Mar 302011
 

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!

Florence + the Machine songstress Florence Welch recently capped off a breakout year with performances at the Grammys and Oscars. Considering her affinity for covers, it’s appropriate that she took on Aretha Franklin’sThink” at the Grammys and handled Dido’s part with Best Song nominee A.R. Rahman at the Oscars. Florence + the Machine’s debut, Lungs, arrived less than two years ago, but Welch has already performed more covers than some musicians do in decades. Here are a few highlights, from Florence solo and with the help of her band the Machine. Continue reading »

NYC (and SOS)

 Posted by at 10:28 pm  No Responses »
Jun 182009
 

Edit: All files are back up for now.

It’s a time of transitions here at Cover Me. For one, box.net is getting fed up with the bandwidth we’re using (though they advertised it as “unlimited), so I need to find another place to host the songs. Anyone with experience have any suggestions, either another hosting site or my own domain name? We’re going for cheap here, but with lots of bandwidth. If I could migrate everything over from box.net that would be ideal; otherwise there will be a whole lot of dead links come July 1st. This thing’s not dead yet but readers, I need your help! Post a comment or email me at covers86{at}gmail{dot}com if you can offer assistance.

Also some personal transitions going on. For one, I graduated school on Sunday (hence my absence from here) and am headed to start interning for Spin music magazine in New York. To celebrate my new locale, here are some tunes about the city that swings.

Tea – Summer In the City (The Lovin’ Spoonful)
I guess there’s nothing in this song that makes it specifically about New York City, but could it really be anywhere else? One tune that never disappoints when it comes on oldies radio, Tea’s take amps up the funky swagger with plenty of horns and guitar-ing. [Buy]

Pete Yorn – New York City Serenade (Bruce Springsteen)
Pete Yorn is one of those musicians I’m not real familiar with, but about whom I just think “blech.” Associations with James Blunt or something. Which is probably unfair as this cover, the only thing I have by him, is excellent, breaking down one of Bruce’s most musically complex songs into a simple story. [Buy]

Gov’t Mule – Down and Out in New York City (James Brown)
A jam band for those who don’t like jam bands, Gov’t Mule grooves out on their excellent The Deep End Vol. 1. Screw Clapton; Warren Haynes is God. [Buy]

Kid Harpoon – First We Take Manhattan (Leonard Cohen)
I posted this one in my very first post here, so needless to say it’s been unavailable for quite a while. The Kid busts out one of my favorite Lenny covers in this frenetic attack of an acoustic jam. [Buy]

Nekked – The Boxer (Simon and Garfunkel)
A little bit of laptop-funk from this well-named crew, adding in blips and thumps that never threaten to obscure the pretty harmonies. Very different than the original, yet totally true to it. [Buy]

Tufts Beelzebubs – City of Blinding Lights (U2)
I recognize that a cappella’s a love-it-or-hate-it genre, but if you have any inclination towards that collegiate sound you should snatch 2008’s Pandaemonium, which won basically every a cappella award there is to win (including best album). [Buy]

Waitswatcher – Bronx Lullaby (Tom Waits)
Tom at his jazziest, Pascal Fricke adds a sweet female voice to his usual instrument, baring the song’s soul with some nylon-stringed plucking. To quote from another of Waits’ songs, “a little trip to heaven.” Enjoy this take, then watch Tom himself do it. [Buy]

Razorlight – Englishman in New York (Sting)
Sting purportedly wrote this tune about gay icon Quentin Crisp. The rest of the story’s in the song. [Buy]

Dion – Spanish Harlem Incident (Bob Dylan)
You probably know this “…and the Belmonts” singer from ‘60s hits like “Runaround Sue” and “A Teenager in Love,” but this more obscure gem takes a simple Dylan acoustic number and really makes it feel like Spanish Harlem. Fun fact: on his 1999 co-headlining tour with Paul Simon, Dylan covered Dion’s “The Wanderer” eleven times with Paul. [Buy]

My Morning Jacket – Across 110th Street (Bobby Womack)
I missed Bonnaroo for the first time in a few years this past weekend (stupid graduation). Luckily I was there to catch this last year, busted out during the Jacket’s three-plus hour midnight set in the pouring rain. Epic. [Buy]

Brian Chartrand – New York State of Mind (Billy Joel)
Chartrand’s partial cover disc Sleeping With Giants proved tough to track down, but it was worth the wait. Instead of overly emoting this crooney number like so many schlock lounge singers do, he swings it along with some funky picking. And don’t say he’s not versatile; on this same album he also covers Justin Timberlake and Lauryn Hill. [Buy]

Aug 062008
 

The record that propelled Bruce Springsteen to superstardom, Born in the U.S.A. hasn’t aged all that well. Though the songs are still top notch, the how-80’s-can-we-make-it production sounds tacky to modern ears and, from Reagan’s misinterpretation of the title track to the white-tee music video for Dancing in the Dark, it’s hard to disassociate the songs from the decade that spawned the. Fifteen million copies later though, the record still resonates with people, and hearing the songs in a new format can remind even the most jaded about how good they really are.

Richard Shindell – Born in the U.S.A.
Stripped of its bombastic drum blasts, the song’s less likely to be interpreted as a rah-rah-America song this time around. Vaguely country-ish, but don’t hold that against it.

Thea Gilmore – Cover Me
An alt-folk sort of version here, the hauntingly brushed drums propel the echo of Gilmore’s subdued voice that replaces the originals swagger with a sort of desperation.

