Nov 192019
 

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

livin on a prayer covers

“Once upon a time, not so long ago,” Bon Jovi followed up their first Billboard Hot 100 single, the #1 smash “You Give Love a Bad Name,” with another number one hit: “Livin’ On a Prayer.” The second single off of Slippery When Wet , Bon Jovi’s breakthrough third album, “Prayer” is number one in many people’s hearts, including voters for VH1’s 2006 list of the Greatest Songs of the ’80s and readers of this blog.

Bon Jovi has evolved over time, continuing to produce music consistently since the ’80s and unafraid to tour through different genres, even going country and teaming up with Jennifer Nettles and LeAnn Rimes (though, to be fair, Jon Bon Jovi has been a cowboy from early on). The band just doesn’t quit; they even released a thank-you song to veterans earlier this month.

But “Livin’ On A Prayer” remains a classic. You’ve belted it at karaoke; you’ve pumped your fist to it at a wedding reception. The song speaks to the masses, and we need the song’s message just as much now as we did when it was released in 1986. A good cover of this song will channel the original’s spirited perseverance, hope in the face of adversity, and faith in the power of love to overcome all. It’s a tall order, but these five artists “give it a shot.”

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Apr 122018
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

holidays in the sun covers

Two weeks ahead of their much-hyped, one and only studio album in 1977, the Sex Pistols – for the last time as a complete unit – first chummed the water with the release of their fourth and final UK single following “Anarchy in the UK,” “God Save the Queen,” and “Pretty Vacant.” The iconic sound of marching boots from the introduction of “Holidays In The Sun” marked the beginning of the single and also the first track on Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols.

Lyrically, the song can be best described as John (Johnny Rotten) Lydon’s sarcastic observations about the band’s getaway from London and as a critique of consumer culture. To escape its pressures, an ill-fated trip to the Channel Islands (“They threw us out.” said Lydon.) gave way to a two-week blowout in Berlin. He likened it to the exchange of one “prison camp environment” for another. Musically, the song lifted its chord progression from the Jam’s “In The City” and the riff subsequently went on to become recognized as one of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time. It was also the first Sex Pistols single to give a co-writing credit to John Simon Beverly – also known as – Sid Vicious. It’s not clear who came up with the repeating chant of “Reason! Reason! Reason!”

A deep look at the countless covers available turned up the widest variety of genres for any Sex Pistol single (nearly a dozen) but only a relatively small group of standouts. No “cheap holiday” here – so join us as we go over the Berlin Wall! Continue reading »

Apr 102018
 
the cars covers

Whatever your feelings about the music of the Cars, they were impossible to ignore. In the late-‘70s sea of muted earth-tones, the band’s retro-techno-geek look was a revelation. And in an era when the charts were dominated by soft rock, disco and 1950s nostalgia – the Bee Gees, Andy Gibb, the Grease soundtrack – the Cars’ spiky, New Wave-inflected guitar pop signaled a coming sea change in popular music.

Of course popular taste didn’t change overnight and, in retrospect, it may not even have changed a great deal. If the wildfires of punk and art-rock had blazed through the underground music scene and left behind a very altered landscape, in the larger arena of the Billboard Top 100 it was a different story. In America at least, punk wasn’t quite ready for primetime (nor, it should be noted, were the Cars in any sense a punk band). Continue reading »

Mar 052018
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

never mind the bollocks covers

Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols is generally regarded as one of the greatest rock albums of all time. In one fell 38-minute swoop, The Sex Pistols (more or less) burst on the scene, birthed punk rock, and bit the dust soon after. That last fall marked the 40th anniversary of its release is nearly as jarring as its opening track.

Like the band itself, pretty much everything leading up to and following the album’s release was controversial. From manager/impresario Malcolm McLaren’s publicity stunts – he famously arranged for the band to perform “God Save The Queen” on a boat on the Thames near Parliament during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee (ending in his arrest) – to hardcore dealings with music labels, to “moving target” album release dates. Of the band members – Paul Cook/Steve Jones/Johnny Rotten/Glen Matlock/Sid Vicious – determining exactly who was responsible for each track is even subject to debate. [Matlock, a founding member ousted and replaced by Vicious prior to the album’s release, is listed as co-writer on 10 of the 12 tracks. Although inarguably critical, his actual influence relative to the other band members has been challenged by Jones.]

But as writer Steve Huey pointed out in his review on AllMusic:

…underneath the shock tactics and theatrical negativity were social critiques carefully designed for maximum impact. Never Mind the Bollocks perfectly articulated the frustration, rage, and dissatisfaction of the British working class with the establishment, a spirit quick to translate itself to strictly rock & roll terms.

The album debuted at number #1 in the UK in 1977. At the time, it didn’t sell nearly as well in in US – taking 10 years to reach gold status – but its impact and ultimate legacy on both sides of the Atlantic was undeniable. In a wide-ranging Yahoo Music/Backspin interview from early last year, guitarist Steve Jones called it “the main album for kids to have if you were part of the new revolution.” And further, “We only did one album and that one album has kept the whole ball rolling ever since… but maybe if we had done another album, it would have sucked.”

Today kicks off a short series celebrating Bollocks. The seminal work has been covered extensively, so let’s march right in…

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Mar 072016
 

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

blacksabbath

“War Pigs,” originally titled “Walpurgis” (defined as “Christmas for Satanists” by Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler), is the first track off Black Sabbath’s second studio album, 1970’s Paranoid, and is regarded by Guitar World magazine as the “greatest Heavy Metal song ever.”

The slow gravitational pulling power chord intro creates an atmosphere of an apocalyptic wasteland. The rolling darkness and muffled air-sirens continue until they are quickly halted with the most spine-tingling, D to E power chord transition in heavy metal history, not once, not twice, but thrice! Ozzy Osbourne gives us a piercing belt of “Generals gathered in their masses / just like witches at black masses,” and Toni Iommi continues the pattern after every Ozzy verse until Iommi’s power chords evolve into a wicked guitar riff. Bill Ward comes crashing in on drums, Geezer Buttler starts pounding his bass, and before you know it, you’ve bypassed “Luke’s Wall” (the song’s instrumental outro) and you’re riding shotgun with Lucifer on a thrill ride through hell.
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May 082012
 

In Defense takes a second look at a much maligned cover artist or album and asks, “Was it really as bad as all that?”

It is in no way difficult to see why you might find bluegrass covers of non-bluegrass songs completely musically offensive. Let’s put it out there: it’s no secret that if you sit there and knock out a pop classic on a banjo and fiddle, you are not asking to be taken seriously. For the most part, bluegrass covers exist simply for their novelty value. Continue reading »