Fifty years ago, a covers album wasn’t called a “covers album.” It was called an album. Full stop.
Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Billie Holiday – most albums anyone bought were “covers albums” as we’d think of them today, but that’s not how folks thought of them then. Once the public began putting a premium on singers writing their own songs in the ’60s the concept of course shifted, so that an artist doing a covers album has to be like Michael Jordan playing baseball – an okay diversion but let’s get back to the main event please.
More so this year than ever before though, that pendulum seems to be swinging back in small but meaningful ways to what an album originally meant. More and more artists are releasing LPs saying, this is not my new quote-on-quote “covers album,” this is my new album (that happens to consist of covers). The attitude showcases a confidence and surety of purpose that shows they take performing other peoples songs every bit as seriously as they do their own.
That holds true for both of our top two covers albums this year, and plenty more sprinkled throughout. Which isn’t to knock anyone doing a covers album as a lark, novelty, tribute, or side project – you’ll see plenty of those here as well – but any blurred lines that put a “covers album” on the same level as a “normal” album have to be a good thing.
On April 2, ATO Records will release The Music Is You: A Tribute to John Denver. Artists such as Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Dave Matthews, and Amos Lee all contributed to the homage to the great singer, songwriter, activist, and humanitarian John Denver. NPR gives us a sneak peak of the record with My Morning Jacket‘s rendition of “Leaving On A Jet Plane.”Continue reading »
Who is Mike Doughty? The ex-frontman of Soul Coughing? An acoustic singer/songwriter? An acclaimed poet and writer? The latest offering from Mr. Doughty, whoever he may be, is The Flip Is Another Honey, a smattering of cover tunes ranging from John Denver to Cheap Trick to Guys and Dolls. And, as you may expect, Doughty will break some rules.Continue reading »
Mike Doughty, who first found fame in the mid-90’s with his alt-rock outfit Soul Coughing and has been a solo act since 2000, announced last week that his next album will be comprised of nothing but covers. The Flip is Another Honey, due out November 6th, has a tracklist covering commonplace songs (“Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver, “Southern Girls” by Cheap Trick) and lesser-known tracks (“Boy + Angel” by Doveman, “Ta Douleur” by Camille, “Mistress” by Red House Painters).Continue reading »
Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.
The songs would just come from him, as if he was a vehicle from God that the songs flowed through… The man was driven to write songs. The music came out of a very deep place. And oftentimes, out of that deepness, John felt very alone. If you listen to his songs, there’s a lot of loneliness there. — Annie Denver
By the time of his death in a 1997 plane crash, John Denver’s image no longer fit the man. He had written more than 200 songs and had multiple gold albums; his concerts appealed to young and old alike; he used his fame to bring attention to environmental causes, championed the space program, and testified in Congress against the PMRC. But to the general public, he had become something to mock, a naive, uncool lightweight who said “far out” way too much and did his best work with Muppets. It’s telling that when USA for Africa was preparing to record “We Are the World,” they turned down Denver – who had founded the World Hunger Project back in 1977 – because they felt his presence would damage the song’s credibility. Denver, and his music, had not been getting the respect they deserved for far too long.Continue reading »