Jan 312019

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

best neil young covers

Neil Young released his self-titled debut solo album on January 22, 1969. Well, technically he re-released it that day. It had initially landed without much fanfare the previous November, only for Young to quickly pull it from shelves due to what he deemed a subpar mix. Even in his professional infancy, decades before Pono and the Neil Young Archives, he was a stickler for quality control.

We hope this list would pass muster with him. At 50 songs, it’s our longest to date (tied only with The Rolling Stones) and still barely scratches the surface. We could have quite easily listed the best 50 covers of “Heart of Gold” or “Like a Hurricane” alone. He gets covered about as much as any songwriter alive, and about as well too.

Neil hasn’t slowed down in his own age, and neither has the flow of new covers. Some of the covers below came out near 50 years ago themselves. Others only landed in the last year or two. No doubt another contender will arrive tomorrow. Neil never stops, and, thankfully, neither do covers of his songs. Continue reading »

May 052017

cover stories brandi carlileTen years ago Brandi Carlile released her second album, The Story. Lovingly produced by T-Bone Burnett, The Story is heavy on relationships, heartbreak, and unrealized potential. Songs so beautiful they can float right on past unless you’ve recently fallen in or out of love or struggled with a complex friendship. But if your guard is down, your heart is broken, or your confidence rattled, The Story can be a powerful and cathartic experience. Last month we shared songs from Dolly Parton, Pearl Jam, and Adele, when we teased the latest War Child benefit project in which a hand-picked, all-star cast covers The Story in its entirety. That album, Cover Stories: Brandi Carlile Celebrates 10 Years of The Story-An Album to Benefit War Child, is released today.
Continue reading »

May 072013

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

It must be amazing when singers realize that their voices sound particularly good together. Think of The Roches, the Everly Brothers (who have the benefit of being siblings), Crosby, Stills & Nash, Exene Cervenka and John Doe, Gary Louris and Mark Olson, or Jonatha Brooke and Jennifer Kimball. One can imagine the joy that Amy Ray and Emily Saliers felt when they realized that they had something special when they harmonized. Continue reading »

Mar 222013

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

In 1975, Neil Young released Zuma, one of several albums he recorded in the ’70s which contained a single song that pretty much eclipsed the rest of the album. In Zuma’s case, it was “Cortez the Killer,” a three-chorder rumored to have been written to make it easier for Crazy Horse guitarist Frank Sampredo to play along on rhythm guitar. Young hadn’t played with Crazy Horse for several years, and during that time Sampredo had taken the place of founding guitarist Danny Whitten, who had died of a drug and alcohol overdose. Clocking in at over seven minutes, “Cortez” was originally even longer — it famously had to be faded out because tape ran out during the session. (Upon learning the song’s last verse didn’t get recorded, Young shrugged and said, “I never liked that verse anyway.”) Bands who have covered the song have been been tacking minutes onto it ever since. Continue reading »

Jun 242011

Every Tuesday, the A.V. Undercover series satisfies our insatiable hunger for cover songs by bringing all of the coolest bands on the block these days into their circular studios to drop something new on an eclectic mix of originals. Earlier this week we brought you Surfer Blood’s take on Pixies’ “Gigantic” and now it’s time for something completely different. …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead was not on the original list of invitees but since they were in the neighborhood, touring with their friends Surfer Blood, the A.V. Club allowed them a slot. Normally the bands choose from a list of songs that the A.V. Club crafted but in this case, due to some confusion over e-mail exchanges, Trail of Dead chose their own song for an Undercover bonus track. They dug deeper and decided on the Indigo Girls‘ “Fire and Blood.” Continue reading »

Feb 102009

workingman's dead coversI’ve been to Bonnaroo two times, but somehow the traditional vibe hasn’t hit me; I still don’t like jam bands. In fact, I may be the only person alive who prefers the Grateful Dead as an album band. In the studio they’re forced to keep a certain focus lacking in the twenty-minute jam noodles they seem incapable of avoiding live. Album-wise, however, this and American Beauty are certified classics. A few songs on the latter annoy me (read: “Truckin’”), but every song on Workingman’s Dead gets my toes tapping.

Jammy Dead covers abound, making this potentially the easiest cover disc I’ve ever done. I tried to branch out a little bit though so, while there are a few jammy elements, there’s also a strong jazz-folk current running through this list. Spark one up and turn on, tune in, drop out.

Indigo Girls – Uncle John’s Band

The girls keep the folk harmony styling of the first, but make it bop and roll. This and the Zevon below come off a hit-or-miss Dead covers come called, moderately creatively, Deadicated. [Buy]

Henry Kaiser – High Time

Piano jazz brings out the heartache of this duet. I can’t figure out who the female vocalist is here, but if you like the sound check out Eternity Blue, his album of Dead covers. [Buy]

Stiff Dead Cat – Dire Wolf

A unique name for a band certainly, but somehow their sound fits. It’s ugly, raw, and going slightly sour. Some fast-paced bluesing here, they go so far as to drastically reinvent the chorus with a completely new cadence. Once you get the original out of your head, it works great. [Buy]

Catherine Russell – New Speedway Boogie

Another one for the female vocal fans out there, Russell’s take grooves and swings propelled by a bassline worth of Phil Lesh himself. Many artists here rely on the harmony stylings of the originals, but Catherine proves she needs no help by wrapping her voice around each word so soulfully you know anyone else would just distract. [Buy]

The Waybacks – Cumberland Blues

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It would be insulting to Jerry and co. not to include a live take somewhere in here, so here’s one by a band that shares the Dead ethos of sharing concert recordings. The Waybacks acoustic-bluegrass jam this one out to thirteen minutes, but you can find many more covers of it at archive.org. [Buy]

Emory Joseph – Black Peter

Another tribute album worth getting, Fennario: Songs by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, EJ plucks his acoustic along with periodic flourishes of drum, organ, or whatever else strikes his fancy. It gives the proceedings the ode of a funeral dirge, but slowly builds into celebratory gospel. [Buy]

Desert Rain – Easy Wind

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Another live one here, it’s the rare imposition of an electric guitar in this set. The guitar makes up for it by distortion-soloing throughout the song, vying with vocals and harmonica for brash attention. [Buy]

Warren Zevon with David Lindley – Casey Jones

One of my favorite songwriters, Warren Zevon is no slouch at the art of the cover either. Here he keeps the spirit of the original intact while mixing some fun rock vibes. Nice to see Lindley here as well who, in a weird twist of fate, has spent a lot of time collaborating with the aforementioned Henry Kaiser. Catchiest song about a cocaine-addled train engineer headed to his doom ever! [Buy]