If you haven’t heard, perhaps because you have better things to do with your time, Lil Wayne just got out of prison. After eight months in, Wayne’s star has never been higher. Even the New York Times has been live-blogging his release! He spent his final month in solitary confinement, which apparently translated into “Even more time to write lyrics.” Given that his output was so minimal during his stint – he only released one chart-topping album! – we look forward to having him back.
To welcome him home, we present five of our favorite Lil Wayne covers. We have to get this old stuff out of the way now, since by day’s end he’ll likely have dropped two more mixtapes. Apparently he demanded a plane with a studio so he could lay down some tracks on his flight home. Welcome back, Weezy!Continue reading »
Glee sells millions of albums by turning mainstream songs into Broadway glitz. Songs from Musicals goes the other way and, though it may not hit the iTunes top slot (the fact that it’s free can’t help sales), I’ll take folksy covers on Jesus Christ Superstar over choreographed Journey any day.
James Eric aka. Garden on a Trampoline put the comp together, which you can download for free at CLLCT. Selections range from classics (The Wizard of Oz’s “If I Only Had a Brain”) to lesser-knowns (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ “Sobbin’ Women”). Carlz Barkley’s ukulele take on “Something There” from Beauty and the Beast is a particular gem, as is G.O.A.T.’s bouncy “Moving Right Along” from the Muppet Movie. Check out both tracks below. Continue reading »
Cover Commissions is a monthly series in which a featured artist covers a reader-selected song for this blog. Any artists interested in participating, email me at the address on the right.
I consider one month a fast Cover Commissions turnaround, but this is just ridiculous. The polling for Tinyfolk’s Commissions closed just one week ago and we’ve already got the finished cover. Two versions of it in fact. Plus a bonus track!
Voting almost hit a three-way tie between Taylor Swift (“You Belong With Me”), Elton John and Jeremy Irons (“Be Prepared”) and Bonnie Tyler (“Total Eclipse of the Heart”), but in the end the ‘80s fans won out. Maybe synth solos are more popular than previously believed or maybe folks had seen the recent “literal video” for “Total Eclipse” that’s been making the rounds.
Taking on any song by legendarily epic songwriter Jim Steinman is a daunting task to be sure. There’s a reason there aren’t many “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” covers out there. Tinyfolk’s Russ Woods describes how he approached Bonnie’s epic ballad:
I’m pretty glad this got picked. I’m a huge Jim Steinman fan. I love his work with Bonnie Tyler, Meat Loaf, and yes, even Celine Dion. I’ve seen Streets of Fire, and own a CD of music from the German-language musical Tanz Der Vampire that Steinman scored. I’ve never covered one of his songs because they’re huge and epic and kind of intimidating. I put this on the list as a way to force myself to try it if it got picked. And it did.
We ended up with two different takes, one a bit dancier and one a bit folkier. Both involve me having to use the far extremes of my vocal range more than any song I’ve ever recorded. James Eric and I recorded them on Sunday after finishing up recording the new Tinyfolk album, Black Bears, which he produced. So, big thanks to James Eric, aka Garden on a Trampoline, for helping out.
Just like James did for us a year ago with his two versions of Devo’s “Beautiful World” and one of MGMT’s “Time to Pretend” (download them here), Russ has sent in not one cover, but three. First up, the Commissions winner. Turn around…
Tinyfolk ft. G.O.A.T. – Total Eclipse of the Heart (Dance Version) (Bonnie Tyler)
Tinyfolk ft. G.O.A.T. – Total Eclipse of the Heart (Folk Version) (Bonnie Tyler)
Apparently still having time to kill, Tinyfolk also tackled one of the other poll options: “Do Your Best.”
These mp3s may be freely shared with the artist’s blessing. Post them on your blog, send them to your friends, tweet them to the world. When you share these though, please include a link to this site. Check back for future Cover Commissions installments.
“Weird Al” Yankovic is one of the smartest men in music. Think about it. How many other wannabe jokesters have tried to do exactly what he does? And how many have even achieved one-tenth of his success? Everyone feels like they have a hilarious parody up their sleeves – in middle school my friend had a food-themed version of the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” that never failed to kill us – but Al has taken the genre to another level. The guy’s been around for thirty years and he still sells out concerts coast to coast. Pretty good for a funny-haired accordion-player.
