Sep 172019
 
cover songs 1969

This marks the fourth year I’ve done a big anniversary countdown (after 1996, 1987, and 1978). It also proved to be the most challenging. There were a lot of covers released in 1969. In fact, according to covers-and-samples database WhoSampled, there were more than in any of the other years we’ve done. Their database lists 3,110 covers, which is surely still a small fraction.

The reason for the cover song’s proliferation seems clear to me after going through them all: Popular bands released a lot more music back then. Aretha Franklin released two albums in 1969. So did The Byrds, Elvis Presley, Joe Cocker, Johnny Cash, Johnny Winter, and Nina Simone. Creedence Clearwater Revival and Merle Haggard released three albums apiece. James Brown topped them all with four. To get that kind of output, artists would pad their albums with covers. Every 1969 album by every artist I just mentioned includes at least one cover. Many include several. A few are all covers. It adds up.

Impressively, many of those covers reinterpreted songs that had come out within the previous year. This entire list could easily have been “Hey Jude” covers. “Wichita Lineman” and “Light My Fire” came up constantly too (the latter song slightly older, but it had hit the charts again in 1968). Even songs from 1968’s soundtrack to Hair got covered endlessly in 1969.

Even beyond “Hey Jude,” Beatles covers dominated the year. I’m not going to go back through the entire 3,110 covers and count, but if you told me Beatles covers made up a full half of those, I wouldn’t be shocked. Add Bob Dylan covers to that side of the scale and it’s probably true. Beatles songs got covered in every conceivable genre for every conceivable audience. Jazz and swing and folk and proto-metal Beatles covers everywhere the eye can see. Plenty of people cover the Beatles these days, sure, but trust me: It’s nothing like it was in 1969.

So wheedling all those down to the top 50 proved incredibly difficult. But it means this is maybe the top-to-bottom strongest set thus far, and it killed me to leave some off (that’s why our Patreon supporters will get a set of 69 bonus tracks – so join now).

One note: I left off Woodstock performances. For one, we counted down the 50 best covers performed there last month. But more importantly, most people did not actually hear those covers until the movie and soundtrack came out in 1970. Jimi Hendrix performed his iconic Star-Spangled Banner – pretty much everyone’s top cover of the weekend – to a nearly empty field. Most of the audience had left before he punched in at 9 AM that Monday morning. That said, several of the classic covers performed at Woodstock were released as singles or on albums the same year – including Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help from My Friends” – and those studio versions make this list.

Now, let the sunshine in with the 50 best covers of 1969.

The countdown begins on page 2…

Mar 172016
 

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!

Dolly-Parton

 
Dolly Parton is one of the true legends of country & western music. Half a century after the release of her first true C&W album, 1966’s Hello, I’m Dolly, she’s announced a 60-city North American tour that will promote her upcoming 2-CD set Pure & Simple, containing both new material and greatest hits from throughout her career. For all her years in the musical industry, Dolly has never forgotten her roots, and she continues to perform at a high level at an age when most artists are tired of the road.

When looking back over her career, it’s clear that she’s an original, and her critical and commercial success as a songwriter reflects that. But like any true great, she knows the value of a good cover song. Millions and millions of dollars, in the case of Whitney Houston’s version of Dolly’s “I Will Always Love You,” but the cover songs that Dolly herself records have worth that goes beyond the bank. She’s had huge success with covers in each of the last several decades. Here are some of her best.
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Jan 252011
 

Rockabilly artists, playing a hybrid of rock’n’roll and country music, formed the vanguard of musicians who broke a new form of music to the nation in the mid ‘50s. Though known as rock and roll pioneers, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent and Bill Haley really played rockabilly. In an industry dominated by men, some women managed to find success, and none more so than Wanda Jackson. Crowned “The Queen of Rockabilly,” she released a series of singles in the ’50s and 60’s still coveted by genre aficionados today.

Recently recruited by the inexhaustible Jack White for his Third Man Records label, she recorded her latest album, The Party Ain’t Over, with his assistance as producer and bandleader. The album starts with a Dap-Kings-style horn intro leading into White ripping into “Shakin’ All Over”. The band sounds tight but not over-rehearsed, and White summons hellfire with his solos. Jackson deftly handles the vocal on the next track, Little Richard’s “Rip It Up” and the band plays as the title demands.

White’s presence looms large over the album, from the warm, analog sound of his production – you can almost feel the glow of the tubes – to the high-energy performances and inspired arrangements. Jackson seems, at times, unable match the sound White creates. She sounds out of her element vocally on tracks like “Busted” and “Like A Baby.” She falls flat on Amy Winehouse‘s “You Know That I’m No Good,” struggling to hit the notes and stripping the song of its drama.

