Apr 292016
 

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

everybody's got to learn sometime covers

The Korgis really were an extraordinary group. With a name derived from the name of ubiquitous ’80s synthesizer makers Korg, they evolved out of the eccentric and often unclassifiable ’70s UK band Stackridge, at a time when fashion demanded shorter and hookier songs, shorter hair, skinny ties, and shiny suits, i.e. the ’80s. Stackridge were resolutely unfashionable and nominally prog, although their music could be an odd amalgam of twiddly instrumentals, folk, psychedelia and music hall. Their instrumentation could include anything from flutes and fiddles to dustbin lids, and bear tribute to the days when record companies had money to invest in the sometimes vainglorious pursuit of a hit, allowing a band to mature over several albums, rather than today’s one strike and you’re out.
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Dec 162011
 

When people look back in 2011 in music a decade from now, one name will come to mind: Adele. In our little world of cover songs, she dominated. Everyone covered Adele this year. It’s not just that we saw more covers of “Rolling in the Deep” than any other song; they beat out second place (probably “Pumped Up Kicks”) by like a factor of five! We generally try to look for larger cover trends in these annual wrap-ups, but it’s hard to remember anything else from this year except the year-long onslaught of Adele covers hitting our mailbox.

There’s only one “Rolling in the Deep” cover in this year’s list though. The rest are all over the place. Some of the artists listed built their covers with lush soundscapes, thick beats, and intricate string work. Others just took guitars or pianos and bowled us over with the emotion in their voices. There may not be much of an overarching “Year in Covers” narrative, but that means there’s a cover or two for everyone. From feel-good takes on rap songs to kill-yourself versions of pop songs, this year’s list features flips, flops, and genre switcheroos of all sorts. A good cover should be informed by the source material but stand on its own, and we’ll be unrolling the 50 finest examples of songs doing just that all week. Start with #50-41 on the next page and check back daily as we count down to the best cover of 2011.

Oct 252011
 

We just posted new U2 covers by the Killers, Nine Inch Nails, and Depeche Mode a few hours ago, so we won’t rehash the details again. Q Magazine’s Achtung Baby tribute album is out now and so are the rest of the covers. Listen to the new recordings by Snow Patrol, Patti Smith, the Fray, Glasvegas, and Gavin Friday below, then pick up the magazine and CD here. Continue reading »

Jun 072011
 

Hard to believe, but Freddie Mercury died 20 years ago this upcoming November. The flamboyant frontman of Queen always seemed so full of life, bigger than life really, until he succumbed to AIDS at the young age of 45. Now, all these years later, an artist who took her name from one of his band’s songs (Lady Gaga) tops the charts with songs that could easily fit in on many a Queen album. Continue reading »

May 022011
 

Few singers can rival Roy Orbison for sheer vocal power, making covering his songs a risky business. With an impressive four-octave range, he recorded some of the most unique music to come out of the early ’60s. His 1961 single “Crying” stands as the best example of just what his voice could do and, if you pick it in karaoke, what yours can’t. Continue reading »

Phil Spector

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Apr 212009
 

You’ve probably heard that last week Phil Spector was finally sentenced for second-degree murder in a verdict that surprised no one. Now sure, it’s easy to make fun of his eccentric courtroom hairstyles, but that makes it no less sad that such a man has sunk so far. Arguably the most favorite producer ever, Spector built an empire with his “Wall of Sound,” churning out hit after hit. The stories of his obsessive need for perfection in the studio are the stuff of legend, him driving artists to the brink of exhaustion to reproduce what he had in his head. Many of his classic girl group tracks are given new interpretations below, as well as some of his more surprising work doing albums like Let It Be.

Glasvegas – Be My Baby (The Ronettes)
Perhaps the quintessential Spector production, the original is a pop masterpiece. It’s been covered from everyone from John Lennon to We Are Scientists (which you can get at this Girl Groups post, with many other Spector covers), and here Scottish foursome drenches the pep in reverb, sounding like a pleading breakdown. [Buy]

Bruce Springsteen – Then She Kissed Me (The Crystals)
For the opener of one of the final shows on last year’s Magic tour, Bruce surprised everyone by doing a cover he hadn’t done since ’75, a slightly gender-altered take on the Crystals classic. Check out the stadium-sized roar when he starts singing and the crowd realizes what it is. Thirty-four years later, it hasn’t aged a bit. Speaking of Springsteen, I’m seeing him in Boston tomorrow and Wednesday. Here are two Bruce posts to celebrate. [Buy]

Frurk – Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (The Ramones)
The fact that the Ramones picked Spector to produce them for End of the Century is bizarre, and one wonders how they put up with his famous eccentricity. This song in particularly is noteworthy for the eight hours Spector had Johnny Ramone play the opening chord to get it perfect. One chord, eight hours. Listen to the original and see if it was worth it, then come back for this slowed-down lo-fi take. [Buy]

The Ramones – Baby I Love You (The Ronettes)
In a tribute to Phil Spector’s production, it’s nice to actually post a track that was produced by Spector. When Spector produced the Ramones, it seems he couldn’t resist throwing a track he produced twenty years prior at ‘em. Here he tries to navigate the difference between punk and girl groups, bringing out Joey Ramone as a real singer in the process. [Buy]

The Morning Benders – He’s a Rebel (The Crystals)
A strange fact about many of Spectors’ groups is that he held the rights to their name, so he could have recorded Donovan and called it “The Crystals” if he wanted. While he never went that far, guess who wasn’t on the Crystals’ only number one hit…the Crystals! Not wanting to wait for the group to return from touring to record this new song, Spector used Darlene Love and the Blossoms on this track. Word has it that the Crystals heard their hit on the radio one day and, needless to say, were quite confused. [Buy]

Gladys Knight and the Pips – Let It Be (The Beatles)
Trying to cover the Beatles is an idea best avoided. Unless you’re Gladys Knight, in which case you can bust the hell out of any song you please. When it begins, you might think you’re in for a reasonably by-the-numbers cover. And you would be wrong. Hold on to your eardrums, cause voices like this don’t come along every day. [Buy]

Jeff Mangum – I Love How You Love Me (The Paris Sisters)
The man behind indie legends Neutral Milk Hotel released Live at Jittery Joe’s a few years back, showcasing a concert from 1997 where through audience requests he worked through early versions of songs that would end up on In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. [Buy]

David McComb & Adam Peters – Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On (Leonard Cohen)
Leonard Cohen doesn’t write many stupid songs, but I guess even poet gods need to let lose sometime. So enter this little instructional ditty from the Spector-produced Death of a Ladies’ Man to remind you, “You can’t melt it down in the rain.” Because apparently that’s something you might want to do. [Buy]

The Saints – River Deep Mountain High (Ike & Tina Turner)
Spector caused a stir in 2007 when during his euology for wife-beater Ike he said “Ike made Tina the jewel she was. When I went to see Ike play at the Cinegrill in the 90s…there were at least five Tina Turners on the stage performing that night, any one of them could have been Tina Turner.” He then continued by attacking Oprah for promoting Tina’s autobiography. Another sign that Phil Spector may not be the authority on how a man should treat a woman. All Covered in Punk features vintage groups covering everything from Blondie to Frank Sinatra. Here we find a brawling Saint’s b-side from ’77 resurrected in all its fuck-you glory. [Buy]

Phosphorescent – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (The Righteous Brothers)
A heartbreaking live one here, the slide acoustic cracks in the voice. The mood is apparently lost on the asshole laughing in the background and I’m not sure the sing-along chorus helps the vibe. If there’s ever a studio version released of this, I want to be the first to know. [Buy]