Nov 252016
 

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

Come Together Black America

Tony Rounce, the guy at Ace Records who compiled Come Together: Black America Sings Lennon & McCartney, had an easier job than most people who put together tribute albums. For one, this wasn’t an album that required all-new recordings by current bands; Rounce got to cherry-pick the best of the best from the ’60s and ’70s. For another, when the greatest songwriting team in the history of rock and roll is being interpreted by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and Little Richard, it’s going to be hard not to put together an excellent product.
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Apr 292015
 

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!

Willie Nelson, 82 years old today, has always been an awkward cuss. Still relentlessly on the road and putting out record after record, somehow it would seem a cop-out to “let others do the work for a while,” as is the norm for these pieces (and besides, been there done that), so this is more a celebration of the myriad and varied covers he has performed over the decades. The germ for this idea came as the staff pow-wow took place around our best country covers of non-country songs Q&A, with Mr. Nelson featuring twice.

His career in music has lasted, so far, a staggering 59 years, his first recording being 1956’s “Lumberjack.” Since then, he has passed through many incarnations, from clean cut C&W performer, consummate Nashville standards songwriter, self-imposed banishment and his counter-intuitively hippie redneck years (copyright me), banding up with and as like-minded (the) Outlaws, before settling into iconic status as a national treasure, lauded by presidents and paupers alike. Somehow his skirmishes with the I.R.S. and his enduring support for marijuana has but strengthened his appeal, even within the staunchly conservative country demographic. And, of course, all of us longhairs just love him. Don’t we?
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May 062014
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

There’s something extraordinarily special about NRBQ. Here’s a band that has stepped on stage a countless number of times and never involved a set-list in the process. The line-up has changed a few times over, but they’ve reliably been a band to see live. The freewheeling approach drew from many styles, all played with aplomb and a wicked sense of humor.

Founded in 1967, the name is short for New Rhythm and Blues Quartet (except when it’s Quintet). They’ve played for the Simpsons, Captain Lou Albano, and Sun Ra. No other band can say this (or would probably even want to). NRBQ is a band that many fans feel never got the recognition they deserved. But that’s what any good fan would say, and having a recording career that nets you so many hardcore fans (including Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, and Elvis Costello, to name a few), I think they’re very appreciative of the love they’ve gotten. And it shows in their performances.
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Mar 072014
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Dave Edmunds plays rock and roll in a particular style. It’s the version of rock and roll that existed in the late ’50s and early ’60s. And he’s been very true to it. But don’t be too quick to label him “retro” – he just continues to mine a vein of rock and roll that most musicians abandoned throughout the last third of the century. Those few others who have stuck with that early rock and roll blueprint (Brinsley Schwarz, Flamin’ Groovies, Ducks Deluxe) have probably worked with Edmunds. His sound is consistent, and being a good singer, guitarist and producer, that’s a fine thing to be. But he doesn’t discriminate when picking covers – he’s as likely to do something classic as he is something contemporary.

When looking at a career that is full of covers, it can be tough to figure out which ones best represent the artist. Many of Edmunds’ early singles are very precise covers of classic R&B. Maybe too precise. But once he shed a bit of his perfectionist tendencies (and started working with Nick Lowe), he provided the covers room to breathe and made many an old song into something fresh.
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