the infectious bacteria known technically as Legionellosis, Dylan handed it off to Billy Cross, his guitar player from 1977-79.  [Buy]

Richie Havens – License to Kill
Havens has spent his career covering Dylan — witness his cameo in I’m Not There.  His signature guitar tuning and strumming pattern takes the fore, laying the weight of the world upon a mediocre lyric.  [Buy]

Tim O’Brien – Father of Night
O’Brien’s Red on Blonde covers album is one of the best out there, giving tunes from the famous (“Forever Young”) to the obscure (“Lay Down Your Weary Tune”) jaunty bluegrass rhythms.  [Buy]

Read Part 1: Before the Crash.

Jan 042010
 

Seems like everyone made more resolutions than usual this year. It’s easy to see why. After what everyone but China agrees was a decidedly crappy decade, the opportunity for a fresh start, however artificial, feels revitalizing. The individual New Years Resolutions will quickly fade as always, but hopefully the collective optimism towards a new decade has more staying power.


OK Go – This Will Be Our Year (The Zombies)
The Zombies released this single early in 1968, but sadly their optimism was misplaced — by the time it hit stores the band had already broken up. [Buy]

The Dresden Dolls – New Years Day (U2)
The tag says “12/31/03,” but the 10-9-8 countdown leading into this performance suggests that’s a few seconds out of date. This apt (if slightly clichéd) song turns romantic potential into rejuvenating possibility, Amanda Palmer singing “I will begin again” like an emotional cleansing. [Buy]

Easy Star All Stars – Fitter Happier (Radiohead)
A reggae Radiohead tribute album seems a shaky proposition, but it’s hard to deny the naming potential: Radiodread. Actually this cover is about as reggae as the original is pop, but that doesn’t stop the All Stars from translating the list of resolutions into Rasta-speak. [Buy]

The Flaming Lips – (Just Like) Starting Over (John Lennon)
This 1980 single hit number-one two weeks after Lennon’s death, persevering despite the fact that its b-side was Yoko Ono simulating orgasm in Japanese. [Buy]

Lyle Lovett – Blue Skies (Irving Berlin)
Irving Berlin wrote this as a last-minute addition to the obscure Rodgers and Hart musical Betsy in 1926, three years before the Great Depression hit. Though the show was a flop, the song was an instant success. On opening night the audience demanded star Belle Baker reprise the song a stunning twenty-four times. [Buy]

Elton John – Don’t Stop (Fleetwood Mac)
Rumours is one of the most depressing breakup albums in history, but “Don’t Stop” brings a rare glimmer of hope. The lyrics seem almost too cheery taken on their own, but in the context of such a painful album the forced positivity takes on all sorts of narrative nuances. [Buy]

Joe K’s Kid – Changes (David Bowie)
Featuring the best stutter since “My Generation,” the “Changes” single came smack in the middle of Bowie promoting his significantly weirder album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust (last month’s Full Album). While the chorus seems optimistic on first listen, some strange lyrical twists make you wonder. [Buy]

Goldspot – Float On (Modest Mouse)
“Float On” comes off the aptly-titled Good News for People Who Love Bad News. “I was just kind of fed up with how bad shit had been going and how dark everything was, with bad news coming from everywhere,” songwriter Issac Brock told The A.V. Club. “I just want to feel good for a day.” [Buy]

Elliott Murphy – Better Days (Bruce Springsteen)
Bruce Springsteen has complained that when he made happy music in the early ‘90s, audiences turned away. He’s got a point. While righteous average-Joe indignation has always been a part of his appeal though, the fact that the two “happy” albums he refers to were his first without the E Street Band didn’t help matters. [Buy]

Muse – Feeling Good (Newley/Bricusse)
Another huge hit from a semi-obscure musical, “Feeling Good” comes from 1965’s The Roar of the Greasepaint – the Smell of the Crowd. The song gained prominence through a recording by Nina Simone, but rendition ain’t too shabby either — Total Guitar magazine named it the fifth best cover of all time. [Buy]

The next Full Album set, traditionally Cover Me’s first major post of the month, will go up next week.

Jan 212009
 

–Edit: Lots of posts disappearing from blogger. I’m reposting this one with links since it was so recent, but the others will be sadly link-less.–

An exciting day tomorrow. I don’t even remember what it’s like to have a government I trust, so it’ll be nice to see old G-Dubs head back to Crawford. Here’s hoping that Obama and co. can get this country back on the road to peace, justice, and compassion.