Covering a parody seems somewhat counter-intuitive. The parody is the evil twin of the cover. A good cover keeps the lyrics but changes the music. A parody does just the opposite. So it’s not surprising that most of the fifteen (!) covers below are of Al’s original songs. I’ve long wanted to compile this post for Cover Me. I believe it’s worth the wait. Oh, and later this week I’ll be posting some covers that didn’t make this post on Twitter, so follow Cover Me now!
Laura Barrett – Smells Like Nirvana
After all that, the first choice here is a parody. A brave choice by Barrett, who surely would have gotten more blog love with a cover of the original. Damn thing features a kalimba, after all! Wikipedia it. [Buy]
Stiff Bristles – Frank’s 2000″ TV
When Al wrote this in ’93, it probably seemed like more of a joke than it does today. With flat screens now all the rage, two-thousand inches may not be far off. [Buy]
James Eric – The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota
Fact: There is a biggest ball of twin in Minnesota, located in the tiny town of Darwin (population: 276). One Francis Johnson created it in 1950, spending four hours a day wrapping twine. For 23 weeks. Another fact: James Eric was our first Cover Commissions artist. Final fact: October’s Cover Commissions is on now, so go vote! [Buy]
Your Mother – I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead
A dead-on spoof of the entire new-age moment, “I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead” doubles as a pretty good rule to live by. Your Mother put this out on the vinyl-only The Weird Al-Bum tribute disc. Well worth the $8. [Buy]
The PowerChord Men – Amish Paradise
Here’s a famous song in Yanko-lore. Coolio supposedly gave his permission for the parody (Al always asks, and has been granted it from everyone but Prince) but then publicly claimed otherwise. Publicity stunt or genuine miscommunication? The world may never know (or care). Still, I’ll bet neither ever envisioned the song as a minor-key acoustic duet. [Buy]
Lager Rhythms – Since You’ve Been Gone
A cappella groups are the most reliable source of Weird Al covers. This song was vocal-driven initially anyway, so it’s a perfect match for the Lager Rhythms (get it? har!). [Buy]
The iMAniaC – Hardware Store
Al could give Twista a run for his money as fastest rapper alive. OK, maybe not, but he sure blasts out the shopping list in the bridge. The iMAniaC guys take it a different way. Though turning a Weird Al song into something about Star Trek doesn’t seem like a huge stretch. Also, check out this top-notch fan video. [Buy]
With Halloween on the way, this couldn’t be more timely. If this was an actual movie, I know I’d see it. Frankly, I’m surprised it isn’t. You listening, Dreamworld? [Buy]
Double Down – This Is the Life
Weird Al wrote a recession-themed parody of T.I.’s “Whatever You Like” last year. This seems to be the bull-market companion piece. [Buy]
Yoni Gordon – Dare to Be Stupid
Lots of covers of this one (I get a kick out of the synth-dance version over here). But if you’re feeling punk rock, this Yoni’s for you. [Buy]
Yulenog & Nathan Kuruna – Christmas at Ground Zero
“The Night Santa Went Crazy” tends to be the go-to Weird Al Christmas tune, but I think this one’s more clever. “We can dodge debris while we trim the tree underneath the mushroom cloud.” That’s right, internal rhyming. [Buy]
Sudden Death – Happy Birthday
‘Tis the season to be born! Cover Me’s second birthday is on the 30th and my own is on Wednesday. One year maybe I’ll celebrate with broccoli and beer. Not this year though. One other birthday coming up too…oh yeah, Al’s, this Friday! We celebrate the season with this selection from the Prosthetic Lips tribute album (free to download). Oh, and happy birthday Micaela and Chiara Klein! [Download]
Throwing Toasters – Good Enough for Now
The acoustic cover is excellent, but what really gets me is the pre-song intro. The Toasters guy explains why covering Al is tough. Listen and learn. [Buy]
Marc and Jon – Polka #27
On every album Al puts the lyrics of a dozen recent pop hits into a polka medley. In a way, it’s the closest he gets to a traditional cover. The idea of putting Al’s own songs into such a melody seems so obvious once you hear it, but it takes a special kind of genius to blend “Albuquerque,” “Dog Eat Dog,” and “Let Me Be Your Hog.” [Buy]
More great Jacko covers showed up in my inbox a few days ago from astute reader Laurie. My two favorites are by Benjamin Siksou, bringing us jazzy takes on “Beat It” and “Billie Jean.” Jackson 5 fans though shouldn’t miss thesetwo versions of “I Want You Back.” Thanks Laurie!
