John Cale just turned 69 and several cover tributes have emerged to the legendary Velvet Undreground violist. Noah and the Whale covered Cale on his birthday, and Danish singer Agnes Obel did it a few months before that (but just released it for free in honor of the legend). Sadly, neither chose “The Man Who Couldn’t Afford to Orgy,” but the tunes they picked prove a lively, just-dissonant-enough tribute.
Over the past few weeks, artists have been unleashing a blizzard of Christmas covers. From live tapings to unexpected albums, these holiday presents came in all shapes and sizes. We kept up as best we could (see ‘em all here), but so many came in we couldn’t possibly post them all. So instead, we collected our favorite Christmas covers from this year in a special mixtape.
This 60-minute tape, which you can download or stream below, mixes the classics with the obscure. It includes refreshingly original covers of famous hymns and unexpected runs through buried nuggets. It finds indie up-and-comers mingling with longtime favorites.
Christmas songs have a tendency to be beat-you-over-the-head literal. Whether they tell the story of Jesus or of Santa, the narrative arc leaves limited room for creativity. John Cale’s “Child’s Christmas in Wales” provides a refreshingly poetic counterpoint. The Velvet Underground alumnus first released this holiday downer on his 1973 album Paris 1919, basing the tune off a Dylan Thomas story of the same name. “Ten murdered oranges bled on board ship” proves a bit more thought-provoking than “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” (though you may think twice about inviting Mr. Cale to your Christmas party).