Elliott Murphy – Better Days (Bruce Springsteen)
One of Springsteen’s better songs from his stagnant period with the “Other Band” in the early 90’s. He often joked that after decades of songs about the down-and-out, when he finally wrote some happy songs, everyone turned away. Sounds like he’s back to positivity with next week’s Working On a Dream though. We’ll see how that pans out. [Buy]

Sanctus Real – Beautiful Day (U2)
U2’s Christian roots are widely known, though one would be amiss to call them “Christian rock.” In fact, most Christian radio stations will play covers of U2 songs, but not the originals. In that case, they might play this one, from an all-Christian rock cover disc to U2 released for charity. Sanctus Real crunchifies this recent cut, keeping it just stadium-ready enough at the chorus. [Buy]

Ellen McIlwaine – Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder)
The third in our string of Inaugural performers is the most relevant; this is actually the song Wonder chose to perform yesterday with Usher and Shakira (video). Originally a classic soul stomp, McIlwaine’s funky blues guitar takes it a completely different direction. [Buy]

Pearl Jam – People Have the Power (Patti Smith)
It’s a popular song for the politically-conscious artist to take on, be it Bruce Springsteen or U2. At a live show in ’03 Eddie Vedder propelled the band through this grunge-rock growl of an anthem. You can see him perform it with Smith herself here. [Buy]

Status Quo – Getting Better (The Beatles)
A cut from Sgt. Pepper’s getting even more orchestral and layered? Not possible you say? The Quo is here to tell you different. With strings, horns, and glockenspiel, the sound matches the optimism. [Buy]

Doyle Bramhall – I Can See Clearly Now (Johnny Nash)
It’s a hell of a song, but most versions of this soul classic sound about the same. Not true of Bramhall’s blues rocker, copious guitar work embellishing the joy in his voice. [Buy]

Cold War Kids – A Change Is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke)
It’s a live one, from a set at Bonnaroo ’07 at which they also covered the much more pessimistic “Dirt in the Ground” by Tom Waits. This one’s been cited a lot recently, first in Obama’s Grant Park acceptance speech in which he said “It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.” [Buy]

Barb Jungr – Things Have Changed (Bob Dylan)
Jungr’s a perennial Dylan cover artist, bringing a dark cabaret to Bob’s Oscar-winning theme for Wonderboys, arguably the best song he’s written in the last twenty years. [Buy]

Floyd Dixon – Blue Skies (Tom Waits)
Nope, this isn’t the Irving Berlin song of the same name (though that would have been a good choice too), but a very early Waits songs that he never saw fit to put on an album. A shame, because this tale of moving beyond hardship is beautiful. The guys knows he has a long way to go to be happy again, but he’s willing to try. It’s a good metaphor for America these days actually. [Buy]

Bob Dylan – This Land Is Your Land (Woody Guthrie)
Pete Seeger and Springsteen sang this one at the Inauguration concert and, fun as that was, it didn’t reinvent the song like Bob did at a 1963 show. Toying with the melody as is his wont, Dylan doesn’t let reverence to his idol interfere with a fresh interpretation. Woody would have been proud. [Buy]

One Year!

 Posted by at 4:39 am  No Responses »
Oct 212008
 

It’s a big week here at Cover Me: our one-year birthday. Not only that, but today is yours truly’s birthday (though I’m older than one). So though it’s been a rough week for cover bloggers, with bowhowdy getting his files taken down and Fong getting a cease-and-desist letter, let’s celebrate these two birthdays with some tunes. I was going to do a theme on birthdays or celebrations, but thought, this is a special week that deserves special treatment. So for the first time ever, I’m saying to hell with a theme. I’m going to post what I want. Many of these are among my favorite covers ever; others are just some I’m into right now. Enjoy all of ‘em, and here’s to another good year of music!
-Ray

Billy Stewart – Summertime (Gershwin Brothers)
If you held a gun to my head (please don’t) and made me choose my favorite cover ever, I’d probably mutter something about this one. The song’s an old classic, a beautiful song, but one I often find rather dreary. As people drone on and on, you wonder if they enjoy the summertime so much, why do they sound so depressed? Not the case with Stewart, who bebops his way through shrieks, scat vocals, and false endings to blast the sound of summer right into your eardrums. And this version has Bob Dylan introing the song too – bonus! [Buy]

Jamelia – Numb (Linkin Park)
I originally discovered this tune on the sadly-defunct Copy, Right, the blog that pioneered the cover tune before any other. This song was huge for a while, and then quickly forgotten as a relic of our angsty middle school years. Jamelia breathes a second life in it, keeping the energy but bringing out a tune buried deep in the faux-anger of the original. [Buy]

We Are Scientists – Sie Hat Was Vermisst (Bela B.)
Love them though I do, in many way We Are Scientists is a predictable brand, jaunty rock with pop hooks in the vein of Franz Ferdinand. On their cover choices, however, they take elaborate risks, having improbably successes with everything from Boyz II Men to Sigur Rós. The most risky must be this, an obscure song by a solo album of the popular German punk group Die Ärzte. How these scientists even discovered this tune is a mystery itself, but you don’t need to understand the words to hear the dark tension. [Buy]

Jars of Clay – All My Tears (Julie Miller)
Now here’s something a little more uplifting, a gospel tune by these Christian rockers that, if you believe this stuff, might bring tears itself. [Buy]

