Our official list of the Best Cover Songs of 2017 comes next week. But first, we’re continuing the tradition we started last year by rounding up some of the songs it most killed us to cut in a grab-bag post. No ranking, no writing, just a bunch of knockout covers.
When people argue over the Worst Song of All Time, inevitably someone will mention Journey’s (in)famous “Don’t Stop Believin’.” If Starship had never built that city on rock and roll, it would probably take the crown.
Frankly, I like other Journey songs, but “Don’t Stop Believin'” deserves most of the hate it gets. Its ubiquity on class rock radio, bad karaoke stages, and every college a cappella group that ever donned bow ties has made in insufferable (thank the Glee cover inexplicably going to #4 on the charts for the last one). Even The Sopranos couldn’t give it a coolness bump. It is not only Journey’s biggest song by a mile, it’s one of the most well-known songs of the 1980s, period.
The funny thing is that when it came out, not only was it not Journey’s biggest hit, it wasn’t even the biggest hit on that same album. “Open Arms” off Escape went to #2. “Who’s Crying Now” went to #4. “Don’t Stop Believin’,” meanwhile, barely scraped its way into the top ten.
Escape turns 36 this week, which might occasion a Full Album if anyone ever covered any of the other songs off it. But they don’t. They only cover “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Every once and awhile, a musical project comes along that reminds us of the magnitude of talent and ingenuity many of our current musicians possess. The American Epic series by PBS is one such project. Directed by Bernard McMahon, American Epic re-imagines the music captured by record companies way back in the 1920’s. But not just any music. “Country singers in the Appalachians, blues guitarists in the Mississippi Delta, Gospel preachers across the south, Cajun fiddlers in Louisiana, Tejano groups from the Texas Mexico border, Native American drummers in Arizona, and Hawaiian musicians”. The record companies gave a musical voice to so many talented, undiscovered musicians at that time.
To make the project authentic, the American Epic team reassembled the very first electrical sound recording system which was used back in the 1920s. They then tasked executive producers Jack White and T Bone Burnett to create an album of recordings by twenty of today’s artists, all recorded on the only system of this kind in the world. The result is a fantastic throwback to long ago brought to us by some seriously talented and committed musicians.
One of our favorite bands at last year’s Northside fest, Pure Bathing Culture are currently opening for a little band called Death Cab For Cutie. The kindred Pacific Northwest spirits are perfectly matched- Sarah Versprille’s voice is as distinctive and captivating as Ben Gibbard’s and Pure Bathing Culture as a whole possesses the same catchy, synth heavy, darkly optimistic stylings of their counterpart. It’s these qualities that provide for an effective cover in Elton John’s “Sacrifice.”
Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.
Angela Hughey is the newest addition to the Cover Me staff, joining us earlier this year. She lives, writes, and performs in Portland, Oregon.
What an awesome time we live in for music. We have hundreds of years of inspiration to draw from and so many choices to make as artists. Create something new or put our own stamp on a piece of music history? If we choose the latter, do we interpret the song verbatim, or do something entirely unexpected? My list of covers that matter to me range from near identical to near unrecognizable remakes of excellent songs. The list kicks off with songs from a few of my favorite movies…
We’ve already finished the big year-end stories – Best Cover Songs and Best Cover Albums – but here’s a little postscript to take us into the new year. Maybe there’s something here you missed: covers of every song on a classic record in our “Full Albums” series, a deep dive into unusual reinterpretations of a particular hit in our “Five Good Covers” series, or just a bunch of MP3s of Dylan covering Sinatra over forty years.
Cover Me’s Most Popular Posts of 2015
1. Full Albums: Bob Marley & the Wailers’ ‘Legend’
2. Download Four Decades of Bob Dylan’s Frank Sinatra Covers
3. Full Albums: The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sticky Fingers’
4. Five Good Covers: Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears)
5. Full Albums: Wilco’s ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’
6. Five Good Covers: The Logical Song (Supertramp)
7. Full Albums: ‘Led Zeppelin III’
8. The Best Cover Songs of 2015
9. Five Good Covers: Rocket Man (Elton John)
10. Full Albums: XTC’s ‘Skylarking’
See you in 2016!