The Gourds – Darlington County
I couldn’t believe what a tough time I had finding a cover of this one. The best I could do was this live take from The Gourds. You may not recognize the name, but any cover-lover knows their bluegrass version of Gin & Juice. If anyone has a better cover of this one though, pass it along!

Joe Ely – Working on the Highway
Off of the Light of Day tribute album, it doesn’t stray too far from the original.

Kirk Kelly – Downbound Train
One of the album’s underrated gems, this ukulele take strips down the unnecessary production to a simple hootenanny jam.

Bat for Lashes – I’m on Fire
A lot of great covers of this track, I debated putting up the Johnny Cash version up, but will save that for a later post. This one is delicate and fragile, with strings subtle enough not to overpower the track. Bruce Goes Indie.

Pat McGee Band – No Surrender
The Eddie Vedder version is excellent, but has circulated so widely already I thought I’d give a little publicity to another live take, also acoustic, but with some great manly-man harmonies.

Jennifer Glass – Bobby Jean
Bobby Jean is not my lover…oh wait, sorry, different song. This is a track, originally about guitarist Steve Van Zandt’s departure from the E Street Band, that gets a lot of shit from fans. True it’s not amazing, but hearing it in this new format gives some fresh air to a tired classic.

Kid Harpoon w/ Florence – I’m Goin’ Down
Kid Harpoon is a favorite of mine, a wharf rat vagrant whose songs about milkmaids and murder sound like Decemberists outtakes. So this isn’t his normal style, but the combination of the two voices sounds like a nice, lowkey demo.

Matt Tyler – Glory Days
My least favorite song on the album, Tyler takes away most of the synthetic production and lets you actually hear the lyrics. From his Springsteen cover album Brilliant Disguise.

Charlotte Martin – Dancing in the Dark
I could do a whole post on this song alone. Tegan and Sara do a beautiful cover you can find here, but once again I’d like to showcase a lesser-known take. It’s a live recording, and imperfect in that she takes a while to get into the song, but the soulful solo piano arrangement is worth the wait. Almost enough to make you forget about that video.

Kallet, Epstein and Cicone – My Hometown
U2 did a cover of this too. Whatever. I stole this folk cover from Cover Lay Down, and I thank him for it. If Peter, Paul and Mary did the Boss.

And for more Springsteen cover excitement, check out my Bruuuuuuce post a few months back. Still not enough? Read my concert reviews of his shows in Hartford, Montreal, and Milwaukee this year. What can I say, I’m a fan.

Nov 262007
 

Leonard Cohen is one of the few artists whose songs have cover versions not only better known than the originals, but actually better to listen to. Cohen’s somewhat tuneless voice may be partly to blame, but a larger issue is the horrific 80’s production on many of his albums. Fabulous songs are buried beneath layers of synthesizers and drum machines (have you heard the original Hallelujah?). No more was this more apparent than on his 1988 album I’m Your Man. Though it’s filled with classic Cohen songs, listening to the original album is a test of endurance. Luckily plenty of artists have made the effort, finding the gems buried beneath mountains of mud. So throw away your copy of the original (sorry Len) and play this mix instead. I’d imagine Cohen would like it better too.

Kid Harpoon – First We Take Manhattan
The original is a slow-burner, always threatening to explode without ever actually doing it. The Kid fixes that, by stripping it back to an acoustic guitar…then rocking it up to 11 at double-time, creating a sound that’s Gogol Bordello meets The Decemberists.

Aaron Neville – Ain’t No Cure For Love
Neville, of The Neville Brothers fame, reins back his normal vibrato to give a soulful reading that’s half Judy Garland, half honky-tonk.

Don Henley – Everybody Knows
You’d never know what a fabulous song this was from Cohen’s version, where he sounds like he’s falling asleep. Henley makes the song’s merits very clear, starting off quiet and building fast to a number that shows what good production can accomplish, with the great lyrics are front and center.

Elton John – I’m Your Man
Keeping it rocking is Elton’s take on the title track, with plenty of female backing vocals, crunchy guitar and horns. Screw Rocket Man, this sounds like Elton back in his Crocodile Rock days.

Patricia O’Callaghan – Take This Waltz
A would-be opera singer, O’Callaghan channels the winding streets of Paris with piano and accordion backing her multiple-octave soprano. This approach would be over-the-top on many Cohen songs, but works well for this one. The Disney-esq flute solo at the end is a little much though.

Monsieur Camembert – Jazz Police
I wasn’t sure if I’d find a cover of this one, but youtube came through with this Sydney 10-piece doing some rocking jazz-funk, only taking the party down for a strange echoey chorus. Off their double album of live Cohen covers Famous Blue Cheese that I’m on the lookout for, check out three more Cohen tracks at their myspace page..

The Pixies – I Can’t Forget
Even when tackling unlikely source material, The Pixies can’t help sounding like themselves, with weird guitar effects and off-kilter harmonies.

Robert Forster – Tower of Song
Tackling an oft-covered Cohen number, the Go-Betweens frontman gives it a mid-tempo pop gloss that’s miles better than the cover by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, culled from an hour-long jam on the song, that gives you nothing but a migraine.

—Quick bit of cross-blog promotion: Any Tom Waits fans out there, I’m compiling a set of unreleased live covers of his songs, the first three sets of which are available here and here.—