Oct 052020
 
best tribute albums

Over our time tracking cover songs (13 years this month!), we’ve written about hundreds of new tribute albums, across reviews, news stories, and, when they’re good enough, our best-of-the-year lists. We also have looked back on plenty of great tribute albums from the past in our Cover Classics series. But we’ve never pulled it all together – until now. Continue reading »

Feb 142020
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with covers of his or her songs. Let someone else do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Rob Thomas

It’s a special day beyond being the day to eat chocolate and celebrate how lovable you are. Today we celebrate Rob Thomas’s 48th birthday. And what a year it will be. We’re still bopping along to Thomas’s fourth solo album, released last year, but 2020 is blessing us with a Matchbox Twenty tour.

Matchbox Twenty released three albums (including one with some controversial cover art) before Thomas went solo, spurred by his involvement in Santana’s “Smooth.” Thomas helped write the song, but the part was supposed to be sung by George Michael. However, Santana liked what Thomas did with it in the demo, so he brought Thomas on board. Thomas then interwove his solo career with a Matchbox Twenty comeback. Beyond helping with “Smooth,” Thomas was also a songwriter for big names such as Willie Nelson, Travis Tritt, and Mick Jagger. Jagger returned the favor, co-writing Mathcbox Twenty’s top-30 hit “Disease.”

Whether you are a ride-or-die Matchbox Twenty fan, through the name change from Matchbox 20 to Matchbox Twenty in 2000, or an appreciator of Thomas’s solo endeavors, these covers will help you celebrate Thomas in all of his glory. It just so happens that these covers are all a bit on the lonely/heartbroken side of the love spectrum, all the better if you’re in a less festive mood this Valentine’s Day and want to commiserate.

Continue reading »

Jan 152020
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

In 1982, talented multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield was looking for a change. It had been nearly nine years since Virgin Records had released his debut Tubular Bells, with a title track that had gone on to be featured as the theme to The Exorcist. His follow-up releases had followed much the same format (minus the somewhat creepy distinction): long form, avant-garde, eclectic orchestral pieces, with names like Hergest Ridge and Incantations. While his records were critically praised, commercial success was proving to be elusive.

In 1979, Oldfield started writing songs that were shorter and more commercially viable, in addition to some longer pieces. 1982’s Five Miles Out featured five songs: the nearly 25-minute “Taurus II” and four shorter songs, including the breakout hit “Family Man.” Oldfield wrote all the music to that song; five other writers are credited with the lyrics. This synth- and echo-heavy tune featured Scottish vocalist Maggie Reilly (one of the credited lyric writers; she would remain a regular collaborator) on vocals, ostensibly telling the story of a prostitute attempting to pick up a man in a bar. The man continually turns down her propositions, protesting that he’s a “family man.” The intensity increases with each verse, reflecting the female’s growing frustration with his repeated rejection. Neither the single nor the album charted in the US, although the single did reach #29 in Canada.

Continue reading »

Jul 012019
 

‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

best elton john covers

The first big film to to emerge in the post-Bohemian Rhapsody biopic boom is Rocketman. Compared to the Queen movie, critics like Rocketman better (somewhat), fact-checkers call it more accurate (somewhat), and LGBT advocates praise it for more honestly addressing the star’s sexuality (somewhat). Also – and hopefully this is unrelated – it has fared worse at the box office. Again, somewhat worse; it’s done fine, but does not seem to be the smash Bohemian Rhapsody was.

Unlike Queen, though, Elton John didn’t really need a mega-blockbuster to return to the public eye. He never left (after all, it’s hard to look away from clothes that sparkly). The farewell tour he launched last year will take him through 2020, and 2018 also saw two tribute albums featuring megawatt performers: from Lady Gaga to Ed Sheeran on the pop one, Miranda Lambert to Willie Nelson on the country one. For Elton, the Rocketman biopic is just the latest tribute in a career full of them.

And nowhere has tribute been paid more often than in the world of cover songs. From his second, self-titled album onward (no one covers songs off his 1969 debut), Elton’s songs have been covered constantly. Hell, Three Dog Night released their cover of that second album’s “Your Song” a month before John’s original even came out. Though artists inevitably gravitate towards the huge hits, John’s songbook boasts a long tail, with even some relative deep cuts generating classic covers. So this month we count down the thirty best Elton John covers ever.

Best so far, at least. At the rate he earns tributes, it won’t be long before the next batch lands.

May 102019
 

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

Sara Smile

The timeless tracks of Hall and Oates are often go-to karaoke fodder for non-professionals. They also serve as prime cover material for more seasoned performers. If we asked ten people to name their favorite Hall and Oates song, it is not inconceivable that we would receive ten different answers; throughout their career, they have tallied quite the number of hit songs. But there was a time before their string of gold records. Beyond the oft-covered “I Can’t Go for That” and “Rich Girl” stands “Sara Smile,” Hall and Oates’ first Top 10 hit. It took the duo almost ten years to get into the groove, but this song gave them the momentum they needed.
Continue reading »