R.E.M. – First We Take Manhattan (Leonard Cohen)
My favorite Leonard Cohen song, I posted Kid Harpoon’s riotous cover in this blog’s infancy (this post, though the link’s dead), but this one is a slow-builder, taking six minutes to pound away at your resistance. It sounds so much like an R.E.M. song I’m wondering if Cohen plagiarized. [Buy]

Patti Smith – Gloria (Van Morrison)
Smith adds enough of her own words that it’s practically an original, but her version’s true heart still lies in its punk take on Van the Man. Hers is a sneer for the ages, a sound of its time and above it that sound fresh and vibrant today. [Buy]

Elliott Murphy – Blind Willie McTell (Bob Dylan)
Live covers are a risky business. When an artist goes to the effort to record a cover on an album, it usually shows that they have something new to bring to it. In a live show, however, people can play whatever the hell they want. Of Montreal’s much-talked about take on “Smells Like Teen Spirit” must have been a blast for everyone there, but for those of us that missed it, it just sounds like another boring cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Exceptions like this make live covers worth seeking out yet. One of my favorite Dylan covers ever, this acoustic duet features fabulous fretwork that perfectly matches Murphy and his unnamed companion’s crescendoing voices. [Buy]

Sharif – Disturbia (Rihanna)
Sure, saying this is one of my favorite covers of all time may be a bit of a stretch, but like many I haven’t been able to get this tune out of my head for weeks. I posted a cover of it last week. Here’s another. [Buy]

Everything But The Girl – Downtown Train (Tom Waits)
Rod Stewart’s version makes you vomit. This one may make you weep. [Buy]

Bruce Springsteen – Detroit Medley (Mitch Ryder, et al.)
Let’s bring in the new year of blogging on a hard-rocking note. Springsteen is unmatched at 50’s covers, and this live favorite never fails to get me dancing. Good golly, miss Molly! [Buy]

May 122008
 

ANNOUNCEMENT: You may have noticed the new “Donate” button off to your right. I hate to ask for hand-outs, but my old free server cut off my access, so I have to use a paid one. It’s cheap, but I’m poor, so just a few bucks will go a long way! This is the last time I’ll advertise it though, promise. On the plus side, all links should last for much longer than they used to. They are all up to date.

With that out of the way, it’s been a tradition at this blog to have the first post each month be covers of a full album…but we’re going to push it back a week for an extra-special contribution to this month’s album. Don’t want to give away what it is, but here’s a clue: horse waits.

This week’s post, however, is no last-minute substitution. It’s a look at a group huge in its time, but obscured in history by bigger vocal groups like Simon and Garfunkel: The Everly Brothers. Sure, Paul Simon’s a hell of a songwriter, but in my book you can’t beat the harmonies of Don and Phil. They may hate each other, but I saw them perform a couple years ago, and they still got it.

The Ditty Bops – Bye Bye Love
A cutesy, folksy cover that keeps the original’s basic feel, but sounds a little more organic. If Don and Phil had been a couple of granola girls in Birkenstocks, they’d have sounded like this.

Bob Dylan – Take a Message to Mary
“What is this shit?” So opened Greil Marcus’ famous review of this album, Dylan’s 1970 Self Portrait. Mostly covers or crappy live versions of older hits, I can see why people were pissed. It sounds a lot better with the passage of time though, country bumpkin songs like this being trite but fun. Bet you didn’t know Bob’s voice ever sounded this good.

A-Ha – Crying in the Rain
It’s no “Take On Me,” but A-Ha still managed to pull of a minor hit with this harmony-filled builder. The 80’s production is atmospheric without being obnoxious and makes me think maybe there’s more to this band than the one big hit.

Pearl Jam with Beck – Sleepless Nights
A live one from ‘02, I cannot believe Eddie Vedder’s voice gets this melodic. It blends perfectly with Beck’s on a straight-forward acoustic cover that bring the pain to the fore.

Cat Power – Dream
An outtake from her indie hit The Greatest, she jazzes up the tune and rhythm so that it takes you a few bars to realize it’s the same song.

Elliott Murphy & Ernie Brooks – Cathy’s Clown
Regular readers of this blog will know that Murphy is one of my favorite cover artists, and his duet version of this one hints at why. The vocals on the verge of breaking down makes a sad song sound even sadder.

John Kincade – Till I Kissed You
Now we’re talking, an Everly cover with some balls. Fuzz guitar and thumping drums clash beautifully with the sugar-sweet lyrics.

Zoey Deschanel and Samantha Shelton – Walk Right Back
Thanks to Jamie over at Fong Songs for this one, it’s a little clap-along a cappella version, bouncy in a barbershop quartet sort of way.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – Stick With Me Baby
The guys seem to like the Everlys, tackling two of their songs on their debut album Raising Sand. One became the single (see the surprisingly good video here), but that one rocks a little harder than the rest of the album. This is representative of everything this pair has to offer, beautifully understated harmonies, wavering guitars and laid-back swampy production. If Plant keeps churning out songs like this, I couldn’t care less about a Zeppelin reunion.

Rosie Thomas – Let It Be Me
If this song doesn’t get it you, either the original or this cover, you’ve got a heart of stone.