Dec 052017
 
seal sinatra cover

The 1990s were some very good years for the British soul singer Seal. He rattled off a string of hits, and one-upped Val Kilmer by including his “Kiss from a Rose” on the Batman Forever soundtrack, largely outshining the Caped Crusader.

Now that Seal is nearing the autumn of his career, he did what most pop singers whose hit-making days are in the rearview generally do: release an album of standards. Aptly and un-ironically, titled Standards, the collection includes a version of “It Was a Very Good Year,” a classic song that he managed to turn into one of his own. Continue reading »

Oct 242017
 
mitski i'm a fool

We named Mitski’s One Direction cover one of the best covers of 2015. For her newest cover, she veers about as far as one can in the opposite direction: a Frank Sinatra song. She tackles “I’m a Fool to Want You,” a standard Sinatra actually co-wrote with Jack Wolf and Joel Herron, for a new Planned Parenthood benefit series. The song is also, according to us, the fifth-best Sinatra cover Bob Dylan has done out of all 52 he’s recently released. So the bar is high. Continue reading »

Apr 032017
 
Bob Dylan Standards

With the release of his mammoth Triplicate album last week, Bob Dylan upped the number of Great American Songbook standards he’s covered to 52: 10 on 2015’s Shadows in the Night, 12 on last year’s Fallen Angels, 30 (30!) on Triplicate.

The original idea was that these would all be covers of songs Frank Sinatra once sang. Though Bob’s veered away from that some, Ol’ Blue Eyes still looms large. At their best, these songs embody Sinatra’s emotion and versatility as Dylan finds his own way in to a song. At their worse, they sound like Tony Bennett karaoke by someone who can’t sing.

So with so many of Dylan’s standards covers now out, we decided to rank all 52 songs. Some of Dylan’s finest-ever vocal performances are on these three albums. Also some that make Self Portrait look inspired. So let’s try to separate the wheat from the chaff, the curds from the whey, the In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning from the Sinatra Sings Great Songs from Great Britain. Continue reading »

Jan 312017
 
Dylan-Sinatra003

In October of 2015, when Bob Dylan started performing Frank Sinatra covers that weren’t on his first standards album Shadows in the Night live, we wrote Shadows Volume 2 may be closer than you think.” Sure enough, a few months later, that “Volume 2” appeared, titled Fallen Angels.

Then this past June, we noticed that another American songbook standard had entered his setlists, prompting us to write a post titled Is Bob Dylan Planning a Third Album of Frank Sinatra Covers?. And today we got our answer: Yes. It’s called Triplicate and it’s three discs long.

We cheered that first album Shadows in the Night as loudly as anyone – we even named it the best covers album of the year. Last year, though, Fallen Angels didn’t even make our year-end list. Those songs reportedly came from the same sessions as the Shadows tracks, and it sounded like it. Songs that weren’t good enough to go on Shadows ended up on Fallen Angels. One standards album, as it turned out, was enough. Continue reading »

Nov 082016
 
ThomasJeffersonViolin

When we last did an election-themed post, we wrote “this damn election continues to never end”. That was in August of 2008. How naive we were then. As this latest round finally limps to a close today, we wanted to put together a cover-song soundtrack to take with you to the polls. To that end, we’ve compiled our 11 favorite covers of campaign theme songs.

Campaign theme songs used to be far better than they are now. Up until the 20th century, candidates would use songs written specifically for them, from James Madison’s “Huzzah for Madison, Huzzah” to James K. Polk’s “Jimmy Polk of Tennessee.” The best remembered is probably William Henry Harrison’s “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too,” a song proved more influential than his actual presidency, which lasted a month before he died in office. Sometimes these theme songs were just rewritten versions of popular songs (“Hello Dolly” becomes “Hello Lyndon”, “My Kind of Town Chicago Is” becomes “My Kind of Guy Dukakis Is”), but even still at least some effort was being made to come up with original lyrics.

Sadly, those days have ended. Now candidates choose from a handful of already-popular songs that vaguely embody their message. Hillary Clinton’s been using Katy Perry’s “Roar” a lot this time around, which Donald Trump leans on Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” after just about every other musician filed cease and desist letters (they eventually did too). No matter your politics, the move away from jolly songs about a particular candidate is a bummer. We’d definitely get behind a platform of “Make Campaign Theme Songs Great Again.”

In lieu of that, we’ve made a playlist celebrating campaign songs past and present. We could only find so many covers of the older candidate-specific songs – they don’t age well, particularly if the candidate is a loser (artists are not lining up to cover “Go with Goldwater”) – so we padded it out with some more recent campaign theme songs you might actually know. Go vote, and bring this soundtrack with you. Continue reading »

Jun 082016
 
Dylan-Sinatra003

Last year, not long after Bob Dylan released his Frank Sinatra covers album Shadows in the Night, he began adding additional Sinatra-sung songs to his setlists: “All or Nothing At All,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” and “Melancholy Mood”. We wrote – jokingly – that Shadows Volume 2 may be closer than you think.” Well wouldn’t you know it… Six months later, he did indeed announce a second album of Sinatra covers, and all those new songs were on it. That second album Fallen Angels is now out (here’s our review) and, once again, he’s since added a new Sinatra song to his setlist. Does this mean we can expect a third album of Sinatra songs? Continue reading »