Perhaps the error is in the song selection – apparently White’s domain – because Jackson nails the vocals on some of the tracks. She kills on Bob Dylan’s “Thunder on the Mountain”, never missing a beat. No easy task; many have tried to sing Dylan and failed miserably. If White had taken the limitations of Jackson’s voice more into account – she always did sound ‘unique’ – a better album would have resulted.

The Party Ain’t Over Tracklist:
01. Shakin’ All Over (Johnny Kidd & The Pirates cover)
02. Rip It Up (Little Richard cover)
03. Busted (Harlan Howard song most associated with Johnny Cash)
04. Rum and Coca Cola (The Andrews Sisters cover)
05. Thunder on the Mountain (Bob Dylan cover)
06. You Know That I’m No Good (Amy Winehouse cover)
07. Like a Baby (Elvis Presley cover)
08. Nervous Breakdown (Eddie Cochran cover)
09. Dust on the Bible (Gospel song most associated with Kitty Wells)
10. Teach Me Tonight (Sammy Cahn cover)
11. Blue Yodel #6 (Jimmie Rodgers cover)

Check out more Wanda Jackson on her website.

Best of 2008

 Posted by at 7:07 pm  1 Response »
Dec 182008
 

In the spirit of the flurry of year-end lists, here are some of the best covers of the year. Needless to say, too many great covers came out this year

The Gaslight Anthem – God’s Gonna Cut You Down (Johnny Cash)
Anchorless Records just released a set of quasi-punk Cash covers called All Aboard (get it on vinyl if you can) and, though some are generic, 2008 break-out artist The Gaslight Anthem takes Cash’s posthumous single and gives it a haunted vibe, like someone singing to you from far far away. [Buy]

Lily Allen – Womanizer (Britney Spears)
This one just came out a couple days ago, but it’s an instant ironic-pop classic. Britney’s first number one single since “Baby One More Time” (really) gets the strummed acoustic, soft piano treatment. Once you get past Mark Ronson’s obnoxious intro that is.

The Peptides – Major Tom (Peter Schilling)
When the band first sent this cover my way, I assumed it was a mislabeled “Space Oddity.” For those equally clueless, Schilling wrote a response to the classic David Bowie song (that I once had to lip-sync for five minutes in middle school in a poorly conceived outer space version of The Hobbit). Luckily The Peptides knew more than I did, as they tell the bizarre story with folksy harmonies and propelling rhythms. [Buy]

Mystery Jets – Bleeding Love (Leona Lewis)
God knows how many times I’ve listened to this one this year, but their beautiful Americana take on this admittedly catchy-as-hell pop hit never loses its charm. This comes from the always cover-friendly Radio 1 Live Lounge on the BBC. [Buy]

Southside Johnny and Labamba’s Big Band – Walk Away (Tom Waits)
Two big Tom Waits tribute discs came out this year. One, by Scarlet Johannson, induced spontaneous nausea in anyone who heard it. The other, Southside Johnny’s big band take on some Waits chestnuts achieved the shocking feat of making Tom danceable. It’s called Grapefruit Moon, and this cut is the best for a simple reason: it features Tom himself on guest vocals. [Buy]

Max Vernon – I Kissed a Girl (Katy Perry)
Vernon sent this one my way long ago and I’m embarrassed to say I never got a chance to post it before. Luckily others did, as it quickly made the blog rounds and even earned him a s lot on the Guilt By Association Vol. 2 comp alongside Kaki King and My Brightest Diamond. Dude’s even got a music video! [Buy]

Pat Buzzard – Wagon Wheel (Old Crow Medicine Show)
This one hit the old inbox a couple weeks ago, and is an instantly catchy update on the OCMS/Bob Dylan (he wrote the chorus) semi-hit “Wagon Wheel.” It’s made for a campfire sing-along far cooler than any you had as a kid. [Buy]

Lowry – Africa (Toto)
This one comes off that same comp Vernon’s on. It’s a song you’ve forgotten how much you liked, made new in an electro-lounge duet. [Buy]

Denison Witmer – Is There a Ghost (Band of Horses)
I posted this one in the Halloween entry a few months back, but as that post got taken down, here it is again. Witmer’s had the ingenious idea of releasing a bunch of free covers to promote his upcoming full-length Carry the Weight, and while they’re all worth tracking down, I keep coming back to this one. [Buy]

Bob Dylan – Miss the Mississippi (Jimmie Rodgers)
Bob recorded this in ’92, but it got its first official release a few months ago on the top-notch Tell Tale Signs outtake collection. People criticize Bob’s voice, but this song wouldn’t work without the lived-in grizzle age provides. [Buy]