Dec 132013
 

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.

Start our countdown on Page 2…

Sep 012012
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

And then there was one. With his brother Robin’s passing in May, Barry Gibb became the sole surviving Bee Gee; today marks the first time since he was three years old that he doesn’t have a brother Gibb around to see him celebrate his birthday.

“I will live on the music,” he tweeted to his fans, “and no matter what stage I’m standing on my three brothers will be standing there with me.” Continue reading »

Aug 112011
 

If you’re at a karaoke bar and you see a guy and a girl go up together, brace yourself. Odds are two to one they’re going to sing “Islands in the Stream,” the treacly 1983 duet by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. If anyone can bring some street cred to the song that inspired “Ghetto Superstar,” though, it’s My Morning Jacket. Continue reading »

Jul 132011
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

If you saw Daniel McLain in a bar in 1983 you might have assumed that he was president of his local Hells Angels chapter. Actually Daniel, better known as Country Dick Montana, was a much less threatening former record store owner, former high school class president and former president of the Kinks Preservation Society fan club. Back in 1983, while scouring San Diego looking to put together a new band – or “rolling musical pleasure machine” as he called it – Country Dick recruited Jerry Raney, Buddy Blue and Rolle Love. These guys became the Beat Farmers, a band with three singers and two lead guitarists, whose most enduring (and endearing) song was a 90-second ditty about a dead dog featuring gargling and a kazoo. Country Dick played drums, but also occasionally fronted the band. Imagine a cross between Johnny Cash and Sam Kinison and you have Country Dick’s stage presence. Country Dick called his fans maggots, and tossed beer on them. They loved it…and after the show, Dick would often stay and chat with the Beat Farmer faithful; he really wasn’t so intimidating after all. You could make the case that the Beat Farmers were the best bar band ever. Continue reading »

Jun 062011
 

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!

Recently, the Killers drummer Ronnie Vannucci hinted that the band’s hiatus may soon come to an end. The Vegas foursome hasn’t released an album since 2008’s Day & Age, though Vannucci and hardworking frontman Brandon Flowers have kept busy with solo projects. Day & Age was preceded by the 2007 b-sides disc Sawdust, where The Killers revealed their fondness for covers. Flowers and Co. favor older inspiration, having covered everyone from The Beatles (“Helter Skelter”) to David Bowie (“Moonage Daydream”), the Eagles (“Hotel California”) to Frankie Valli (“Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”). Here are five of their best covers, four tackling songs by earlier generations and one from an unexpected peer. Continue reading »