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 »

May 252016
 

dylan fallen angelsThere’s something inherently ironic about a musician long criticized for his vocal abilities releasing an album of covers, each of whose success is predicated on the strength of the vocalist in question. While there have certainly been a handful of performers with admittedly “unique” voices covering this territory – Jimmy Durante and Willie Nelson immediately spring to mind – vocal-oriented pop derived from the so-called Great American Songbook has long been the purview of singers like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin and scores of others.

That none other than Bob Dylan should look to tackle the Great American Songbook is intriguing not just for his admitted vocal shortcomings, but also his early positioning as the polar opposite of everything the supper club set stood for. Perhaps it simply has something to do with the maturation process – something of a rite of passage for aging musicians – in that a certain level of nostalgia begins to creep in and an overwhelming urge to explore the music of their youth starts to take hold. That they would have largely scoffed at the idea of endeavoring such a feat during their formative proves all the more interesting now decades removed from the idealism of youth.

Continue reading »

May 132016
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Moon River Audrey Hepburn

“Moon River” has been recorded over five hundred times. Clearly, there’s something universal about the song. It has touched a great number of people, and artists across a diverse range of genres have given it a shot. What is it about this song that causes such a reaction?
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