So I’ve never heard of Mark Mulcahy, but I’m glad other people have because he’s the center of a new tribute album. It’s called Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs of Mark Mucahy and features a line-up that includes Thom Yorke, The National, and Michael Stipe. And those are just the first three tracks! You’ve gotta wait ‘til September 29th to hear it, but you can read about it here.
I’ve mentioned Neil Young’s brutal (in a good way) live take on “A Day In the Life” before, but it got even more exciting this past week when a special guest joined him onstage. Watch it now.
Not surprisingly, Michael Jackson covers have been coming fast and furious these past few days. Whatever you thought of the man, you can’t deny the music. CoverLayDown’s got a good round-up of what’s already been done, so we’re going to try something a little different. Michael passed on Thursday afternoon. By concert time that evening, artists were already beginning to bust out Jackson songs in tribute, a trend that only intensified over the weekend. So here are some of those live covers, recordings of tributes performed since Jackson’s death. They’re in turns emotional, joyous, spontaneous, and apologetic. But all are heartfelt. I weeded out anything with poor or incomplete recordings (as well as those that just weren’t any good). This is what was left.
R.I.P. Michael Jackson
Mark Rose – P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)
Solo electric guitar is usually a shaky proposition, but not when you sing like this.
Duffy – Billie Jean
Duffy goes the extra mile at this Romanian festival, mixing “Billie Jean” in with her own “Mercy.”
David Garrett – Smooth Criminal
Classical music fans may appreciate that Garrett throws in a bit of Mozart’s “Turkish March” into the middle here. Apparently the two songs have the same harmonic progression.
Ne-Yo & Jamie Foxx – I’ll Be There (Jackson 5)
The BET Awards Sunday night turned into a de facto Jackson tribute, capped off by this duet following a tearful speech by Janet.
Amanda Palmer – Billie Jean
Dresden Doll Palmer says she threw this solo piano wail together in twenty minutes, performing it the night of his death. Impressive indeed, as this gothic lament should be a concert staple for years to come.
Timothy Molo – Thriller
You don’t come across a bass line this meaty every day.
AYO – I Want You Back (Jackson 5)
An impassioned spoken tribute leads us into those instantly recognizable riffs.
Rachel Bernard & Steven Keith – Man in the Mirror
A simple but effective duet by two unknowns tugs at the heartstrings.
The Roots & Erykah Badu – I Wanna Be Where You Are The Roots & Erykah Badu – Billie Jean
Recorded during rehearsal breaks at the Roots new home at Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.
Martin Sexton – Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
Only one of a series of impromptu Jackson cover from Sexton the night of his death, his falsetto means you can’t tell if he’s joking or not.
Christian Larke – Black or White
Nothing elaborate here, but sometimes a passionately strummed acoustic guitar is enough.
Third Eye Blind – I Want You Back (Jackson 5)
A noisy crowd can’t silence a jam like this.
Castledoor – Rock With You
You forget how catchy this song is until you hear it.
Robin Thicke – Human Nature
Another night-of-death cover, it’s just one a cappella chorus, but with that voice that’s all you need.
Dave Matthews Band – I’ll Be There (Jackson 5)
Dave keeps it short and sweet.
Stevie Wonder & John Legend – I Can’t Help It Stevie Wonder & John Legend – We Are the World
Few people are more qualified to do this tunes than Stevie, a living legend in his own right who sang on the original “We Are the World,” even going so far as to coach Bob Dylan through his part.
James Eric – P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)
Alright, this last one isn’t actually live, but friend of the blog James Eric put it together over the weekend to honor the legend and it’s a hell of a tribute.